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Interview with The Two Faces of January Star Viggo Mortensen

Source: Barnes & Noble.
Found By: Chrissie
Thanks again to Chrissie for this wonderful interview with Viggo at Barnes & Noble.
UK Poster
UK Poster.
© StudioCanal.
by Molly Schoemann-McCann

Not only is actor Viggo Mortensen starring in the highly anticipated film adaptation of author Patricia Highsmith's novel The Two Faces of January, but he's also a self-proclaimed book-hoarder—who's not afraid to write in the margins. We sat down with Mr. Mortensen to talk about books, movies, and everything in between. Below is our conversation, slightly abridged.

MS: Where do you think your love of reading came from?

VM: I always read as a little boy. I just did a movie called Loin des hommes, which means Far From Men, which has just come out, it was in at the Toronto Film Festival, based on an Albert Camus short story. And he's someone who was inspired by a particular grade school teacher whom he acknowledged and thanked and praised in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech. And for me, too, there were a couple teachers I remember having when I was really little, who encouraged me to read and to be into mythology and literature at the same time. That was important. It's always been one of the great pleasures. I love books. I also love the feeling, the tactile aspect of books—their smell…and I like writing in the margins, which horrifies some people.

We have a debate on our blog about that.

I wouldn't do it in a library book, certainly, and I wouldn't do it in a book that I borrowed from somebody. But my own books, I don't mind doing it. The only books—there are some really old collectible books that I've either been given or that I've found, and those I haven't. I've made notes aside. But it's fun to pull a book off the shelf and open it and find notes I made maybe twenty years ago. It's interesting, it tells me where I was at then. Of course I could do it in notebooks, but it's fun. There's something about the immediacy of the note and the underlining of the phrase, and maybe there's a little stain, a tea stain or something. There's something alive about the tangible book, as opposed to the fantastic world of digital reading that you can do now. I like them. And I am a publisher also, Perceval Press, and I like making books. I like getting it right, as far as the vision of the author. It's much easier to edit and work on someone else's book than my own. In a sense, I think that's what directors do when they work properly with actors. You're helping people solve problems and trying to get the most, the best out of them.

What's your favorite part of publishing other people's books and photographs?

I'm there at the printer's for every book, and I like to make sure (especially when it's photographs or artwork reproductions) the colors and contrast and everything is right. I've never sold the company, as often happens with smaller presses that do have some success, and they sell to bigger companies. But I like to be hands on, which means selecting the paper and the font and everything else.

So you're running a publishing company. How do you find time to read and write on your own?

It takes away from that, but what takes away from it the most is the movie business. I do read a lot in connection; my reading is guided a lot of times by what I'm doing. And I like that—I like that it takes me off the beaten track to read certain biographies or histories or subject matter that I wouldn't normally take an interest in. And all of a sudden I'm reading a whole bunch on psychoanalysis or a certain historical period or a certain country or part of the world, and I think that's interesting. But it does take time to do the movies, and then once you're shooting you don't read as much as you'd like, and when you're promoting, hardly at all, because you kind of use up your energy and time. But it's an okay trade-off because movies can be a very complete universe as far as art is concerned—writing, photography, music, dance in some cases, fashion, sculpture in a sense. It's pretty all-inclusive.

Do you consider yourself a book hoarder?

I am. It's terrible. I take too many books with me everywhere. I often, well, definitely when I'm shooting a movie, end up sending boxes home because they won't fit in my suitcase, books that I pick up or find. And the longer the shoot, the more I accumulate. Like during The Lord of the Rings, which was a very long shoot, we were there a year and a half, I found tons of books—also because we traveled around a lot. I would go into lots of old secondhand book stores in little towns and everywhere. I found incredible things in New Zealand. But yeah, I am a book hoarder. I have a lot of books. I do love giving away books that I love, though, so that's a fun thing.

As an actor, do you like watching movies? Or is it hard to get into it?

No, I do like watching movies. Like the movies I'm in?

Any movies.

Yeah, I look at it as entertainment, as I imagine you do. Or as an audience member, if it's an adaptation of a book, or does it resemble something else, or is it in line of what genre, you know. I judge it—try to—on it's own merits. And I do, since it is my profession, I will watch how the actors do their work. If they seem like they're really listening to the other characters. The best thing is when you're just sort of engaged. That means someone's doing their job in a seamless way, the same way you don't really pay much attention to the music but later you realize you like the score. You'd have to hear it again just to remember all of it because it was so part of the story.

Is there something in particular that you look for in a book that makes you interested in being in its adaptation?

I do like stories where men—men or women—are pitted against nature or the natural environment, I find that interesting, and I've been in movies like that. But if it's a good story or if it's something that challenges your preconceived ideas about the world or about human nature, I think that's always not only a worthwhile read but could be a good movie. Making you stop and question most things that you take for granted is always good—doesn't always happen, but every once in a while a story will do that.

