Chile Miracle Miners Meet Stars Of Rescue Film
Actor Antonio Banderas has met the hero miner he will play in a movie about the Chilean mine rescue that mesmerised the world in 2010.
Banderas and French actress Juliette Binoche joined the 33 miners and the Chilean leader Sebastian Pinera at the presidential palace in Santiago.
The pair are starring in a film that dramatises the cave-in at the mine in Chile's Atacama desert, along with Brazilian Rodrigo Santoro and Irishman Gabriel Byrne.
The miners and cast were greeted by hundreds of screaming fans outside the palace.
"Millions of people, and I include myself, were glued to the TV following this story as these men held to the rocks inside that mine for nearly 70 days with the only dream of getting to see sunlight again; realising the true importance of water, of food, the look of their children, the eyes of their wives - the value of life," Banderas said.
Their survival story sent the president's popularity ratings soaring.
The former airline magnate supervised the 22-hour rescue and bear-hugged the miners on their way out.
"What Antonio Banderas said is true: Chile is a better country after the miracle because I'd never seen so much unity, faith, hope and commitment," Mr Pinera said.
Mr Pinera added that during a visit to Britain, even Queen Elizabeth had told him that she'd stayed up all night watching the live rescue.
"The world needs hope, good news, stories that end well. And since most stories end badly, this is what people wanted: an injection of hope and faith," he added.
Banderas stars in "The 33" as Mario Sepulveda, who became known as "Super Mario", the public face of the miners.
A laughing Mr Sepulveda jokingly asked "we really look alike, don't we?" as he stood arm-in-arm with Banderas for the photoshoot.
Binoche plays Maria Segovia, the sister of a trapped miner who, because of her outgoing personality, became known as "the mayor" of the makeshift settlement that grew up around the mine during the rescue operation.
The miners said it felt like an earthquake when the shaft caved in above them on August 5, 2010, filling the lower corridors of the mine with choking dust.
Hours passed before they could even begin to see a few steps in front of them.
For more than two weeks no one above knew that the men had survived the collapse.
The 33 men had stretched a meagre 48-hour store of emergency food for 17 days, eating minuscule capsules of tuna and sips of expired milk.
The small emergency shaft eventually allowed food and water to be lowered to the miners while rescuers drilled a bigger escape hole.
Finally, in the early hours of October 13, the miners were hauled up one-by-one in a cage through 2,000 feet of rock.
Back on the surface, they were welcomed like heroes. They got paid trips to the Greek Islands, visited the Real Madrid stadium in Spain and even paraded at Disney World's Magic Kingdom.
But the fantasy began to fade on their return home.
Many ran out of money and had to make a living in the dusty shantytowns of the desert city of Copiapo.
Some began suffering from health and psychological problems.
Now, they are all banking their hopes on the Hollywood movie deal signed with "Black Swan" producer Mike Medavoy.
The filming of "The 33" is set to run from February 4 to March 10 at the mine. A portion of it has already been filmed at a salt mine in Colombia.
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