Directed by Patricia Riggen, the movie tells the incredible, true story of the 33 men who miraculously survived in a collapsed gold and copper mine in Chile for 69 days five years ago.
Banderas and Phillips play the leaders of the miners, while Rodrigo Santoro portrays the country's minister of mining and Gabriel Byrne depicts the engineer called upon to help extract the men from their stone prison. Rounding out the cast are Juliette Binoche, Kate Del Castillo and Cote de Pablo as the miners' loved ones, women who fought tirelessly to bring their men home.
Millions of people around the world watched on television as every single one was eventually rescued on Oct. 13, 2010.
Asked by UPI at a recent New York press conference about his role's physical challenges, such as weight-loss to look emaciated and working in diminished light for long periods of time, Banderas replied: "More than losing weight, for me, the most physically demanding thing was one of the mines, specifically, the one in Zipaquira, that was very toxic, with a lot of methane gas.
"Breathing that leaves this kind of metallic feeling in your mouth for days and practically the whole, entire crew got sick in there," the 55-year-old actor revealed. "We were also operating heavy trucks and machinery that produced a lot of carbon monoxide and, so, we were breathing that the whole, entire day, and dirt and rocks that were coming on top of our heads."
"The head of that mine was always with us and always looking around, looking up," Riggen, 45, interjected. "He would say, 'OK, everyone step away.' And they would bring in a ladder and a tool and they would bring down all the [loose] rocks... And then, 'OK, keep going.'"
"You had to wear the helmets every day," Phillips, 53, chimed in. "This was 14 hours a day, six days a week and a lot is made in the film about the fact that it was 100 degrees down there. It was not 100 degrees down there."
"It was cold," Banderas agreed.
"We were freezing our nuts off," Phillips continued. "We shot this in November-December-January. The crew was wearing winter jackets and we had to get stripped down, grimed up and then sprayed to look like we're sweating. Then you wait for the goose-pimples to go down and then you can roll. This was day in and day out, our experience. You had to walk 20 minutes to the bathroom, so, it was an experience, but, like Patricia said, I think it put us in the proper mindset, the mind frame, and, in a weird way, because we were all suffering -- and everybody is incredibly entertaining, by the way, in this cast -- it created a bond. It created a chemistry.
"And I want to take a second, actually, to gush about this man," Phillips said, indicating Banderas.
"I cheated," Banderas confessed.
"No, you didn't cheat. Well, I had more weight to lose than you did," Phillips said.
"I had cookies under my bed," Banderas laughed. "It's true."
"I lost 18 pounds. But, every single day, Antonio Banderas would come into this mine -- all of the principal actors, all of the background artists, every single one of our crew -- this man showed kindness, warmth and generosity to. He was a true leader down below. He galvanized the entire working crew and he set the example, I think, for everybody else."
"Love you, man," Banderas told Phillips as they embraced.
"Love you, too," Phillips responded.
UPI also asked Hector Tobar, the author of Deep Down Dark, the book on which the film was based, if mining is any safer after the global attention this story has received.
"Mining is still one of the world's most dangerous professions," Tobar noted. "In Chile, however, the laws that exist to protect men in mines like this are enforced better now than they were before."
The 33 opens in U.S. theaters Friday.