French actress Juliette Binoche’s scream pierces the frigid night in the remote Chilean desert: “They are alive!”
That chilling scene has been repeated more than 20 times this week on the set of The 33, Hollywood’s version of the cave-in that trapped 33 miners deep below Chile’s Atacama desert for 69 days in 2010.
Binoche and Spanish actor Antonio Banderas star in the drama about the miners’ entrapment and televised rescue that mesmerised millions worldwide. The film is being shot in English and is expected to be released next year.
Banderas plays Mario Sepulveda, nicknamed “Super Mario”, who became the public face of the miners. Binoche plays Maria Segovia, the sister of a trapped miner who became known for her outgoing personality as “the mayor” of the settlement that sprang up outside the mine.
Binoche played Segovia this week wearing baggy pants, a white and blue parka and a black wig that made her almost unrecognisable. Her scene involved pounding on a gate and asking families to rebel against the guards who block them from reaching the mine hours after the cave-in.
The film will deal with previously unknown details of the miners’ time below ground, including how they stretched a meagre 48-hour store of emergency food for 17 days to survive in entrapment longer than anyone else before.
Mexican director Patricia Riggen said she spent the two years before filming by conducting interviews with miners and their families as well as rescuers, government officials and journalists who covered the story.
Colombian actor Juan Pablo Raba, who plays Dario Segovia and is Binoche’s brother in the film, touched on the conflicts that erupted among the miners during their ordeal.
“My character has an alcohol problem so when he’s trapped he has to fight with this vice,” Raba said. He said the miners approved everything portrayed on screen.
During their dramatic rescue, each miner entered a cage and was hauled up to safety one-by-one through 2,000 feet of rock.
The men at first were treated like heroes and given paid trips around the world and to Walt Disney World. But many later ran out of money and went to work in the desert shantytowns of Copiapo. Some suffered health or psychological problems.
Now are banking their hopes on the movie deal signed with Black Swan producer Mike Medavoy. Several of the men are also working on the production team in the desert.