Rodrigo Santoro doesn’t mind sacri- ficing for his art — or starving. To play Jimmy, Jim Carrey’s boyfriend in I Love You Phillip Morris, the Brazilian hunk lost more than 20 pounds in order to look like he was dying of AIDS.
Santoro’s secret: closing his mouth. “Oh, it was so hard, just watching peo- ple eating was terrible,” the actor admits. ‘‘I’d dream about food all the time — diving into marshmallow swimming pools or a giant ice cream cone chasing me.”
Santoro is no stranger to restricting himself. As the mythical, massive King Xerxes in 300, he had to get ripped beyond belief. “I lost so much weight, and I’m already a skinny guy,” he says. ‘‘When the fat was gone, I started burning muscle. It wasn’t healthy at all.”
But the challenges keep on coming for the former model. In his next movie, Heleno, he plays Brazilian footballer Heleno de Freitas, who contracted syphilis and died in a mental hospital. Again, producers asked the former Lost star to shed pounds to look ill. “As an actor you work hard and want to do the best job you can, but sometimes you go too far,” he says. “Nothing happened to me, thank God.”
When he is reminded that many actors who go through amazing transformations sometimes get Oscar nods, Santoro agreed: ‘‘I’m not going to say never say never, but I’m going to think twice.”
As for his latest movie, based on the book I Love You Phillip Morris: A True Story of Life, Love, and Prison Breaks about gay Texas con man Steven Russell, all the stomach rumblings were worth it. Santoro’s character — Carrey’s first boyfriend whom he meets in South Beach — plays a small but pivotal role. “What I found very appealing and very beautiful was until the very last moment when he’s about to die, he’s still loving Steven and wishing him the best in life. I’m proud to be part of this whole thing.”