Viggo Mortensen plays Sigmund Freud in David Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method - out February 10 - starring alongside Michael Fassbender's Carl Jung and Keira Knightley's Sabina Spielrein. While he was out and about in London town recently, our man Mortensen came round the Empire offices to talk about playing the founding father of psychoanalysis, as well as other topics, such as mechanised underwear, professional photography and Carlito's Way - and here is the resulting webchat transcript.
papwortl says: What do you think Sigmund Freud would make of Tom Stall?
It would probably be good for Tom to come in and have a talk.
Boz says: Hello Viggo. How did you find working with David Cronenberg? What excites you about working with him?
Well, he has a very good sense of humour. I liked the character I play in A Dangerous Method, Sigmund Freud, and that always makes the job more enjoyable.
Pearljamlover says: Viggo, a massive fan of your movies, the ones that stands out for me is Young Guns 2 and Appaloosa. Will you be venturing back in that genre any time soon?
It'd be fun to do another Western; unfortunately most of them are not necessarily great stories, but the ones that are good are among the best movie stories, so I would love to get back on a horse and return to the 19th century North American West.
RagingRagnar says: Hi Viggo, I know you have strong talents outside of acting, so my question is how would you have paid the bills if you were not a professional actor?
Well, I like to write but that's difficult to make a living at as well. Not sure. Perhaps a truck driver or cab driver? I love driving, travelling.
The Jackal says: Hi Viggo - How you doing? We all know that your son convinced you to take the Aragorn role (hurrah!) at the very last minute, and you did a superb job. Just how daunted were you when you saw the size of that book, and how did you do it? What was your way in to the role?
I recognised that a lot of Tolkien's material was based on the Scandinavian sagas which I was familiar with, having read them and having had them read to me as a child. That helped me get comfortable to start with, that knowledge. I'm always daunted. If I weren't, there'd be something wrong. Never been more daunted than I was at the prospect of having to play Sigmund Freud, for example. And yet that has turned out to be one of the most enjoyable jobs I've had in this business.
Arwen says: Hi Viggo, you must have had to read around Freud to play the part. Did you end up on the Freud or the Jung side of the debate?
Well, they both were very intelligent and initially not so far apart in terms of ideas. I always look for positive rather than negative comparisons. But I must say that I have always leaned toward Freud's realistic acceptance of individual fate. The reluctance to ever say that we can be "cured" of our individual existential problems.
ennyukdeejay says: And what did Henry think of the final work? Can he read the books with a straight face anymore?
He gave us a nod of approval, which I was grateful for.
rich_mcditch says: Hi Viggo, how important is awards recognition to your career? Has being an Oscar-nominated actor helped you pursue projects that would otherwise have not been possible?
Any nominations a movie gets helps to raise the level of curiosity in the public, so in that sense awards and nominations are important. But all you have to do is take an honest look at the quality level of many nominees and even winners to see that good work is not always recognised.
Stencil says: Hi Viggo, you were fantastic in The Road, what was the most fun part about doing this film for you?
Working with Kodi Smit-McPhee, who is an extraordinarily talented young actor. For those who haven't seen the movie yet, he played my son, a very difficult role.
Quentin says: What was it that got you interested in A Dangerous Method? Was it mostly working again with Cronenberg, or the psychological theme ? Or both?
Firstly, working with David Cronenberg again. Secondly, the bait that David threw my way, in the form of an elaborate system of undergarments that Sigmund Freud was reputed to have employed on some of his summer excursions deep into the Alps. They included an elaborate system of miniaturised pulleys and wires that assisted in muscular stimulation for the steeper climbs. I was allowed to wear these undergarments in all scenes whether I was climbing or not.
Egg says: Did you spend any time in the analyst's couch to prepare for the role?
Not to prepare for the role, but I did have one relatively brief experience going to see an analyst some 20 years before working on this movie. I thought it was a potentially very helpful exercise for anyone that might feel inclined.
andrei_popa says: I was always intrigued by some actor/director marriages, like Scorsese/DeNiro/DiCaprio or Burton/Depp, and it was cool to see your ongoing collaboration with Cronenberg, one of my favorite directors. Can you explain this relationship? what makes it work and if we can expect more Cronenberg/Mortensen movies?
You can definitely expect more. We enjoy working together because no matter how serious the subject matter is, and how much pressure there is on any given day of shooting, we always find a way to have fun doing our jobs.
Marijn5878 says: Hello Viggo, when you have to choose, what would it be: Acting, photography, painting or poetry?
They're all the same activity so I don't feel I have to.
bekithomas says: Hello Viggo, Any news on Eastern Promises 2?
I wouldn't say it's a definite, but it's looking more possible that that may be our next job together. but you never know with David, because he always has several projects in the works, hoping that one of them will come to pass.
dylanisis says: One of my favourite movies of yours is American Yakuza. What drew you to that part and can you share any stories on making it?
I was quite broke and needed a job. It turned out to be a very good experience. Although a very brief shoot, I ended up becoming very good friends with Ryo Ishibashi, my co-star in that movie. I have since visited him in Japan a few times, and he has also come to the US. My son was inspired to learn Japanese as a result of our getting to know Ryo, a language he writes, reads and speaks.
ElvishPresley says: Hi what's your favourite Sandwich? Mine's a fried peanut butter and banana.
Cheddar cheese, tomato and onion on toasted black bread with butter.
Misti says: As concerns the mechanised underwear - did you get to keep them?
