J.Lo Gets Trapped With Chilean Miners in ‘The 33′

Mark Deming
Movie Talk
Jennifer Lopez
Jennifer Lopez

Jennifer Lopez landed one of her career-first leading roles as a real-life character who got entangled in tragic circumstances. Now Lopez will be following suit in her next film.

The 43-year-old actress and pop star, who played late tejano singer Selena Quintanilla-Pérez in the 1997 biopic, "Selena," has just been cast in the retelling of the Chilean Miners story that captivated the world in 2010. "The 33" is based on the the men who were trapped in a copper and gold mine in Chile when it collapsed, forcing them to spend 69 days stranded over a half mile underground before they were rescued.

Lopez is the latest to be cast in "The 33," which stars Antonio Banderas as Mario Sepulveda, aka "Super Mario" — the man who became the spokesmen for the miners in video messages that surfaced as their plight dominated global media coverage. An international crew of engineers and mining experts devised a plan to rescue the workers, and Rodrigo Santoro ("What to Expect When You're Expecting," "300") will play the first of the miners to be brought back to the surface. Martin Sheen is also set to play one of the trapped miners.

It's not known at this point who Lopez will be playing in the film, or if she'll be confronted with the same controversy that greeted her breakthrough performance in "Selena" — about the late singer who rose to extraordinary fame in Mexico and the American Southwest, poised to break through to the American pop charts, when she was murdered by the president of her fan club. When the film came out, its producers were criticized for hiring Lopez, a Puerto Rican actress, to play a Mexican icon. Actress Constance Marie, who played Selena's mother in the film, later commented on the controversy. "I was really upset about that," said Marie, "Everybody should have been so thankful that an actual Latina was actually playing her."

"The 33" director Patricia Riggen and producer Mike Medavoy could spur similar criticism — with Puerto Rican Lopez, Spanish Banderas, Sheen (who is of partial Spanish descent), and Brazilian Santoro, all playing Chileans.

The miners themselves have given this project their seal of approval, which could offset any possible casting controversy surrounding "The 33."

Riggen, whose credits include "Under The Same Moon" and "Girl In Progress," will direct the picture, from a screenplay by Mikko Alanne and Jose Rivera.

"The 33" is set to open in 2014.