For his upcoming Netflix human trafficking drama, director Alexandre Moratto turned to Brazilian star Rodrigo Santoro to play the film’s menacing villain, Luca. But although Santoro does stand out in “Love, Actually,” “300,” “Westworld” and “Lost,” Moratto maintains that he is almost unrecognizable in this film.
“Some people don’t even recognize him in that role because he transforms completely for the movie,” Moratto told TheWrap at the Toronto International Film Festival. “He’s such a huge world star, and the fact that people do a double take, it just shows the effort he put into transforming himself completely for this role.”
“7 Prisoners” premiered at TIFF and is the story of a rural worker in Brazil named Mateus (Christian Malheiros) who travels with a group of other young men for work in Sao Paolo at a junkyard. Over time, they learn that they have been trapped in a vicious cycle of work and are not allowed to leave by Luca, who oversees the heist and somehow becomes a slaveholder.
Mateus, in his efforts to find a way out, then finds himself more deeply involved and even an accomplice in this criminal world. It becomes a powerful social commentary on the entrenchment of human trafficking in the world and what Moratto describes as a form of “modern day slavery”.
“The reality is that a lot of these people who make our clothes, they could make the clothes that you and I wear, they could power the electricity that runs this computer, they could make the phones that are in our pockets,” he said. Moratto said. “That’s really what I wanted to watch with this story.”
For Santoro’s character, Luca, Moratto has realized that no one wakes up one day and decides they want to be a human trafficker. While it was tempting to name him as the villain, the character’s backstory turns out to be much more complex, and Santoro’s performance had to bring that depth to the role.
“He wanted to come to a place of realism and respect for this character, and it’s such a difficult and challenging role,” added Moratto. “He can do whatever he wants, but I’ve never seen him completely physically transform like that for a role before.” Just the depth and the courage for him to take on this, it was not an easy role. I think it just shows that everyone was taking this topic and the story very seriously, and I’m just very proud of the actors for whatever they’re willing to go.
“7 Prisoners” premiered at TIFF last week and will be playing in theaters and on Netflix around the world in November. Check out the full interview with Alexandre Moratto above.