Story of trapped Chilean miners set for big screen

Associated Press
FILE - In this Oct. 13, 2010 file photo released by the Chilean government, miner Mario Sepulveda celebrates after being rescued from the collapsed San Jose gold and copper mine where he was trapped with 32 other miners for over two months near Copiapo, Chile. The 33 miners have sold the rights to their story to producer Mike Medavoy, according to an announcement Monday, July 25, 2011, from the miners' representatives and Medavoy.  (AP Photo/Hugo Infante, Chilean government)
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FILE - In this Oct. 13, 2010 file photo released by the Chilean government, miner Mario Sepulveda celebrates after being rescued from the collapsed San Jose gold and copper mine where he was trapped with 32 other miners for over two months near Copiapo, Chile. The 33 miners have sold the rights to their story to producer Mike Medavoy, according to an announcement Monday, July 25, 2011, from the miners' representatives and Medavoy. (AP Photo/Hugo Infante, Chilean government)

NEW YORK (AP) — The story of the Chilean miners who were trapped underground for more than two months is on its way to the big screen.

The 33 miners have sold the rights to their story to producer Mike Medavoy, the producer and the miners' representatives announced Monday. The planned film will recount the remarkable plight of the miners who were trapped for 69 days after the San Jose mine they were working in collapsed near Copiapo, Chile.

The veteran producer Medavoy has produced films including "Shutter Island" and "Black Swan." ''Motorcycle Diaries" screenwriter Jose Rivera is set to write the script.

"We'll dig deep into their stories," Medavoy said in an interview. "We're not just going to tell a story about 33 miners in a hole."

Miner Juan Andrew Illanes called the project "the only official and authorized film about what we lived in the San Jose mine." The miners are collectively represented by William Morris Endeavor Entertainment.

In an interview, Miner Omar Reygadas, 56, said he hopes the film will preserve the hopeful message of the miners' experience.

"We want the film to get into people's spirits," Reygadas said. "I want it to emphasize the spiritual aspects, to show respect between people, teamwork and, more than anything, faith. I think that what happened in this mine was a miracle of life, and that's what I want it to show."

The film will face obvious dramatic hurdles in that its conclusion — that all the miners were safely rescued — is already widely known. That much of their trial was in utter darkness, too, wouldn't seem to easily lend itself to a cinematic rendering.

Medavoy, who established Phoenix Pictures after years as a top executive at TriStar Pictures, Orion Pictures and elsewhere, acknowledged that he was initially apprehensive about taking on the film because of the well-known ending. But he said the miners' story reminded him of John Ford's "How Green Was My Valley," the 1941 film about life in a Welsh mining town.

"I think of it as all of our lives, just coincidence and chance," Medavoy said. "There's so much drama, and when the drama kicks in, it's really fascinating. And all the drama that plays out above ground can be interspersed."

It's also a personal journey for Medavoy, who lived in Chile for ten years as a child. He calls the film a chance to "explore from whence I came."

"I know the Chilean people," he says. "I know the sense of humor they have, of which they have a lot of. I know the dignity and respect that they like in people. I know how open they are."

Medavoy declined to say how much the deal cost. No studio is yet attached to distribute the film.

The production will also draw on the book being written about the miners by author and columnist Hector Tobar, who was part of the Los Angeles Times team that won a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the L.A. riots. He has been spending weeks immersing himself in the miners' stories and combing through the diary of one miner, Victor Segovia. The book doesn't yet have a publisher.

"There is a deep, textured story there waiting to be told," Tobar said in an interview. "There is a deep, emotional book about family and faith, full of all sorts of psychological textures, waiting to be written."

Production is scheduled to begin next year.

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Associated Press writers Mike Warren in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Eva Vergara in Santiago, Chile, contributed to this report.

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