’300′: Rodrigo Santoro talks Xerxes’ return in ‘Rise of an Empire’

Jan. 18, 2013 | 4:34 p.m.
rodrigo 300 1 300: Rodrigo Santoro talks Xerxes return in Rise of an Empire

Rodrigo Santoro as Xerxes, the Persian king who claims to be a god in "300." (Warner Bros.)

rodrigo 300: Rodrigo Santoro talks Xerxes return in Rise of an Empire

Rodrigo Santoro arrives at the premiere of "The Last Stand" on Jan. 14 in Hollywood. (Joe Klamar / AFP / Getty Images)

rodrigo laststand2 300: Rodrigo Santoro talks Xerxes return in Rise of an Empire

Rodrigo Santoro carries Johnny Knoxville in a scene from "The Last Stand." (Merrick Morton / Lionsgate)

rodrigo laststand 1 300: Rodrigo Santoro talks Xerxes return in Rise of an Empire

Jaimie Alexander and Rodrigo Santoro in a scene from "The Last Stand." (Merrick Morton / Lionsgate)

rodrigo 300 2 300: Rodrigo Santoro talks Xerxes return in Rise of an Empire

Xerxes, played by Rodrigo Santoro, vents his rage at the losses sustained by his army in "300." (Warner Bros.)

rodrigo 300 3 300: Rodrigo Santoro talks Xerxes return in Rise of an Empire

Rodrigo Santoro as Xerxes, right, and Gerard Butler as Leonidas in "300." (Warner Bros.)

rodrigo 300 cast 300: Rodrigo Santoro talks Xerxes return in Rise of an Empire

"300" actors David Wenham, left, Gerard Butler, Lena Headey and Rodrigo Santoro arrive at the film's Hollywood premiere on March 5, 2007. (Kevin Winter / Getty Images)

To reprise the character of Xerxes, the nefarious 9-foot tall antagonist he portrays in director Zack Snyder’s breakthrough swords and sandals blockbuster “300,” for the highly anticipated August spinoff  “300: Rise of an Empire,” Brazilian actor Rodrigo Santoro learned the true meaning of no pain, no gain.

The role demanded that Santoro rebuild the same rippling musculature he shows off to impressive effect in the 2006 historical thriller (based on a graphic novel by Frank Miller) – a truly Herculean effort that involved three months of grueling gym workouts to build biceps and add bulk to Santoro’s slight surfer’s frame.

Rodrigo Santoro arrives at the premiere of "The Last Stand" on Jan. 14 in Hollywood, Calif. (Joe Klamar / AFP / Getty Images)

Rodrigo Santoro arrives at the premiere of “The Last Stand” on Jan. 14 in Hollywood. (Joe Klamar / AFP / Getty Images)

“It was intense,” the actor said during an interview to promote his turn in the new Arnold Schwarzenegger action vehicle “The Last Stand,” directed by revered South Korean filmmaker Kim Jee-Woon. “It was a very specific physique that character has. He’s very specifically described by Frank in the graphic novel and Zack wanted to be very faithful to that description.”

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As if all that exercise were not enough, on the “Rise of an Empire” set in Sofia, Bulgaria, last summer the actor also had to endure five-hour daily makeup sessions to visually match up to Miller’s rendering of the Persian leader in the graphic novel “Xerxes”: resplendently bald, dripping in more gold than Mr. T and oozing androgynous menace.

And from there, Santoro had to act in total isolation from the other performers.

“It was a challenge because it was all blue screen,” he said. “When you act against a blue screen, you have to imagine what’s not there. But because my character is a giant, my sight lines are so low, I was talking to a tennis ball the whole time.”

Although the actor remains schtum on plot details, he feels “300’s” faithful will be happy with the new film – which is not a sequel or a prequel but its own freestanding thing, Santoro is quick to point out, directed by TV commercial ace Noam Murro and produced by Snyder.

“The movie looks cool. It’s beautiful,” said Santoro. “It’s like ’300′ but there are fresh things in there. It’s a smart way to do a sequel. The fans are going to be pleased.”

– Chris Lee

Follow us on Twitter: @LATHeroComplex

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