EXCLUSIVE: Some very interesting new details are emerging about Hollywood’s effort to bring that happy-ending Chilean-miners-trapped-underground-for-33-days story to the big screen. It turns out now that Kansas-based international drilling company Layne Christensen Company and chief driller Jeff Hart are emerging as major players in the proposed drama. Deadline has learned that the pitch is for an underground Apollo 13. Because, while the Chilean miners were anxiously awaiting rescue after nearly three months trapped more than 2000 feet underground, unfolding at the surface was a thriller involving 3 separate drilling teams racing to punch through rock and free the men. Of the three drilling efforts — nicknamed Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C — Plan B was the one that made it through to the miners, led by veteran driller Jeff Hart whose own personal story reads like it came straight from a screenplay.
The strapping 40-year-old family man was in Afghanistan drilling badly needed water wells for the U.S. military when the Chilean mine collapsed. From his remote outpost, Hart watched the news bulletins on CNN, including on the 17th day of the disaster when word came that the miners were alive. That’s when Hart got the call from Layne Christensen executive Dave Singleton to put a rescue team together and get himself to Chile where Hart would lead his drilling effort along with Layne’s sister company Geotec. The operation to create a hole big enough to free the miners took 33 days of around-the-clock drilling. During that time, all three separate drilling efforts worked within sight of one another. Equipment failed, strategies shifted, tempers flared until Plan B won the rescue race and with it all the glory. But Hart and his team were reluctant heroes, not wanting to steal the spotlight from the miners, and they disappeared to celebrate on their own at a nearby hotel before the miners surfaced.
They’ve remained mostly out of the spotlight since then. That is, until UTA recently tracked them down and secured their story rights. Now Hart’s role in the rescue is being positioned by the agency as big and juicy for a leading man in the inevitable movie depiction of the Chilean miner drama. Meanwhile, a lawyer snapped up all the Chilean miners’ rights, so let’s see if a single project can be made.