Antonio Banderas on filming The 33, about the Chilean miners: ‘everyone got sick’

Antonio Banderas covers the upcoming issue of Parade to promote his new movie, The 33, based on the 2010 true story of the 33 miners in Chile trapped underground for a grueling 69 days. As you surely remember, all of the men survived. It’s an incredible example of the world, a nation and a community coming together in a dramatic and heartwarming rescue operation. It’s also the story of the will and togetherness of the miners. Banderas plays Mario Sepúlveda, who made the video journals which were sent to the surface and helped keep everyone’s spirits up. The film also stars Rodrigo Santoro, Juliette Binoche and James Brolin.

In Parade, Banderas explains how difficult the movie was to film as the faced full days of filming in actual mines in Columbia, where the mines are not as deep as in Chile. He is careful not to sound ungrateful or like he is complaining, especially when his situation as an actor is compared to the ordeal of the actual miners.

On filming underground during the month-long shoot:
“People are working [in the mines] their whole lives. And some people die there, so I don’t want it to seem like I am complaining. But filming was hard at times. You breathe a lot of methane gas, so you have this metallic feeling in your throat. And practically the entire crew got sick. But the biggest problem was the cold… It was ironic that we were so cold, and we had to be practically naked the entire time, faking that we were incredibly hot. They put this grease on us to fake the sweat, and that made it even colder. After a month in that situation you just wanted to get out. We got into the mines each day just before sunrise and would come out after sunset. We never saw daylight.”

On watching the drama unfold in 2010, culminating in the rescue of all 33 miners:
“When I saw the real event on television it produced something in me. Everybody was attached to the television wishing for these guys to survive. It was like a song going on all around the world, a song of life… when we saw these guys coming out of the ground, it was euphoric. That is so important, and it is why I wanted to make this movie.”

On spending time with Mario Sepúlveda, the miners’ de facto leader during their claustrophibic ordeal, whose character he played:
“He carries a bipolarity that is very strong. He is a man who is making you laugh and will then drop like a stone and be very sad. The most important thing about him was that he learned to survive at a very early age. He had many brothers, and he has a toughness that is exactly what you need in a situation like the mine collapse… Mario was an action man. He was not going to just sit there. He put a military discipline into place, to stretch as much as possible the days that they had in there. Without his participation, probably the oldest of the miners would have died.”

[From Parade received via email]

I’m really covering this story because I heard the film’s director, Patricia Riggen, on NPR this morning. She was so articulate about the obstacles she faced breaking into directing as a woman, and she was passionate about this project. Riggen met with all of the miners before making the film and she said that 90-95% of the things in the movie actually happened. She also said that the film was hard to get off the ground because “Nobody wanted to make this movie… it’s a drama about 33 Latin men and that doesn’t get made anymore.” Riggen confirmed Bandera’s account of the rough conditions under which they filmed, including the fact that they shot for 14 hours a day, six days a week, for 35 days inside a mine.

As for how the real-life miners are doing, Riggen was able to get them together for a feast but she said “They are not doing well. They have PTSD; they didn’t get compensated by the mine owners — nothing. So you know, we’re all working really hard to be able to give them something back.

The 33 is out now. Here’s the trailer. This only has a 35% on Rotten Tomatoes, but I hope it makes some money at the box office.

Here are some photos from the premiere of The 33 at the AFI film fest on 11-9-15 featuring Antonio and his girlfriend, Nicole Kimpel, Juliette Binoche, Lou Diamond Phillips and Rodrigo Santoro.

AFI FEST 2015 - 'The 33' Premiere

Antonio Banderas and girlfriend Nicole Kimpel at the AFI FEST The 33 Premiere in LA

Antonio Banderas and girlfriend Nicole Kimpel at the AFI FEST The 33 Premiere in LA

photo credit: FameFlynet

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47 Responses to “Antonio Banderas on filming The 33, about the Chilean miners: ‘everyone got sick’”

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  1. Snazzy says:

    Those poor men. I can imagine they must be having a difficult time after that. And of course mine owners don’t give a crap and aren’t helping them. Disgusts me and breaks my heart. I’m glad they are trying to do something for them.

  2. Nikki says:

    My family was from Appalachia, a part of it where you either worked for the railroad or the coal mines. It’s a very hard way of life, and better believe the people are tough. I would never ever want to even enter a mine, but the movie looks good and I hope it does well. (My father did the completely unexpected: he joined the Navy and saw the world!)

    • j.eyre says:

      I worked a summer in Appalachia. Yes, it is a hard life for the miners – quite an eye-opening experience for me. I remember seeing a miner’s run down trailer parked in a field with a palatial estate of a mine owner in the background, I am sure this image is in every mining community.

      I very much want to see this film, it just looks like the story will be treated with the respect it’s due.

