Best known stateside for his portrayal of Xerxes in 300, Rodrigo Santoro will next be seen in considerably less makeup in Kim Jee-woon’s The Last Stand. The old-fashioned action movie serves as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s return to a lead role, but Santoro gets in on the excitement as the newly-deputized Frank Martinez. The Last Stand also stars Johnny Knoxville, Jaimie Alexander, Eduardo Noriega, Luis Guzman, Forest Whitaker and Peter Stormare and opens January 18th.
During a recent interview for The Last Stand, Santoro talked about the experience of working with the international cast and crew, the various relationships between his character and others, how much material was left on the cutting room floor and moments of improvisation on set. Santoro also gave us updates on Senna, Rio 2 and 300: Rise of an Empire. Hit the jump to see what he had to say.
Rodrigo Santoro: I have no idea…what are you talking about?
They actually just took us up to a ranch where he has his own tank that he actually drove in the Austrian Army when he was 18. He bought it and flew it over here about twenty years ago.
Santoro: I had no idea of that.
Well now you can ask him to give you a ride some time.
Santoro: All right, all right. He’s building a museum, right?
It was originally brought over for a Planet Hollywood that he wanted to have a military theme. But for this, since it’s his return to action, he wanted to have something big and fun for the press people to do. So, maybe you should pull some strings and get yourself a ride.
Santoro: Okay, okay, I’ll work on that.
The Last Stand has a fantastic international cast and crew, with director Kim Jee-woon being Korean, obviously you’re very famous in Brazil, plus Genesis Rodriguez and Luis Guzman. Could you talk about the experience of just working with that international cast and how that worked as far as communication and different mindsets?
Santoro: It was very interesting. Starting with the director, the meeting that I had with the director prior to start shooting the film, I was very impressed already. I was a fan of his work; I’ve seen two movies before meeting him, but when I met him…Arnold mentioned something about that he spoke very little English and we had a translator, but it’s incredible just how much he can express himself without even speaking. I got that from the meeting we had before shooting. When we got to set and we had a translator and all of that, sometimes I didn’t have to wait for the translator because the way he would mimic or just show you what he wanted…I’ve never had that experience before, working for somebody where we had a translator between us, but I think he’s so talented and he’s such an artist that the way he was able to express himself, just making gestures and trying to show you what he wanted was amazing.
Luis…I mean, hard to work with him because he can just crack me up. “Dude! I want to focus here!” Like right before the take he was “blah, blah, blah,” just talking all kind of absurd things. But I had a blast. He made my experience be so pleasant and I didn’t know these guys, I met them for the first time: Genesis, Luis, Johnny [Knoxville]. I don’t even have to say anything about Johnny because, again…it was a very pleasant experience because we were really having fun working, when we were not shooting, when we were waiting for a shot or anything like that, we were always jamming the whole time. Arnold was very down to Earth. On set, the whole time, he would wait there, he would hang out with us. I think he was very happy to be back shooting a film; I think it’s his first lead role after a long time. You could feel how happy he was. His energy was great. He was there and he was great. The cast was fantastic.
I did want to talk about your character, Frank Martinez, a little bit. You have an interesting character who we didn’t know much about, even from the set visit. He has a military backstory. Was there a lot of material on that cut from the final version?
Santoro: Yeah, some. Not a lot, some was cut, along with a lot of stuff. There was a scene in the beginning of the film where Owens, the Sheriff (Schwarzenegger) finds him in a situation that explains a little bit how lost he was. Basically, Frank is a former veteran who has made a lot of bad choices in life, even before. He’s a little troubled, a little lost in life and he’s having a hard time to readjust, when Owens offers him an opportunity to redeem himself. We did have a little backstory that’s not in the movie that they thought that, for all kinds of reasons when you edit a movie, pacing and all that stuff, that would explain a little bit more about his background. But basically we were building that, especially the relationship between Frank and Sarah (Jaimie Alexander). That relationship is like: they dated in high school, she knows him better than anyone, but he always let her down basically and now they have to put their differences aside and work together, which was the fun part. How do we do this? We’re working for something bigger than our relationship. It was great. She was very helpful and invested in just talking to try to create that story and the director, too, very interested in what can we build and what kind of details can we bring. We have very few moments where we can show that, but we work at building the backstory and all that.
You did mention the romantic history and backstory with Jaimie Alexander’s character, Sarah Torrance. There was also another relationship you had with the character of Jerry (Zach Gilford). You guys have one moment in the jail cell where your friendship is established. Were there more scenes that you guys worked on to establish that?
Santoro: No, we talked and they probably knew each other forever, like friends for life, since they were very young. We’re talking about a small town where people really know each other. In life, usually, even if you live in a big city, you can count on your fingers on one hand how many real friends you have; that’s human. But I think Jerry was probably really his best friend and we tried to talk about friendship. That’s something that I think I identify and I relate to this character, to Frank. That’s the one thing that I’m…I think we’re both committed to friendship. I feel like that for my real friends and I would be devastated if something like that happened. It really affects me, whatever happens to my real good friends. That was fun to play and I have worked before with Zach. We did a movie a long time ago before, and he’s great. So we already had a little intimacy since we met before and we spent some time together and it was fun, it was fun to have that.
I think there are three angles, if we can talk about relationships. There are Frank and Sarah; Frank and Jerry, which is the friendship and then there is Frank and Owens, which is sort of like the father figure for him and for everybody in that town, most of the youngsters there. With Frank, he’s really like the father that he never really had. The beautiful thing about it is he never gives up, even though Frank screwed up so many times, he’s that kind of guy. He even says that, like, “I’ve seen you start so many things and never finish them.” But he never gives up and I thought that was beautiful. At the end, we came up…that was an improvisation, for instance.
Santoro: At the end, when he gives back the badge? That wasn’t there. I just came up with that and the director was saying, “Yeah, yeah, go with that,” and Arnold was so open and so generous about everything, he was like, “Yeah, yeah, let’s try that.” So, we found those little things, but it’s a detail. It will just help to build the relationships and the affection between them.
Any updates on the Senna picture?
Santoro: No, it’s still in development. There’s nothing new to be said. Well, there’s something new, which is I’m currently working on Rio 2, the animated film.
Santoro: Yeah, I’m playing the same role but it’s different. The adventure gets bigger. We go to the Amazon. It’s gonna be great I think. We’re working on it. There’s 300.
That was the next question. Any updates on that?
Santoro: Yeah, I mean it’s coming out in August. I’m not sure about the day. I heard the second, but I’m not sure. It’s August. They’re happy. I’ve heard they’re very happy with it, which makes me happy. It was great. Shot in Bulgaria. I play the same character, little different…you get a little more of his backstory, a little bit here and there. I can’t talk much because I’m not allowed to, but I think it’s going to be pretty cool.
Any other projects on the horizon for you?
Santoro: Yeah, there’s a movie that just released here in the states, a Brazilian film called Heleno…you’ve heard of this one?
I saw a quick blurb about it.
Santoro: Right, it’s still playing in New York and Miami. For now, I think that’s what’s there.
The Last Stand opens Friday, January 18th.