Antonio Banderas Interview: ‘The 33’ and the True Story That Inspired the Film

Lou Diamond Phillips Antonio Banderas The 33
Lou Diamond Phillips and Antonio Banderas in ‘The 33’ (Photo © 2015 Alcon Entertainment)

Warner Bros Pictures and Alcon Entertainment are set to release the dramatic, life-affirming film The 33 in theaters on November 13, 2015. The 33 is based on the incredible true story of the 33 Chilean miners who were trapped 200 stories underground when the mine they were working in collapsed around them. With very little food and unsure whether rescue attempts would be successful, the 33 pulled together as a family to survive the harsh conditions.

The international cast is led by Antonio Banderas who plays Mario Sepulveda, the de facto leader of the group. Nicknamed Super Mario, Sepulveda was in charge of managing the group’s meager amount of food. When the rescuers were ultimately able to speak with the miners, it was Super Mario who took the lead and made sure messages where passed along and the miners’ needs were met to the extent possible. In the film, Mario holds the group together for the 69 grueling days it took to return them to the Earth’s surface.

Banderas has been busy on the promotional circuit leading up to the film’s theatrical release. However, in addition to doing press junkets and talk shows, Banderas took the time to make a special trip to San Diego to introduce the film to Marines and their families at the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. Prior to signing autographs, posing for pictures, and screening The 33, Banderas took part in just a couple of interviews about his role in the inspirational film.

The 33 wasn’t shot on soundstages and instead director Patricia Riggen (Girl in Progress, Under the Same Moon) chose to shot entirely on location in Colombia mines and in the Atacama Desert in Chile. The shoot was obviously physically intense, but as Banderas explains it was also emotionally challenging. “It was not easy. It was difficult but at the same time very enlightening because practically the whole entire story is about faith. It’s about hope. It’s about resilience, and the outcome of the story was so positive,” explained Banderas during our exclusive interview. “I think the movie tries to be an ode and a poem to life itself, to the supreme value of life. We live too distracted with many different things that are offered to us continuously making us believe that actually we will not be happy if we don’t have the new car, the new house, the new coat. And these guys actually when they face death straight into the eyes, they value the important things, the essential things of life and those are very simple things.”

Viewers around the world watched as the miners emerged after 69 days, and with the film Banderas hopes to help everyone understand the heart and soul of these men who lived through this disaster. “That was obvious, but there was a question that we were asking ourselves when we were shooting and it was, ‘How many of these stories happened before in mines around the world and they called it off and they stopped because there’s not enough faith?’ Essential in the whole entire story besides the miners and their persistent challenge, it was women. This is the story actually with a very strong female element. They were fighting outside for the rescue teams to don’t stop. It was very, very important because they were this close many, many times.

Also important was the capacity of the Minister of the Interior of Chile at the time…there’s a dichotomy of what I’m going to say, an anachronism, but it’s true…to stop being a politician and become a human being, and just understand this situation of 6,000 people actually were outside – family members, friends, all of the miners from other mines – they built practically an entire city over there. It was very important that they kept pushing because otherwise they would have just given condolences to the families, give some beautiful ceremonies, and forget about the case. These 33 men would have died down there. And the question is how many of these people died because there was not enough will to look for them?”

Asked if this was a difficult role to put aside once he was done, Banderas replied, “It was because people recognize all of them like heroes but in reality they are human beings. They have their weak moments. There was a moment actually very essentially in the movie, and you will see it very clearly, in which actually when they are found and they’re providing them with food, water, the medicines and stuff, also through those tubes came information. And the information was that they got in there being miners and suddenly they were international heroes and celebrities. It’s very difficult to deal with that, and they started receiving very important offers. People who actually don’t manage that amount of money, suddenly that thing actually broke the team apart and the brotherhood in some way disappeared and individualism started coming. So, it was even stronger, you know, what happened outside once they were going to be rescued than the twice the size of the Empire State Building stone that actually collapsed the mine. So they had to face these two different situations. At the end, it’s also a story of redemption because Mario Sepulveda confronted that situation, went to his brothers and asked for apologizes while eating his pride at that particular moment.”

Watch the full Antonio Banderas interview:

(Interview by Rebecca Murray. Video by Gary Murray.)