When it comes to star power, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Rodrigo Santoro know a little about wielding it.
A child-star from his days on 3rd Rock from the Sun, Gordon-Levitt has made his name in small, cult movies (10 Things I Hate About You, Brick, 500 Days of Summer) that has transformed the actor into one of cinemas’ modern heartthrobs. As the enigmatic designer in Love Actually, to playing King Xerxes in 300, Santoro is a man of few words but he knows how to command attention each time he comes on screen.
But in a recent video interview with Geek Culture for their upcoming Netflix film, Project Power, Gordon-Levitt and Santoro were more than happy to discuss power of a different type – of not abusing it, unlike their characters in the movie.
In Project Power, a powerful pill grants those who consume it a superpower for five minutes, ranging from super strength, power to control fire, or be invisible. The possibility is endless and you wouldn’t know what power you hold until it goes into your system. So what happens when these pills end up in the hands of bad people? Easy. Chaos breaks loose, and crime rates increase.
“Some of the greatest powers are destructive powers, unfortunately. So much of power gets put into weapons and harming others,” said Gordon-Levitt. “I’m mostly in favour of peace and positivity, love, and kindness – call me an idealist but I like the idea of applying power to helping people more than being able to hurt people.”
Despite being 39 years old, the actor still has a boyish face. His hair lays flat on his head, a tiny little curly fringe falling down the side of his face. Paired with big round glasses and deep prominent dimples, Gordon-Levitt still looks like the boy the internet fell in love with from 10 Things I Hate About You.
Gordon-Levitt plays Frank, an intuitive police officer in the New Orleans Police Department whose main goal is to stop this pill from further destroying his beloved city. Frankly speaking, he’s not that great of a police officer. He’s corrupted and has done some pretty bad things in order to seek justice.This makes him not much different than the big antagonist of the film – Biggie.
Played by the sexy Santoro, Biggie is the supplier of the pills. He hands the pills out to drug dealers and they do the selling for him whilst he chases the tailcoat of international drug lords and cartels. His dealers work the streets and in turn, he works the seas. Whilst the film showcases how the powerful pill can be misused when in the hands of the morally corrupt and greedy, Biggie has a different idea all together. To him, the pill only unlocks the hidden potentials that humans already have stored deep inside them.
Regardless, the two are the biggest bad boys of the film, going up against Jamie Foxx and Dominique Fishback.
Sporting a more rugged, manly look, Santoro is tanned and has a full beard. The Brazillian actor sports the kind of hair you’d see on Prince Charming – hair flipped back and parted almost towards the centre of his head. Santoro spoke calmly, thinking through every word and nodding along to the words of Gordon-Levitt. His eyes always look kind and compassionate.
When asked about what power he’d like to have, the 44-year old answered: “The power that allows me to transform prejudice into love. Right away, I point at somebody and that person, whatever prejudice that lives in that person, will switch and become love at the same measure. That’ll be interesting. That’ll be helpful, handy.”
“The power I would choose is the power of empathy,” chimed Gordon-Levitt. “Being able to really see through someone else’s eyes, hear through someone else’s ears, touch, taste, smell, what someone else senses. And this is what I’m always trying to do as an actor when I play a character different from myself. I’m trying to put myself in someone else’s shoes, but if I could really experience life from someone else’s point of view – I think that would be illuminating.”
Throughout the interview, the actors listened intently to each other. Both speak on the desire for a better world, especially now that they’ve children of their own.
“When we talk about human beings, when we talk about living beings, I don’t like the idea of taking people’s lives,” added Santoro. “I have a daughter, she’s three years old, and the other day she grabbed and pulled a flower and it hurts – I don’t like to see that.”
“Oh but she’s not doing anymore!” the 44-year old laughed.
In Project Power, Santoro’s character is self-serving. He’d let other people get harmed whilst he tries to escape danger. It’s hard to think that this flower-protecting of a human being could even play an evil person. This is especially since Santoro in recent years has been cast in ‘good guy’ roles.
His character Hector Escaton in Westworld is a charming rogue and before that he voiced Túlio Monteiro in both Rio and Rio 2. So how exactly did he prepare for the role of Biggie?
In a way so wholesome as expected from the Brazillian – listening to podcasts.
“I started to try to find inspirations and one of the things that I found was listening to podcasts and watching those people talking, and I saw this guy – he was a life coach – and he had such a particular way of talking and seducing people, and just telling them how he would be able to help them to grow. That was something that inspired me and I thought that would be a great detail to try and build [Biggie’s] personality,” Santoro shared.
If the actors have any superpowers in real life, it would most definitely be the power of making our hearts melt from miles away via Zoom. Both Gordon-Levitt and Santoro have such optimistic and compassionate outlooks on life, further adding on to the disparity between who they are as individuals versus the characters they play in Project Power.
“I’m grateful for the life I have. I don’t need any special powers. I feel like I’m so blessed, so fortunate, so lucky that I don’t need anything more. I’m just glad to be alive,” smiled Gordon-Levitt.
Don’t judge a book by its cover, for behind all this makeup, is a geek just like you. To simply put it, superheroes, Star Wars and all things gore and creepy makes this girly girl swoon.