Lost in Rio. Rio de Janeiro-born Rodrigo Santoro has created his own path to Hollywood, largely through playing the villain Xerxes in the epic 300. Now, he is on the brink of a major breakthrough. Having conquered Brazil, Santoro is aiming for the world. By Petricia Yuvita
V-neck by Calvin Klein
Considered by one popular U.S.-based magazine as one of the ‘50 Most Beautiful’ men on earth, this suave Brazilian continues to make Hollywood stand up and take notice. Santoro is actually one of Brazil’s most talented veteran actors with sterling credentials going back to the 90s, but it’s only been recently that his name has gone global. In addition to 300, the cool 37-year-old actor has been hit on by Cameron Diaz in Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, portrayed Fidel Castro’s brother in Che, survived a plane crash in the hugely popular TV show Lost, and portrayed one of the boyfriends of Jim Carrey’s character in I Love You Phillip Morris.
Most recently, he starred alongside Jennifer Lopez, Brooklyn Decker and other temptresses in What to Expect When You´re Expecting. If all goes according to plan, we should also be seeing Santoro in a trio of films over the next 12 months, including a prequel/sequel to 300.
Here, he tells DAMAN about his life all the way from Rio de Janeiro.
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DA MAN: What can you tell us about your journey in showbiz?
Rodrigo Santoro: At university, I started with journalism, which I did for 2.5 years and then I joined street theater. I went to a studio called TV Global with a friend who was testing for a role, and while I was there, I was persuaded to test, too. TV Global asked me to do a workshop for young actors, which was really the start of my acting career when I was only 18 years old. Following the workshop I got into movies in Brazil, and in 2000 I did a feature film that went to the festival circuit. My first U.S. film was Behind the Sun, which premiered in Los Angeles, distributed by Miramax. Following the premiere, I began taking agent meetings and slowly segued into American film. My first opportunity was a Showtime film The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone based on Tennessee Williams’ script with Helen Mirren and Ann Bancroft. I met the Love Actually casting director, the late Mary Selway, at the Venice film festival when I was there as a consequence of my Brazilian films that were doing the festival circuit. This encounter is what ultimately got me the part in Love Actually and was the catalyst to my American presence.
DA MAN: What was your most exciting experience in the making of 300?
Rodrigo Santoro: 300 was definitely a unique experience. When you look at the film, it is cinematically very cool, but the preparation required me to endure a lot, not only physically, but also mentally when adapting to the character of Xerxes. Frank Miller was very specific with his description of Xerxes and it was challenging to match this description and characteristics to embody Xerxes. It was an interesting and intense character to play, which was an overall amazing experience. I had not worked in front of a green screen before, which I soon learned requires a lot imagination and full concentration on your surroundings. The filming process and mental and physical transformation was challenging, but was fantastic to watch the final results.
DA MAN: Do you have a method for choosing which roles to pursue, or do you just let fate decide and then go with it full-speed ahead?
Rodrigo Santoro: I think it is a combination of reason, instinct and experience. Ultimately, I decide a lot based
on my instincts and there has to be chemistry with the material, project and character. I believe this chemistry is integral as my deciding factor.
DA MAN: Who has inspired you over the years as an actor?
Rodrigo Santoro: I am inspired by life in general. I have a lot of admiration for many artists, but the biggest
source of inspiration is life and human beings, I am driven. The experiences and interactions between humans drive and educate me to grow and mature through each experience.
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DA MAN: Which project are you most proud of? Can you tell us about Heleno and what that process was like?
Rodrigo Santoro:Heleno has been a passion project for past six or seven years; it is the first time I produced and starred in a film, which was an amazing and fantastic experience. It was exhausting but rewarding. I learned about moviemaking from a different perspective, but also had the opportunity to play a fantastic character. It felt great to be a part of the process from the origin as a producer and execute it artistically as an actor. It feels great to see how well the movie is being perceived after all the work, I am very proud of it. If I wasn’t an actor I would be involved with art somehow: painter, musician or maybe a journalist!
DA MAN: What is the biggest difference between Brazil’s movie industry and Hollywood?
Rodrigo Santoro: The budgets are different, but honestly, Hollywood has a solid market with financial investment and, in Brazil, the film industry doesn’t have those huge investments yet. The quality of films produced in Brazil are great and getting better and better, becoming more recognizable across the world, such as Heleno, which has American distribution.
DA MAN: You played Paulo on Lost, in a show that has a big fan-base. How much do you think you connected to the role? And how much did the role affect your career?
Rodrigo Santoro: Lost was a great show and a very unique experience as well. The truth is that I was originally part of the show for six months as I couldn’t commit based on several reasons as I was living in Brazil—I had 300 being released, and another movie I was starting in Brazil. My involvement with Lost was always an arc on the show and not a regular, which was already predetermined. When the season commenced, the characters developed and based on the fact I was only able to commit for a short time, Paulo was introduced to audiences and was quickly killed off. It was the nature of the show and a great experience. I thoroughly enjoyed the
writers and producers; the network was great. The crew and co-stars were so amazing and I really loved working in Hawaii, as I am a surfer.
DA MAN: What, to your mind, would be the greatest of misfortune?
Rodrigo Santoro: The greatest misfortune is not living life to its fullest since life is too short.
DA MAN: Tell us about your most recent movie What to Expect When You’re Expecting and working with some stunning star power in it?
Rodrigo Santoro: The movie was a great experience; it was so fun. I wasn’t used to romantic comedies, but I enjoyed being a part of the film. Jennifer [Lopez] was fantastic to work with and I had a blast working with amazing comedians like Chris Rock who is very talented and made me laugh a lot. It was hard to try to not break character during some scenes.
DA MAN: What can you tell us about other projects you might be involved in?
Rodrigo Santoro: What To Expect When You’re Expecting was in theaters in May, I have HELENO coming out in September 2012 worldwide and The Last Stand with Arnold Schwarzenegger slated for Winter 2012/2013. I am probably shooting the spinoff of 300 shortly.
DA MAN: What is your dream of happiness?
Rodrigo Santoro: Some people say happiness is an emotion, but I believe happiness is long-lasting enjoyment of life. It is being in love with living.
DA MAN: How do you prepare for roles, in general?
Rodrigo Santoro: First off, there is no formula for me, every time the process is different because each character is different. I personally think actors are students of life and behavior. I spend time researching about the role and its environment as much as possible. I like to explore because that’s when I can really learn about human beings as well as the various facets of character. On set, all the work is already present inside and becomes free-flowing.
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DA MAN: Are there any actors that you really yearn to work with? And if so, what specifically about them makes you want to?
Rodrigo Santoro: Yes. There are several actors I respect and admire and it wouldn’t be fair to list all the names.
DA MAN: What is your dream role?
Rodrigo Santoro: As an actor, I always like to experience something different and foreign than what I have experienced in my life.
DA MAN: What does fashion mean to you?
Rodrigo Santoro: Fashion has its own creative process and I respect many different designers. I respect this form of art.
DA MAN: What do you do to unwind?
Rodrigo Santoro: I think I like to do nothing, to stay still, breathe deeply and clear my head. Then I may go for a surfing session
Photographs:Mitchell Nguyen McCormack
Styling: Drew Manares