Eight years ago on December 26, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake trembled in the Indian Ocean, resulting in a string of devastating tsunamis that claimed over 230,000 lives. Among the deceased was Czech model Petra Nemcova's fiance, Simon Atlee. Having witnessed the terrifying natural disaster firsthand, she expressed her thoughts on an upcoming movie on the disaster, The Impossible.
Nemcova and Atlee, a photographer, were enjoying a vacation at a resort in the costal Thai city of Khao Lak prior to the onset of the engulfing tsunami. The model, who appeared on the 2003 cover Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue, was swept away by the towering wave but managed to grab on to a palm tree for hours before being rescued. While she escaped the tsunami with a broken pelvis and severe internal injuries, her fiance unfortunately did not have the same fate and drowned.
"The movie's done in such a powerful way and in a very accurate way," Nemcova said at the L.A. premiere of The Impossible. "Everything from the hotel, to the wave, to the devastation, as well as the emotional linkages between the family members, as well as the unconditional love and compassion which has been created between strangers because of the devastation all is incredibly accurate."
A year after the tsunami, Nemcova detailed her terrifying and tragic experience with an autobiography entitled Love Always, Petra. As she reflected back on the incident on the red carpet, she praised the film for impacting her and maintaining accuracy.
"It definitely had a huge impact on me...The first half [of the movie] is 90 percent of what I've been through personally," the Season 12 Dancing with the Stars alum said. "I never thought that this 2004 Asian tsunami could be captured in such a powerful and honest way. They did an incredible job."
Shortly after the tsunami, Nemcova revisited the devastated Thai coast and decided to establish the Happy Hearts Fund to help rebuild schools and aid children after natural disasters.
The Impossible is based on the true story of a Spanish couple, portrayed by Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts, and their account of the tsunami with their three children. Tackling such a sensitive topic, as McGregor revealed, was a surgical task.
"It was a hard film to make," the Scottish actor said. "It was a very delicate...balancing act that we made all the time. It had a great deal of responsibility to the people who were in involved in the 2004 tsunami. So, that was always at the front our minds: the responsibility to be honest and truthful about the story."
The Impossible is in theaters December 21.