We may be used to his ripped 300 physique, but Rodrigo Santoro is showing us a new side for his bio pic, Heleno. The actor plays the lead role and produces the film about Brazilian soccer legend and famed player Heleno De Frieita, who eventually passed away due to syphilis. We spoke exclusively with the Brazilian star about how he prepared for the role and whether he relates to the controversial figure below!
Congrats on this film! What made this movie such a passion project for you?
I’m very happy that the movie is being distributed here in the U.S.! It has been a labor of love and I’m proud that it has been well received so far. I was so intrigued by his life story, which was the main reason why I decided to produce and act in the film. Heleno is so incredibly important in Brazilian soccer history and he ended up getting lost in time.
How did you prepare for your role?
The 1940s was the birth of soccer and he really helped develop the game and performance to a new level. We conducted interviews for over a year with his friends, family, and people who knew him very well. After that, they developed the script and I got involved as a producer.
How did you stay in shape for the movie?
I trained for like two months before filming and hired a nutritionist. I played a lot of soccer like a good Brazilian, but I was never obsessed with the sport. After we shot the first half, we broke for two months so I could lose weight for the sickly part of his life. It was very difficult. I lost 28 pounds to portray his last days.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez once said, “He was a permanent opportunity for others to speak ill about him.” What do you think about Heleno’s controversial life story?
We wanted to create the portrait of the man behind the myth. There were so many rumors and bad stories we heard about him, but the common thread is that people are very passionate whenever they speak about Heleno. Some people say, ‘He treated the other players very poorly.’ While others say, ‘He was an amazing player and a gentlemen.’ So he kind of had a double personality, but from my research I believe that he was coming from a good place. What he wanted was to be the best.
Would you say that you relate to his character in real life?
I think we are similar in that we are both really hardworking. I think it’s important to take risks, challenge yourself, and feel uncomfortable so that you are able to grow. I did identify with those aspects of his life.
Heleno is in select theaters now. Check out the trailer below and let us know what you think!