In a larger than life battle film like "300," the villain has to be extra-larger than life. Xerxes, the king of Persia, is portrayed as seven feet tall. Actor Rodrigo Santoro is only 6’2". Not too shabby, but the other 10 inches are special effects. To look the part though, Santoro had to let go of vanity.
"I had my whole body shaved," he said. "We started waxing, and I had a lot of respect for women after that, but I left for the girls that part, because it just hurt so much that the next day I asked for a razor and shaved my whole body. But here we actually tried some prosthetics on first, tried to change my forehead or something like that. Then Zack [Snyder] just said, ‘No, no, no, I just want Rodrigo the way he is.’ But the eyebrows were actually the makeup artist’s idea just to cover with prosthetics."
"300" is Frank Miller’s version of the battle between Sparta and Persia, with all its heightened monsters and creatures involved. Santoro wanted to know a little bit about the real Xerxes before he went off into fantasy land.
"I’d heard before when I was in school. I always loved history so it was something that I was aware of but I went researching in the great historian book, Herodotus, which was the best source. There was a lot there, actually about the battle, and there was a lot about Xerxes. He’s very controversial, Xerxes, according to Herodotus. There is a piece of information there that I found very interesting. It actually helped me with the character, because he says that Xerxes’ father, has, I think two more sons, and the power could have been passed to any of them. For some reason, it went to Xerxes. He doesn’t explain and he thinks it’s very controversial."
This distinction seemed to permeate Xerxes legacy, so it fueled Santoro’s performance. "There is a sculpture in the Palace of Persephone of Xerxes in front of his father’s sculpture with an inscription saying that he was his father’s choice. So he wanted to make sure that everybody knew he was meant to be the king. That kind of made me think that underneath he was very insecure. He was very scared of everything. And it helped me, this Frank Miller vision that he is this god king, and I think he put out this figure in order to protect a lot of insecurity and a lot of stuff underneath."
"300" currently sits at 60 percent on the Tomatometer, with 20 reviews in.