Sunday, October 15, 2006

Movie to make millionaires of lost Mexico fishermen

Wed Oct 11, 10:43 PM ET

Three Mexicans who spent nine months drifting across the Pacific Ocean in a flimsy fishing boat eating raw fish and sea birds are to be paid at least $3.8 million to turn their story into a movie.

The three -- all fishermen who said they were too poor to afford a better boat or modern fishing tackle -- have signed a contract to sell their story to an Atlanta-based company, said a government official in San Blas, the fishing town where they began their odyssey.

The company negotiated 8-year exclusive rights to market the story to film companies, book publishers and merchandisers, said government official Silverio Aspericueta, adding that the final payment could be even higher. He said the company's name was Ezekiel 22.

"The $3.8 million, they said it could be double that. That is a base. That is still an initial agreement," Aspericueta, part of a team of federal, state and municipal officials who led the negotiations on the fishermen's behalf, told Reuters by telephone.

The men were feared lost when their 25-foot (8-metre) fiberglass boat ran into trouble off Mexico's Pacific coast last November.

As their families gave them up for dead, they drifted more than 5,000 miles (8,000 km) before being picked up in August by a Taiwanese tuna trawler near the remote Marshall Islands in the South Pacific.

The three had survived by catching birds and fish to eat and drinking rainwater -- and occasionally their own urine.

The men initially faced investigations as some doubted their claim that they meant to fish for shark when they set off from a coast known as a major drug trafficking highway. But the federal government has found no evidence they were smugglers.

Aspericueta said Ezekiel 22 is negotiating with several movie companies, including Warner Brothers and Paramount Pictures.

The Atlanta-based company could not be reached for comment.

Potential film locations include Hawaii, Los Angeles and the less-glamorous town of San Blas, Mexico -- the poor fishing village where the men initially departed.

"We became famous overnight," Aspericueta said, from San Blas.