      • Marguerita says:

        No, that image isn’t, I promise! I was born in a Northern Ontario mining community, and that was NOT the case! Maybe it’s a Canadian thing, but miners make a very good living!

      • j.eyre says:

        That is quite heartening to hear, Marguerita. That was presumptuous for me to assume based on my one experience.

        Decent living for miners and poutine? Canadians rock.

      • Kelly says:

        Love Canada!

      • Lucrezia says:

        It can be funny what you assume is “normal”. Aussie miners also make really good money. Heck, you can get $100k a year for janitorial work on the mines. Actual qualified tradies make $200-300k.

        Since I’m used to blue-collar workers earning more than white-collar workers, I definitely had a little “wtf?” moment at the descriptions of Appalachian mines. Also, most of our mines aren’t near towns, and those workers are all fly-in fly-out, so now that I think about it, we don’t really have many “mining communities” at all these days. (I guess it’s maybe more like how oil-rigs would work in the US?)

    • here's Wilson says:

      Nikki – I can attest to that. I’m from southwestern PA, right near the West Virginia border. There are communities here that really have no labor force outside the mine. Interesting story in my family is my grandfather dropping out of elelementary school and starting work in one at some ungodly age like ten before child labor was regulated. I’ve heard some pretty terrible stories, but employees are able to provide for their families, and it’s either the mines, college, or military.

      • WinnieCoopersMom says:

        It’s crazy to think that in 2015 USA, that we still have coal miners. I can’t believe there isn’t a safe and effective technology to get the coal. I guess an upside is that it employs a lot of people who would struggle for employment without it. I am from the gulf coast and have a lot of family members who work on the rigs and make great money. It’s hard, rough work but they do well and it keeps them employed.

  3. astrid says:

    Will some money be given back to the miners?

    • Ani May says:

      I hope so. I assume/hope they were paid for the rights to tell the story…maybe in a percent of the profit?

    • Lucrezia says:

      I believe the film is paying them some part of the profits and did pay some as consultants, but it all seems to have gone pear-shaped, and the money isn’t getting to the miners. The miners are now they’re suing their own lawyers for screwing things up …

      “The contracts we signed were not what the lawyers said they would be, for example of the $150m [£97m] paid to our company, we only received 17%,” the group’s leader Luis Urzúa, told reporters at the courthouse.”

      I tried to do a bit of research, but I couldn’t make heads or tails of what’s gone on. I did get the feeling the film-producers were at least trying to do the right thing. But don’t go see it thinking your ticket money is going to help out the miners, because it’s just not getting there.

  4. Marguerita says:

    Wow, this looks really interesting to me. As a Canadian geologist and having been in the mining industry for over 10 years, I know that whenever a disaster like this happens, we are all affected and it truly hits close to home. I was at a conference in Toronto in 2011 and they had the rescue capsule on display. It was very small, and I know that we were all in awe of all the events that came together to save those men. I look forward to watching the movie!

  5. Cee says:

    I remember when knews of the collapse first broke in the region (I’m in Argentina) and how crazy the reporting was. When it was discovered the 33 miners were alive was nothing short of a miracle. The fact they survived 69 days underground and were rescued was an astonishing feat by Chile’s former government and the work of Engineers.

    When the first miner stepped out of the capsule and onto the surface it was as if everything everywhere had gone still.

    It’s a disgrace they received no compensation.

  6. Esteph says:

    I’m with you Celebitchy, I really hope this movie gets more press and money.

  7. KaitX says:

    I saw the trailer for this at the cinema, and the accents were SO DISTRACTNG! Why they couldn’t do the film in Spanish with subtitles I don’t know.

    • Lilian says:

      KaitX, I totally agree with you. All these great stories that happened in non-English speaking countries lose so much with the silly accents… it’s a shame…

      • Zip says:

        When I saw the trailer I imagined what it would sound like if the film got dubbed. Fake voice with a fake accent. Ugh. No thanks.

    • WinnieCoopersMom says:

      It’s probably the only way it could get made as a big production. It’s already a hard sell for box office numbers. It would have probably been an indie film and gotten very little attention if filmed in Spanish with subtitles. I agree it’s not ideal, but at least this way, the story is getting out there in a big way. Bravo to the director for pushing so hard to make this happen.

  8. s says:

    Thank you for covering this!

  9. Ann says:

    So, I love Juliette Binoche – but there was NO Latin American actress they could have cast? Not a single one?

    • twodollars says:

      Yeah, that really pissed me off. There are so few movies made with Latino parts and when they have a part based on a real Latino, they cast some French actress. It’s not like she is even a box office draw.

      • Miss B says:

        Oh, and there are plenty of White people all across Latin America. So even if the actors/actresses were from Latin America they still could have been white.

