LUIS ANDRES HENAO
SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) -- Antonio Banderas will star in a movie as one of the 33 Chilean miners trapped deep underground for more than two months in 2010, and the charismatic survivor he's playing couldn't be happier.
Mike Medavoy, producer of "The 33," announced on Sunday at the Cannes Film Festival that Banderas will play Mario Sepulveda, who known as "Super Mario" became the public face of the miners.
The film will dramatize the cave-in at a mine in Chile's Atacama desert and the globally televised rescue of the miners that mesmerized millions worldwide.
Sepulveda told the Associated Press on Monday that he's thrilled because he's a fan of the Spanish actor and that he hopes the movie will remind people how life is the most valuable gift.
"I'm very excited and full of anxiety. All of my mates are looking forward to this big production," Sepulveda said. "Banderas is very charismatic. I like him a lot and I think this movie is going to make him even more famous than he already is."
Even in their despair, Sepulveda said, "peace, love, solidarity and teamwork" were shared by the miners who survived entrapment longer than anyone else before.
"There are people who don't realize the value of what they have next to them. And after those 69 days we know that there's nothing as important as being alive, being healthy and enjoying the people you love while you're alive," he said.
The miners said it felt like an earthquake when the shaft caved in above them on Aug. 5, 2010, filling the lower corridors of the copper and gold mine with suffocating dust. Hours passed before they could even begin to see a few steps in front of them. Above them tons of rock shifted constantly, threatening to bury them forever.
People on the surface didn't know for more than two weeks that the men had survived the collapse. The 33 men had stretched a meager 48-hour store of emergency food for 17 days, eating tiny capsules of tuna and sips of expired milk while a narrow shaft finally reached their haven and the world learned they were alive.
The small emergency shaft allowed food and water to be lowered to the miners while rescuers drilled a bigger escape hole. Finally, in the early hours of Oct. 13, the miners were hauled up one-by-one in a cage through 2,000 feet of rock.
Back on the surface they were received as heroes. They got paid trips to the Greek Islands, visited the Real Madrid stadium in Spain and paraded at Magic Kingdom in Disney World.
But the fantasy began to crumble on their return home.
Many ran out of money and had to scratch out a living in the dusty working-class neighborhoods and shantytowns of the desert city of Copiapo. Some began suffering from health and psychological problems. Others took to alcohol and drugs. Most are still kept up at night by memories of their ordeal.
"I'm thankful for things in life," said Sepulveda, an electrician who earns a living giving motivational speeches. "Some are good, others bad, but God gave us another chance ... The door that was opened for us is huge."
Variety magazine say production for "The 33" is scheduled to start in the fall in Chile. The film will be directed by Mexican filmmaker Patricia Riggen. Martin Sheen and Rodrigo Santoro are also on the cast.
Luis Andres Henao on Twitter: https://twitter.com/LuisAndresHenao
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