Story of rescue of The 33 at San Jose Mine headed to the big screen

July 29, 2015

In 2010, an estimated 1 billion people watched the dramatic rescue of 33 miners unfold in desert of Chile. That story will soon be coming to the big screen in a movie starring Antonio Banderas.

The USA Today reports that the movie, “The 33,” directed by Patricia Riggen, will tell the story of the 33 miners who were trapped for 69 days in the San Jose copper and gold mine near Copiapo in Chile’s Atacama Region (ME, Dec. 2010)  through 10 characters.

Riggen immersed herself in the project, flying to Chile to meet with the miners who survived the grueling 69-day ordeal trapped underground before their celebrated rescue on Oct. 13, 2010, USA Today reported.

But she also insisted on shooting underground in actual working mines for The 33 (opens Nov. 13).

"Shooting on a (movie) soundstage would have been much easier, but it would not have been the same for any of us," Riggen says. "These mines looked real because they were real."

The filmmakers found two working mines in nearby Colombia that were suitable for the film crew. Shooting in these dark, foreboding caverns was instantly mood-changing and helped to tap into the miners' headspace.

"All of us having to walk in every day at 6 a.m. and walk out of there at 10 at night, it affected us," says Riggen. "There is no night or day. It's a very strong experience. It really made us understand, at least in a little way, what the 33 miners went through. We kind of lived the life of a miner during this time."

Antonio Banderas, who plays lead miner Mario Sepúlveda, says there was an instant transition putting on a hard hat and traveling into the mine. He could taste metal in his mouth from the air.

Banderas stars in 'The 33' as Mario Sepúlveda, one of 33 miners saved in the 2010 Chilean mine collapse that captivated the world. Says Banderas: "We all know the beginning and we know the end of this story. ... We tried to put a magnifying glass on human behavior that comes out in situations like this, when death is right in front of you."  Douglas Kirkland, Warner Bros. Pictures

Banderas said he flew back to Chile that night and was "vomiting for hours" before he recovered.

Ultimately, he was pleased by the performance, which was enhanced by the real-life mine experience.

"You realize how harsh it is to be a miner," says Banderas, "It's nothing like they live, of course, but you do know it."



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