    • Zaid says:

      I was thinking the same about Antonio Banderas, maybe they could have cast some actual latinos for this movie. But I think they wanted Antonio for name recognition.
      I don’t know about Binoche, I just learned about this movie and I don’t know who she’s playing, perhaps a foreigner in Chile or something?

      • Daria Morgendorffer says:

        How is Antonio Banderas not Latino? He’s from Spain, which yes, is part of Europe, but it is still a Latin country.

      • Zaid says:

        He’s still white.

      • Zaid says:

        Hollywood’s way to be inclusive is casting spaniards in latinos parts. Yeah, Spain is part of our history, but we are so much more diverse than that.

      • Miss B says:

        He’s still white? WTF! You do realized that the original Hispanic/Latin/Latino people where Spanish/Southern European?

        Only if you go by the modern definitions of these words do they mean non-european. Even when those words were used in reference to Latin America it was always about the Latin culture and people brought from Southern Europe.

        This silly idea that Latin/Latino/Hispanic means non-European is just ridiculous. Seriously some people need to go read history.

    • Betti says:

      Actually they did – Cote de Pablo is Chilean (best known for NCIS) thou i don’t know how big her role is.

      Binoche is playing the sister of one of the miners – again don’t know how big her role is.

    • WinnieCoopersMom says:

      I guess Salma Hayek, the only Latin-American actress ever, was already booked? *snark*

  10. Betti says:

    Rodrigo Santoro – love him thou i do get strong Keanu Reeves vibes from him, they kinda look alike.

    • WinnieCoopersMom says:

      He still gets me excited every time I watch ‘Love Actually.’ Please dont associate him with Sad Keanu lol

  11. Breakfast Margaritas says:

    I remember this incident a nd an overwhelming feeling of relief when they came out alive. At the same time it made me wonder why the 2 previous mining incidents in America had either 0 or only 1survivor. Either this was an incredible convergence of events or America’s mining safety just isn’t up to par. I will see this movie. They deserve to have their story widely recognized.

  12. I Choose Me says:

    Sad and shameful that those miners got no compensation. I remember all the news coverage and can only imagine what hell those men (and their families) went through.

    I want to support this movie esp., since Riggen seems to be implying that some of the profits from this film will go to help these men.

  13. Kelly says:

    This makes me want to see it. Plus, Antonio. In theory I tell myself i don’t care for him, then I see him and it’s “Oooh, Antonio Banderas!”

  14. WinnieCoopersMom says:

    This is going to be one tear-jerker of a film. I went to see ‘The Intern’ and this was previewed, along with ‘Miss You Already’ (a cancer drama). Needless to say, I needed some tissues before the movie even started. If I see this in theaters, I will be sure to not wear any mascara and bring tons of kleenex.

  15. kris says:

    As a Chilean-American myself, I really want to watch this to see how they portray Chile as a whole. I doubt any of the actors can pull off the accent unless they’re Chilean themselves.

  16. mire usted! says:

    This film reminds me Alive, the movie about the Uruguayan rugby team who survived a plane crash in the Andes back in 1972. I really enjoy real life survival films. I remember being mesmerized by the Chilean miners. It’s a film that should be made especially for our country right now. I hope it does well.

    • WinnieCoopersMom says:

      Did you see ‘127 Hours’? Or ‘The Impossible,’ with Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor? Both amazing survival films I would highly recommend.

  17. lylaoooo says:


  18. siri says:

    I remember this catastrophe vividly, and I’m gonna see this movie. Feels like the filmmakers treated the story with the respect it deserves.

  19. Zuzu says:


  20. natalia says:

    I’m from Chile. I was borned and raised over there until I was 15. That’s when my parents moved us to the states. The fact that they’re making a movie about these miners makes me so happy and so proud for two reasons. The first one being that, in my 30 years of age, I’ve been thru some pretty tough things in life, which should’ve broken me, but they didn’t and I made it past those things, so I feel like the fact that I spent half my life there, made me the strong person that I am today. I look at these miners, and this country as a whole, and we’ve been nothing but unbreakable. We’ve been thru so.much as a country… almost becoming a communist country, then the coup d’etat of 1973, countless natural disasters (tsunamis, and earthquakes), and now our government going thru bad politics, which I know is the reason they’re treating these miners like that, but at the end of the day, whenever wet go thru tragedy, we always push thru, and persevere. And the second reason is that our country is barely exposed, when we’re a self sufficient country in supplies, beautiful cities, countryside, and people. It really makes me so proud to be from Chile. But I do feel bad about these miners, or should I say heroes, because I know what PTSD is like by experience. My husband is a marine vet who was injured in fallujah, and I know that it’s a horrible thing to go thru. That’s why, as much as I love my birth country, the politics there right now are disgusting. I’m so glad that they’re doing this movie to bring money and awareness to these miners.