Rous Sophorn was never interested in cinema, but thanks to a passion for sport, a toned body, and a Khmer look, the ex-gym instructor scored the role of King Soryavarman II in the 3D movie Angkor: The Land of Gods.
The movie was produced last year by the South Korean company EBS, in cooperation with TVK Cambodia, and has yet to premiere in the Kingdom. The film is divided into two parts, with the first half following Rous Sophorn as King Soryawarman II, and the second half following Prince Sisowath Siriwudd as King Jayavarman VII.
In the hope of attracting tourists to Angkor, the movie has already been distributed in 128 countries around the world. It will come out in Cambodia as soon as the Khmer voiceover becomes available.
“Before getting cast as the King, I was working as a gym instructor at The Place,” Rous Sophorn said. “The director of casting contacted me and asked if I wanted to apply for the part, and to send him a picture that showed my muscles.
“I was very busy at the time, so I didn’t send him anything. I decided to go to the casting, but left immediately as I was not really interested. But for some reason the director kept contacting me and convinced me to participate.”
Sophorn’s only previous experience was acting as a bodyguard or fighter in the background of local movies.
“At first they said they only wanted me for a week to star as the young King Soryavarman II, but after a week, they tried to convince me to film a whole month,” he told 7Days.
“I had no choice, I phoned my work place and asked for permission.”
Sophorn was born in Kampong Thom. After his father died, he moved to Kampong Chan and then to Phnom Penh to work and study. “I used to bike for a distance of 17 kilometres, from Chom Chao to Back Touk, only to study English and exercise at the King Kong gym club.”
After winning the Body Building Championship and the Men Physique Contest in 2005, he was contacted by the Sapors Modeling Agency to become a model. “I registered for the training, but I didn’t feel fashionable enough to continue,” he said.
Sophorn, 33, became a gym instructor at The Place in 2009. He quit his job in July 2010, to shoot the movie. After the shooting was done, he started his new job at the Phnom Penh Phokeetra gym.
Rous Sophorn said that, despite his initial reluctance, he is proud of the project. “In the future I would like to open my own gym to train body builders who wants to work in the film industry,” he said.
King Soryawarman II built Angkor Wat between 1116 and 1145 to honour the Hindu God Vishnu.