Action icon Arnold Schwarzenegger makes his much-anticipated lead role return to the big screen in Jee-woon Kim’s ‘The Last Stand.’ After leaving his LAPD narcotics post following a bungled operation that left him wracked with remorse and regret, Sheriff Ray Owens (Schwarzenegger) moved out of Los Angeles and settled into a life fighting what little crime takes place in sleepy border town Sommerton Junction. But that peaceful existence is shattered when Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega), the most notorious, wanted drug kingpin in the western hemisphere, makes a deadly yet spectacular escape from an FBI prisoner convoy. Alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger and Eduardo Noriega, the likes of Jaimie Alexander, Zach Gilford, Forest Whitaker, Luis Guzman, Rodrigo Santoro, Johnny Knoxville, Alexander, Peter Stormare, Harry Dean Stanton and Genesis Rodriguez co-star. Look out for ‘The Last Stand’ from January 18th in the US and January 25th in the UK. My interview with Arnold Schwarzenegger for the film can be read here, while my Jaimie Alexander interview can be read here.

For me it’s such an interesting combination, a film directed by Jee-woon Kim and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. Then actually working with Arnold, I can imagine that was incredibly exciting as someone who grew up watching his films?

Rodrigo Santoro: Yeah. I think the 12 year-old that lives inside me screamed, “What! You’re doing a movie with Arnold?!” Really?! It’s Conan man, it’s friggin’ Terminator! That’s awesome man, we’re really doing it.” (Laughs) And I agreed, I was like, “Yep, we’re doing it.” And yeah, knowing that I’d be working with Jee-woon Kim, who’s a fantastic director, he’s incredibly talented, that was a big thing. Arnold, he’s an institution. And he said it, “I’ll be back.” He is back, definitely. And I loved that combination of Jee-woon Kim and Arnold, it’s an unexpected combination. For me it was a no brainer to do this movie.

And then working alongside Arnold, how did you find that experience? 

Rodrigo Santoro: I’m not going to lie to you, at first it was a bit intimidating. But then when you step on set and Arnold gives you that look, and you know you can do it. His confidence feeds you, it’s very inspiring. There was this scene where we were being shot at and he looks over at me and shouts, “Go, go, go! I’ll cover you!” And he gives me that look. I look at him and was like, “Oh yeah. I’m going man, I’m going! Friggin’ Terminator is watching my back, I’m going.” I didn’t even think about it, I just went (laughs).

Forest, you’ve worked with some incredible directors, what was it like working under the director of Jee-woon Kim? And what is it about his films that appeal to you?

Forest Whitaker:  He’s an exciting filmmaker and I think he’s a visionary. He was one of the main reason that I wanted to be a part of this film. I think there are two elemental things that make his films so special. First is his style. There’s poetry to his films and a deep search to reveal the insides of character. Second, there’s a visual beauty – even if it’s an action film. There are poetic moments of violence in his films and that’s a special thing to pull off. And he’s really specific and really clear, he had everything planned out with how he wanted to do things. He’s very precise when talking to the actors, he was really communicative with us, very specific – more so than any other director I’ve worked with who speaks English (laughs).

the last stand forest whitaker

Rodrigo, how did you find the stunt work on ‘The Last Stand’? Were there any particular scenes in the film that stood out to you while you were filming?

Rodrigo Santoro: The stunt work I got to do was pretty awesome. My favourite sequence is the school bus sequence, where I’m driving the bus and the bad guy lands on the roof and starts to fire at me. I have to drive with one hand and I’m firing at him with the other hand while I’m driving. Then I get the bus and do a 180 spin, the back door flies open and then there’s just Arnold firing a huge machine gun. It was the craziest, coolest thing. But it was a lot of fun, because for me it was the first time I had a chance to do that. It was tricky to do, but it was really fun – it got me really energetic (laughs).

Although understandably, at first Agent Bannister doesn’t have the most confidence in Sheriff Owens handling this situation? 

Forest Whitaker: Yeah. Bannister sees him as a small town Sheriff. He has no reason to believe that he can handle this kind of situation. We’re talking about a third generation Cartel boss, who has the reach and the power to actually escape from the FBI and drive across country in order to escape across to Mexico – and then able to bring into play Militia to get out (laughs). But he later finds out Sheriff Owens has incredible skills. You have a hero going up against large odds – the establishment, society, criminals – and that gets you excited because you have an underdog in peril. And then you have strong villain who is almost bigger than a human being, sort of a demigod, because seemingly nothing can stop him from completing his task.

And for me, there’s a relatability to Bannister and Sheriff Owens, even though they may not realise it. They’re both looking for redemption and justice….?

Forest Whitaker: Yeah, definitely. I think both men are looking towards some form of redemption. Arnold’s character lost his partner and has exiled himself to a small town, hoping he’ll never have to be confronted with his past. But that is exactly what happens – he’s faced with looking at his own capabilities, what he needs to do. And my character has lost the man that he has sought for so long, and he desperately wants to get him back, so he can seek justice. I think of him as almost an archetype of an archangel, doing his duty to bring about justice.