David insisted I return them. Apparently he employs them regularly.
vonch says: Hello Viggo, could you tell us something about your experience working on On The Road?
Well, like the role of Freud for David, I was surprised when Walter Salles offered me the role of Bull Lee, the character based on William Burroughs. But then I thought that there were certain things that the two characters had in common, in particular the fact that they both were mentor figures for younger like-minded thinkers. Since I had just completed playing Freud, and had enjoyed that experience, I thought why the hell not?
Timon Singh: Hi Viggo, I finally got round to seeing Alatriste (horribly called The Spanish Musketeer here), where you reteamed with the late great Bob Anderson. He famously said you were one of the best sword-wielding actors he ever worked with, what was it like working with him and when will we next seeing you waving a sword?
It was wonderful working with Bob, and all of us who had the good luck to work with him as well as legions of his fans worldwide, miss him greatly. There was an amazing Zen-like or Yoda-like, if you will, event that I witnessed in working with Bob. We were rehearsing a complicated scene, in which several swordsmen attack me, and one of these swordsmen was an accomplished competitive fencer. Bob stopped the rehearsal action to ask this fencer if he might not consider changing his grip just slightly to be more effective. The fencer wryly answered that his particular grip had stood him in good stead for a long time, so he was reluctant to change it. Bob, who was not physically well at the time, asked for a sword, brandished it, and from his sitting position, requested that the fencer put himself en garde. He asked him if he was ready, the fencer smiled and said yes of course. Really ready? Yes, sir. With a very light but very rapid flick of his wrist, Bob disarmed the fencer and sent his weapon some 20 feet across the rehearsal space. Needless to say the fencer was surprised and somewhat embarrassed. Bob said, "You must have been distracted by something; go get your sword and we'll try again. " The fencer put himself firmly in a defensive position, once more in front of Bob and his chair. Bob asked if he was ready, the fencer said, "Yes I am." And to make a long story short, knocked the sword out of his hand once again with an even faster flick of his wrist, and sent the sword flying all the way across the rehearsal hall. He asked the fencer if he might not consider slightly altering his grip. And the fencer said, "Yes I would sir." Had I not been there, I would have thought this story was a load of crap. But it happened.
morleysaurus says: You have done two Hitchcock remakes, as a massive Hitchcock fan I think you would have been amazing working with him, you have that classic and timeless vibe about you! Would you have liked to worked with Hitchcock back in the day and are there any of his films in particular you wish you had been in back then?
I may be mistaken, but my understanding is that he was loath to allow actors to do much thinking for themselves, so I don't know that I would have been that comfortable working for him. However, given his track record, and were he still alive, it would be hard to pass up the opportunity to find out for myself what being directed by him would be like.
agincourt says: Hey Viggo, have you ever got to keep the swords that you have used in films like Anduril, and what do you think about motion capture actors like Andy Serkis not being Oscar nominated?
I have an authentic Lord Of The Rings sword and my first practice sword, and I have the sword and dagger from Alatriste as well. Prized possessions. Andy Serkis is a very gifted actor and is getting a lot of much-deserved recognition. Nice as awards are, I'm sure that's not the main goal in life for him.
elizabetti says: Viggo, is there a director you never had a chance to work with before, who you now like to work with?
There are a lot. A movie I really liked this year was the Iranian movie A Separation. I had the good fortune to meet that movie's director and lead actor recently. He seemed like a very intelligent, kind person, and obviously knows what he's doing as a director. That might be a fun challenge, but I'll have to work on my Farsi.
Buncuga says: Hello sir, pro photographer (not paparazzi) here. Are we going to see some photography exhibition soon? I heard you are doing a great pictures. Any favorite brand or camera format?
I'm hoping to put on an exhibition this year, not sure when though. I have been shooting a lot of digital in recent years, but I love my 30-year-old Hasselblad and my 100-year-old Graflex cameras as well.
FantasticMrEthan says: Hello Sir, You have been described as the Robert De Niro of your generation, what are your views on that? And how much are you looking forward to becoming a Lego figure?
I already am a Lego figure! Very proud to be a part of Danish industry in that way. I'm not sure that Robert De Niro is a Lego figure yet, so he's got some catching up to do.
Sean Twomey says: Hi Viggo, aside from knowing your lines, what's the most important thing you do to prepare yourself before you go in front of camera?
Robin Banks says: Whilst working on The Road did you have much contact with Cormac McCarthy? And if so what advice did he give you on playing the man?
I met him towards the end of our shoot, when we were filming the last sequences by the sad seaside. He came with his son, who inspired the book. That evening I had dinner with him, and we spoke about all sorts of things, mostly to do with other books of his and the state of the country at that time. He seemed kind and respectful and especially curious about all things. A very good listener and observer, which are the best things any writer can be.
Lupus says: What line do you get quoted at you the most in the street?
Surprisingly, from a movie in which I only have one scene that came out in 1993, Carlito's Way. Often the entirety of my dialogue in that scene, including the part about having to wear diapers and not being able to hump or dance anymore, is quoted to me with surprising accuracy of content and tone.
Loubert Bilbonics says: What are you memories of the Oscar night to end all Oscar nights?
I was pleasantly surprised and very happy that it was a clean sweep of every award the movie was nominated for, fair or not.
Thanks for all your questions, sorry we couldn't answer more in the time allotted. Maybe I'll get to come back and answer some more. Good luck in the Six Nations, wherever you're from!