Actor Rodrigo Santoro on new film “Heleno” and the passion that’s made him a star

Video by: Ignacio Torres

Rodrigo Santoro is a star in his native Brazil and with film credits like “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” and “Love Actually,” has quickly become a heart throb among U.S. audiences. But for Santoro, the ultimate thrill comes from movie projects like new release “Heleno,” as opposed to the allure of celebrity.

“Heleno” stars Santoro as troubled athlete Heleno de Freitas, who reigned as Brazil’s soccer star in the 1940s. de Freitas – talented, dynamic and troubled – dreamt of making history in the World Cup, which was cancelled due to World War II. The Brazilian superstar eventually succumbed to syphilis and never realized his dream of playing in the international soccer competition; a circumstance which left him without presence in modern day history books.

“Joining [the film] was a no-brainer because the director brought me a picture of this player and I was really fascinated by what I saw,” says Santoro, who also co-produced the independent film now showing in New York, Los Angeles and Miami. “And once we started to do research, I was completely into it.”

And as for whether the impressive soccer moves shown in the film came naturally to the 37-year-old, Santoro did admit that he had a coach help him on set. That being said, Santoro says he’s been a life-long fan of the sport.

“We’re born playing soccer in our country,” Santoro told NBC Latino. “It’s in our DNA and it’s very important to us.”

The “300” star – who splits his time between Rio De Janeiro, Brazil and Los Angeles – says that while he feels comfortable tackling projects ranging from animated features, romantic comedies, action flicks and independent film, there’s one element that keeps him focused on his art.

“I’m so fortunate to do what I love,” says Santoro, who will next be seen in “Last Stand,” co-starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. “I wake up, and I’m excited about going to work – it feels like I’m going off to play, just like when I was a kid.”

“And I love that. It’s important to do what you like, so all I can ask for is health and good work.”

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