On August 5, 2010, deep in the Atacama Desert, the San José copper mine in Copiapó collapsed. It was assumed that all those trapped inside had perished, until a drill bit sent Quixotically into the deep came back up emblazoned with the now famous note, “We are well in the refuge, The 33.”
Unless you also spent the following two months in an underground cave, you know the details of their amazing rescue. The international media, enthralled with the story, aimed its spotlight at Chilean government officials, international engineering firms, and of course the assorted soap operas that surrounded the colorful characters stuck at the bottom.
By the time “Los 33″ emerged on the surface, they were a fairly media-savvy crew, and had agreed to pool their media rights in front of the inevitable book and movie deals.
Last month, over dinner in Beverly Hills, representatives for the 33 miners signed on with producer Mike Medavoy to tell their tale. He is not only famed for fine films including “Black Swan” and “Shutter Island,” but he also grew up in Santiago, Chile, where some of the movie will be shot.
“It reminded me of the kind of generosity of spirit and humor that Chileans have,” said Medavoy in an article for Reuters. “There it was—generous, funny, enjoyable, knowledgeable.”
Despite his initial attraction to the story, Medavoy was hesitant to take on the film. “Do I really want to make a picture in which everybody knows the end?” Nevertheless, he purchased rights not only to the film, but also an upcoming book about the ordeal by novelist and LA Times columnist Héctor Tobar, which will be developed into a screenplay by Oscar-nominated playwright Jose Rivera.
It hasn’t been all wine and roses for the miners, however. Though some have been able to parlay their fifteen minutes of fame into bigger adventures, others were less able to cope with life in the public eye.
Working-class Chileans don’t have many opportunities to travel, so when the invitations to Disneyland, London, Israel, Greece, and beyond began rolling in, the miners accepted. Though their psychologists warned them that they needed time to recover with their families, this was the opportunity of a lifetime.
A few invested the 5 million Chilean pesos (US$11,000) awarded them by the government wisely, but most spent that cash on the road, enjoying themselves. Four of the miners have been diagnosed with silicosis of the lung, which went untreated on their travels. Most of them, unable to profit from their fame or find other work, have returned to the mines, often with the help of pharmaceutical cocktails to keep post-traumatic stress issues under control
The movie, however, may bring them back up to the surface once and for all. Though few details of the deal have been made public, all the miners will share the profits equally. The group wisely put the most financially savvy miners in control of negotiations, and they certainly didn’t accept Hollywood’s first offer.
Regardless, now that the contracts have been inked, it’s time to get down to important issues, such as who will play the miners.
HollywoodLife thinks Twilight hunk Taylor Lautner would be great as young miner Jimmy Sanchez,” titters one entertainment website, “while Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson might make a good Mario Sepulveda, the leader of the group. As for Chilean president Sebastian Pinera, many believe Oscar winner Javier Bardem is well-suited for the role of the devoted leader who made sure all 33 men made it out alive.”