Rodrigo Santoro Is Ready for Takeoff
Tracking the arc of Rodrigo Santoro’s rising star by Laura Linney / portrait by Kurt Markus
After a marathon promotional tour for a slate of new movies, Brazilian actor Rodrigo Santoro pauses to reflect on the nature of celebrity and his growing fame in America. Linney, Santoro’s Love Actually costar, gets the story.
Laura Linney: Hello, my friend.
Rodrigo Santoro: I feel very honored that you’re taking this time.
LL: Don’t be silly. How have you been?
RS: Very good. The whole year has been traveling to promote films. It’s been interesting. It’s kind of like digestion, where you look back and see everything you’ve done.
LL: It sounds like you’ve been able to do the movies you wanted. I know you were afraid your career was going to be you just looking really hot in a bunch of movies.
RS: Yeah, well, there is the whole commodity of it. Nowadays, I think we all have to fight to be honest. It’s not only about doing a great job but having the chances to do a great job.
LL: Where did you go this year?
RS: I went to Europe—Madrid and London—then New York for the film festival, then Rome and then back to Brazil. It all started in Cannes in May, because I had two films in competition. The first was Lion’s Den, an Argentine film. The other was Che [Steven Soderbergh’s movie about Che Guevara].
LL: Did you walk up the Croisette? Up the stairs and turn around to see the sea of people?
RS: I did that twice. I’d been to Cannes, but this time I really got to enjoy it.
LL: It was so obvious when we were working together on Love Actually that it was just a matter of time for a snowball of work to hit you.
RS: Not really a snowball, but finally I’m feeling more artistically fulfilled.
LL: What else do you have?
RS: A movie I shot at the beginning of this year—it’s called I Love You Phillip Morris. It’s a true story about this gay con man, played by Jim Carrey. The guy was a genius, and everything he did was for love. I play the con man’s first lover. Ewan McGregor is also in it.
LL: Where did you film that?
RS: Miami and New Orleans. My God, I love New Orleans.
LL: It makes sense you’d like it there. You have another movie as well?
RS: It’s called The Post Grad Survival Guide. I’d never done a comedy before. I was coming out of Che and Lion’s Den. I spent two and a half months in the jungle with weapons and a lot of guys, and then this script came to me, and what I liked was that the role was written for a British actor.
LL: It is so fascinating to watch you in America, because you are so outrageously famous in Brazil.
RS: I’ve been working in Brazil for 14 years. But here, I’m what they call the up and coming, which I love because you can reinvent yourself. Sometimes in Brazil, I work harder to make characters different and believable and to overcome the persona I have.
LL: Is there something you learned about fame in Brazil that you are able to apply to your success here?
RS: I think the more successful you get, the more difficult it becomes to maintain that success and at the same time maintain the original enthusiasm. People brand you, and you have to learn how to deal with that.
LL: Your English is so much better than when we first met.
RS: The English goes back and forth. I was just thinking about Love Actually, and honestly, I’m not saying this because you’re here, but you have no idea how lucky I feel to have had that opportunity. Remember that table reading? Those big guys from England and Emma Thompson. I see them, and I see the empty seat between Laura Linney and Rowan Atkinson, and my name is there in the middle.
LL: We were the foreigners. I was there with all of my idols.
RS: They were big. I learned the most from you, not only because of your talent but because of your generosity.
LL: Thank you, thank you.
RS: I’d love to work with you again.
LL: Yes, we’ll have to find something.
RS: Perhaps if it were the stage? I know you love the stage. In film, you’re always using your tools, your body, your voice, your emotions, but onstage, you use them in a different way. When you shoot a movie, the camera is always taking, taking, taking and not giving anything back.
LL: What actors have you loved working with this past year?
RS: On Che, it was Benicio Del Toro, who played the title character. He’s someone I respect a lot. I played Raul Castro, the brother of Fidel. Benicio was impressive, very concentrated and very, very much of a generous actor. Also Jim Carrey, because he is this huge celebrity, this bigger-than-life persona, but he has great humanity. It was very surprising to see that humanity coming through his eyes. On The Post Grad Survival Guide, I worked with Michael Keaton and Carol Burnett. Do you know Carol Burnett?
LL: Do I know Carol Burnett? She was my idol growing up.
RS: I know. She’s an icon. And she’s beautiful.
LL: You seem incredibly busy. What do you do in your downtime? Are you still surfing?
RS: Yes, I need to surf—surf and yoga. Whenever I’m in L.A., I go down to San Diego to surf for the weekend, and I always come back perfect. It’s been a pretty good year! And now, you know, I just keep moving. Life is really about changes and not knowing what’s going to happen next.