Celebrities, Entertainment Law, Fame Brief

Fame Brief: Chilean Miners Lawyer Up for Media Deals

Yonni Barrios and his mistress Susan Valenzuela. It's going to be awesome when Angelina Jolie plays her in the movie.

I don’t normally follow the news, because that’s how I roll. But stories that involve “miracles,” “tests of courage” and the “triumph of the human spirit” have my name written all over them. Such was the case with yesterday’s rescue of the Chilean miners.

The premise of 33 sweaty, sex-starved men entombed 20,000 leagues under the earth’s surface is itself an automatic made-for-tv-movie starring Mario Lopez and Tony Danza. Throw in some of the rich details that have come out of this underground vacation from hell, and you have surefire Oscar gold.

There’s the preposterous Lord of the Flies-esque ascribing of a persona to each of the miners (medic, scribe, ingénue, happy, sleepy, dopey, etc.); the amazing eBay crap that they sent down to the miners, which included dice, pocket bibles, signed Barcelona soccer shirts, game consoles, and a photo of Elvis; the hilarious subplot of avarice and entitlement (sending back a dessert of canned apples, requesting pillows); and, finally, the pièce de résistance, the priceless vignette of miner Yonni Barrios’s wife and secret mistress discovering each other at the makeshift vigil-city. 

So, what should the movie be called?

Suggested movie working titles: Of Mines and Men, Miner Problem, Hell on Earth, Beyond the Abyss. Folks, it does not get any better than this.

Even though the miners didn’t have a wireless connection when they were stuck (low signal), they had the self-awareness to understand that they were sitting on a cascade of book and movie deals. So they did what any reasonable person ensconced in white-hot magma would do; they called a lawyer:

[Yonni Barrios] informed his wife that the men had requested a lawyer visit the San Jose mine and send down the paperwork to make such an agreement legally binding.

“We want to make this legal then everything that will come out from us will be negotiated for the future.”

“If we do this properly we won’t have to work for the rest of our lives.”

According to reports, the contract dictates that the 33 miners share equally the profits they expect to secure from the publicity. At first, that united front sounds really noble — and New York Magazine even thinks it’s a shrewd tactic:

This profit-sharing means that outlets paying for interviews, authors looking to write books, and studios hoping for movie rights will have to negotiate with the whole group, as opposed to just one man, which will likely mean they’ll have to pay more. Which is awesome.

But on closer inspection, one lawyer representing 33 men who agree to share media-deal profits equally is a recipe for disaster. Here’s why: as the group does interviews, the individual personalities of the miners will flourish, and one member of the pack will emerge as the breakout star, like Beyoncé from Destiny’s Child.

The Chilean Beyoncé will receive offers that his fellow miners won’t — a spot on Dancing With the Stars here, a cameo on A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila there — and he will grow increasingly bitter, as he is forced to split profits 32 ways. His eventual split from the pack to release a solo album will fracture the rest of the group and mire them all in messy litigation about profit sharing, IP rights, and so on.

These 33 miners comprise a class with identical interests no more than do the cast of Jersey Shore, or the Uruguayan rugby team that crash-landed in the Andes and became cannibals. Each man down there (and now up here) needs his own attorney to help formulate and execute a media strategy. If the miners had been American thought selfishly about their futures, it would have ruined the pitch-perfect ending — but reality and Hollywood don’t always jibe.

Perhaps while the Chilean government was busy shoving life-giving game consoles into the bore hole, they could have tossed a few law firm business cards in there, too.

(hidden for your protection)

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