Brazilian actor Rodrigo Santoro has traveled all over: he’s done English dramedies (“Love Actually”), Cuban history (Steven Soderbergh’s “Che”), American action (“Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle,” “The Last Stand”), and even played aggressively-pierced 7-foot-tall Xerxes in the “300” movies. For “The 33,” about the 2010 Chilean mining collapse, he got to mix it up with an international cast with members from Spain (Antonio Banderas), Ireland (Gabriel Byrne) and France (Juliette Binoche, who early on gives him a good slap across the face). He plays Laurence Golborne, the nation’s new mining minister, who has to go from ineffectual bureaucrat to a guy who helps organize the international rescue mission.
First off: What’s it like to be slapped by Juliette Binoche?
It was an honor. It’s something I will definitely tell my grandkids. I asked for it, so it’s all good.
Her character helps make your character do the right thing, but it seems like he’s always been good. He just needs her to bring the decency out of him.
I don’t see him as a hero or a good guy. He was new on the job. He wanted to prove himself. He got there and saw it was bigger than he thought. He saw the families, who were in incredible pain and desperation, and he starts to get it and relate to it. He’ll probably be a better politician afterwards because he knows their needs and gets what they’re feeling.
You spend a lot of your early scenes being screamed at by large groups. What is that like, even if it’s staged?
Among the extras we had people who were actually there [during the real incident]. So I would get surprised in the middle of shooting: they were shouting at me, cursing at me. But it was a very Zen exercise for me, because this guy was in the center of a huge storm, with pressure from every angle. He was like a manager who doesn’t have any experience. He had to figure it out — how to keep calm with so much pressure. Those were the questions I asked [the real Golborne] when I met him. I wasn’t interested in imitating him, it wasn’t about his behavior. It was like, “How did you do it? How many nights did you actually sleep?”