SANTIAGO Chile's rescued miners enjoyed the spotlight once again on Friday when they met Antonio Banderas and the other actors who will portray them in the Hollywood film "The 33."
During the 2010 ordeal, the 33 miners trapped 700 meters underground drank oil-contaminated water to survive and set off explosives in a desperate bid to alert rescuers. After 69 days underground, they were lifted one by one to the surface in a spectacle that entranced viewers around the globe.
"I was one of the many millions obsessed with the story," said Banderas at a ceremony with Chilean President Sebastian Piñera and miners held at the presidential palace to greet the actors who have just arrived in Chile for shooting.
"It reflects the value of life in a confused and violent world," the Spanish actor added, before high-fiving Mario Sepulveda, the de facto spiritual leader of the 33 miners who he portrays in the film.
A laughing Sepulveda, known as "Super Mario," jokingly asked "we really look alike, don't we?" as he stood arm-in-arm with a dapper Banderas.
While the rescued miners became celebrities and heroes, several have failed to significantly benefit financially from the media hoopla and some have wrestled with drugs, alcohol and psychological demons.
Luis Urzua, the last miner to be hoisted out of the bowels of the earth, has told local media he is unhappy with the terms of the film contract and is seeking a new lawyer.
But Carlos Barrios, the thirteenth miner to see the light, was pleased that their story was going up on the silver screen.
"It's such an honor for us," a beaming Barrios said after the ceremony.
Mexican filmmaker Patricia Riggen directs the English-language film, which is being shot in the northern desert region of Copiapo, near where the small copper and gold mine San Jose mine is located, and in Colombia.
In addition to Banderas, it will star French actress Juliette Binoche and Irish actor Gabriel Byrne, who were also present on Friday.
"This is a story of human courage," said producer Mike Medavoy, who lived in Chile during his youth and went on to produce such acclaimed films as "Black Swan" and "Shutter Island."
"There isn't a place I go where people don't know about" the 33 miners, added Medavoy, who bought the rights to the film and is founder of Phoenix Pictures.
Outgoing conservative president Piñera, who enjoyed a huge - albeit short-lived - spike in popularity after the rescue, said the ordeal stoked hope around the world.
"I've asked myself so many times why an accident in an unknown mine in a desert at the end of the world in a country so far from the center of the world generated so much emotion," Piñera said.
"The world needs hope; most stories end badly. This story began as a tragedy and ended as a blessing," he added.
(Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer; editing by Mary Milliken, Jonathan Oatis and G Crosse)