Mitchell Nguyen McCormack/Corbis Outline

A decade ago, Rodrigo Santoro found himself in Los Angeles getting big buzz for his Brazilian indie film Behind the Sun and fielding offers to star in big-budget Hollywood blockbusters­ like Love Actually and Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle. “There definitely wasn’t a plan,” says the Brazilian-Italian star, who has also appeared in I Love You Phillip Morris, 300 and What to Expect When You’re Expecting. “I never left Brazil with my luggage saying, ‘I’m going to make it in America!’ But a whole new world opened up for me.”

We caught up with the Rio de Janeiro–based star of this month’s The Last Stand to chat about filming with Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Brazilian lifestyle and his futbol fixation.

On getting in on the action: “If you’re going to do an action film, do it with Arnold Schwarzenegger. He’s always been such an icon for me, with Conan and Terminator.”

On his recipe for relaxation: “My father was born in Italy, and he always made homemade pasta and real Italian food. I do a lot of pasta and risotto, but you have to take your time. You can taste the difference when something is made with love.”

On getting real in Rio: “There are all the stereotypes [about Rio] — samba, sizzling women — but there’s so much more than that. There’s a warmth here that is unique. Nature is so dashing and alive and beautiful here. You feel connected to the Earth.”

On his love for futbol: “As good Brazilians, we are born playing soccer, but I was never that good until now. I’m producing and starring in a biopic called Heleno, which is about Heleno de Freitas, the biggest soccer star we had here in the ’40s, so I had to train for two months. I’m really excited to share his story with the world.”