SAO PAULO In his latest film, Brazilian actor Rodrigo Santoro portrays a man who is very much in the news himself these days -- Cuban President Raul Castro.
And though the similarities between the heartthrob and the normally dour Castro may not be immediately evident, Santoro says their eyes are similar.
The 32-year-old actor will be promoting "Che," directed by Steven Soderbergh, as well as the Argentine film "Leonera," directed by Pablo Trapero, at the Cannes Film Festival.
"Che" is based on the diaries of the Argentine guerrilla Ernesto "Che" Guevara on his revolutionary struggles in Latin America, starting in Cuba alongside Raul and his brother, Fidel, in the 1950s. Benicio Del Toro stars in the title role.
Although the Raul Castro part is small, it is topical. Raul Castro took over from his brother as leader of the communist-ruled island in February, 50 years after the events depicted in the film, and has embarked on a series of reforms.
"I knew it would be a delicate and very polemic role," Santoro said in an interview.
"As an actor, I have to try to incorporate the human being. I cannot do a political analysis about him."
A photo he saw of Raul Castro from 1953 helped him.
"He has slanted eyes. I think the producers saw that and thought, "Look here -- there's a great physical resemblance."
Santoro made a two-month trip to Cuba last year, staying in the Sierra Maestra mountain range from where Fidel Castro led the revolution and visiting the house where the brothers were born.
"I loved Cuba, had wonderful days there, people are amazing," he said. "I feel a bit Cuban too. It was a very strong experience."
Santoro's other movie, "Leonera," is about the life of a mother who raises her son in prison. Some of scenes were shot in Argentina's largest maximum security prison in Olmos.
Santoro, who has starred in international hits such as "Love, Actually" as well as acclaimed Brazilian movies like "Carandiru," is now filming "I Love you Phillip Morris" in New Orleans along with Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor.