Cine Latino covers, well, all things relating to Latino culture and the movies, every Friday.
Rodrigo Santoro, a mega star in his native Brazil, has steadily, through the years, nurtured his international career. He cemented his name in Hollywood with eye-catching performances in 300 and Steven Soderbergh's Che. Besides his acting talents, the half Brazilian and half Italian actor has gained a lot of popularity with the ladies for his more than modest looks. His latest film project, What to Expect When You're Expecting, in theaters today, follows five couples whose intertwined lives are turned upside down by the challenges of impending parenthood. Santoro plays Jennifer Lopez's husband, and together they decide to adopt a child from a third world country. Before it's all said and done, he joins "The Dudes Group" for a tell it like it is parenting session.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Santoro for an exclusive interview, where he spoke candidly about What to Expect, his return to the iconic role of Xerxes in 300: Battle of Artemisia and his passion project Heleno.
Movies.com: I think a lot of people out there are curious to know what it's like to romance one of the richest entertainers in Hollywood at the moment, Jennifer Lopez.
Rodrigo Santoro: It wasn't hard. It was very easy. Jennifer really made my life very easy. She's incredibly talented as we all know. We really had a great time. Our characters are supposed to be this great couple that really get along and really have a good time so we had to put that energy out there. Chemistry is something that you have or you don't.
Movies.com: It seems like one of the perks of shooting What to Expect When You're Expecting was the opportunity to hang out with The Dudes Group. How did you keep yourself from laughing?
Santoro: I had a blast. The problem was I had to be serious, I couldn't laugh. They improvise like crazy, and I had to keep it together and improvise with them as well. It was a great exercise. They had to carry the babies and it was so, so hot. Imagine hot x10, it was beyond that and I'm from Brazil. I'm used to it but it was insane. We shot at a park from morning until evening. I remember Tom Lennon was wearing three layers, he was almost crying towards the end. We were having so much fun that it made it easy.
Movies.com: There's a scene in the movie where you karaoke with Jennifer and The Dudes. Are you a karaoke lover?
Santoro: Yeah, of course, that's me singing. I've been to karaoke a couple of times and I think the last couple of songs I sang were Jim Morrison and The Doors. You're always a bit tipsy when you're there so yeah, I'll sing whatever.
The interesting thing about that karaoke scene was that we were told not to sing well. It was hard for Jennifer but easy for me because I'm not a singer. I've sang in films before but I'm not a singer. I sing in the shower. It's the best place to sing.
Movies.com: You just started training for your role as Xerxes in 300: The Battle of Artemisia alongside Eva Green. Tell us about reprising this role.
Santoro: Eva and I are going to play against each other. She's going to be Xerxes' first commander.
I've never reprised a role before. I don't have the [latest] draft but I know that they are trying to explain Xerxes back story. What I'll try to do is to make it as fresh as I can and try to bring something new for the fans. It's not up to me. It's really up to the writing.
It's interesting for me to return to this character because it was an interesting process doing 300. It was very hard. People have no idea how hard we had it. In my case specifically, besides the whole workout and the physical challenges to get there, I had a six hour makeup session every day and a two hour session to remove the whole thing. I was the first one to arrive and the last one to leave. I shaved my head, arms, chest, everything.
Movies.com: Are you ready to go through it all again?
Santoro: When are we ready? We're never ready. When I think about it I get the chills. I'm excited because Xerxes is an interesting character, with a very bizarre look. We deal with mythology and things that are not human and I like that.
Movies.com: Let's talk about Heleno. It's a story based on a popular Brazilian soccer player who died of syphilis. I know you had to drop a significant amount of weight for the role. You've lost weight in the past for other roles, how challenging was it this time around?
Santoro: Yeah, I'm a little tired of that, I've got to be honest. I've done it three times but for Heleno it was the most strict and hardest one. I dropped about 28 pounds. I actually lost more than I needed to but it was for the story. We wanted to authentically portray things and be respectful to the story.
Movies.com: Not eating or being malnourished must cause lots of distress to your body. Did it affect you emotionally?
Santoro: The experience really changed me. I hear people say, "You are what you eat," but you are what you don't eat, too. It feels very different to be that skinny. Your energy changes, your state of mind changes. Physically I was weaker but I was stronger inside somehow. It felt very clear, maybe that's the reason why oriental religions do a lot of fasting. Something happens, it's chemical, it happens in your brain and body, and it allows you to change the energy within your body. I was very focused in trying to play the character during that time in his life. He was a victim of syphilis in the third stage [and he went untreated]. The disease starts to eat all of your vital organs like your brain.
Movies.com: How proud are you of this project?
Santoro: I'm happy with it. It was a long process, it took me five and a half years to develop it, and it's a passion project for me. We raised the money with the help of Eike Batista, he's the biggest entrepreneur in Brazil nowadays. He believed in the film and financed it. Shooting took two months for the first part and then we stopped so I could drop weight for a month and a half and then we came back and shot the last part of it. We sold it to Screen Media, who should be distributing the film in the U.S by August. I produced the film as well so I'm excited about it.
Follow us @elisaosegueda and @moviesdotcom