Audiences watching “The 33” probably felt claustrophobic thinking about being trapped 2,300 feet underground for 69 days, and cast member Lou Diamond Phillips felt the same way during production.
“It was oppressive, it was uncomfortable,” Phillips, who play shift foreman Don Lucho in the film, told TheWrap. “We were in actual mines in Bogotá, Colombia, in salt mines.”
The first mine used in the production had been turned into a tourist attraction and was therefore less dangerous than most active mines, but Phillips said it was immensely cold although they were supposed to be in 100-degree heat.
“It was freezing cold — this was November, December and January,” he continued. “We’re supposed to be in 100-degree heat so they are griming us up, sweating us up and then we were taking our shirts off … and there’s no body fat, no more insulation.”
However, the second mine used for the set was still active, where the cast and crew members had to drive a mile or two into the ground.
“A lot of our crew had to be taken out during the course of the 12- to 14-hour day and we had to pump in fresh air,” he said. “That mine was working, so we were constantly aware of things falling, we never could take our hard hats off, except with special dispensations for the scenes.”
In 2010, a mine located in the Atacama Desert trapped 33 workers 2,300 feet underground, about 3 miles from the mine’s entrance. They survived with little food and resources for 69 days before they were rescued and transported to the surface in a specially-designed capsule.
“You just walk out and you’re still on cloud 9,” Phillips said of the film. “You are still trembling from emotion about it. It’s such a beautiful film … This is a true story: inspirational hero, humble people who went up against incredible odds. You cannot help — especially with everything that we’re seeing in the news today — to find a glimmer of hope in the story.”
It was released on Nov. 13 and has grossed $20.3 million worldwide.