Can you tell us about a book you've read over the last year or two that you really enjoyed?

Many. I often go back and reread books I've liked. As regards relatively new ones, I really learned a lot from reading Michel Onfray's biographical study of Albert Camus as philosopher and activist, L'ordre Libertaire. This book rights many wrongs done to Camus by people like Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, among other French intelligentsia figures on the left who have consistently misrepresented his political positions and activism—not to mention lying shamelessly about their own contributions to the Resistance during World War II as well as their postwar contributions to left-wing activism. On a sociocultural level, it is as important a book about post-war Europe as Stefan Zweig's The World of Yesterday is with respect to early twentieth-century Europe.

What (if any) advice would you offer to someone who is not a fan of reading?

Read a book, a comic book, a poem, an old letter, a recipe, anything. Just do it. Listen to books on tape/CD/your computer device. Take in the words, try to consider a point of view different from your own. Just do it.

As a writer, do you ever find yourself looking at film scripts with a writer's eye and thinking of different ways you might have approached them?

Sure, although I try to give the script a chance to work on its own terms, taking in and considering its ideas and character depictions, before thinking of anything I might have written differently.

Is there a type of book that you'd probably NOT be interested in being in a film adaptation of?

Probably the majority of books would not make riveting movies. It all depends on your gift for envisioning an adaptation. Few can do what Hossein Amini did with Patricia Highsmith's fairly routine thriller The Two Faces of January. Hossein is a master at adapting the work of other writers. His screenplay version of Highsmith's novel is superior to the original in terms of character depictions, pace, structure, tone, and dramatic tension—an improvement in almost every way imaginable.

What do you think is the mark of a good/successful film adaptation? What do you think is the goal of a film adaptation?

To tell a good story that leaves people asking themselves questions and reconsidering their own lives when they leave the movie theater.

You have also starred in film remakes, particularly of Hitchcock movies—do you take a different approach to starring in a film remake rather than a new film or adaptation?

No. The work is always the same, generally speaking. Find a way to present a point of view specific to the character and contribute to telling the overall story in any way possible—that's always the goal.

Do you feel that starring in film adaptations is a way to bring increased recognition to books that deserve a wider readership?

Sure, when it's well done, as was the case with Highsmith's The Two Faces of January and Cormac McCarthy's The Road, to name two book adaptations I've been involved with.

If you start reading a book and you're not that into it, do you put it down and start another book, or do you make yourself finish it?

I am fairly stubborn about finishing books, even mediocre ones, just as I am about watching movies right to the end. I do often have two or more books going simultaneously, though.

© Banres & Noble. Images © StudioCanal.

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NYFF 2014 Review - Jauja

Source: Brooklyn Magazine.
Found By: Chrissie
Categories: Jauja Media Movies Reviews
Thanks to Chrissie for this review by Mark Asch at Brooklyn Magazine.
Image Guadalupe Gaona.
© 4L Productions.
Like the second half of Gomes's Tabu, Lisandro Alonso's Jauja renders its colonial setting with techniques from the beginning of cinema right up to its bleeding edge, so that watching it one feels at once transported to the past, and on the precipice before an onflowing (alternate?) future. The aspect ratio is 4:3, with rounded corners like a faded postcard; the blocking is deliberately stagey, with characters often planted in the middle of the landscape for extended dialogue scenes, or else with shot and scene length timed to their movement from one edge of the frame to the other. But the subtle reframings, and fluid pans, from a stationary camera position, reveal the flexibility of Alonso's grammar, while his use of extreme depth and offscreen space is sometimes snort-out-loud funny. A postmodern appropriation of The Searchers, in which a father tracks the unbottled genie of his daughter's sexuality across a wild frontier, the film sands its template bare and twists and prods its allegory, setting its Western out in real Patagonian locations—stunning beaches, plains, deserts and lava fields. And yet Alonso and his DP Timo Salminen often stage scenes in close quarters, tightly framing backdrops that hide the sky; characters' faces are brightly and artificially lit, creating a halo-like effect which, along with the artificial contrasts of the spot-lit nighttime scenes, makes the film seem to be unfolding in a backlot of the mind.

Viggo Mortensen, speaking Danish and Spanish, plays "Dinesen," an engineer accompanying a Spanish army unit at an underpopulated, end-of-the-world Argentine outpost during the 1880s cleansing of indigenous people. Though he's fusty and civilized in his interaction with the rougher Spanish speakers, Dinesen's buttoned-up affect is strained by his indolent teenage daughter; when she and a young, angel-faced soldier ghost out of the camp, he takes sword and six-shooter, mounts horse, and follows her. Sweating in layers of bulky long johns, and sporting a droopy, weeping mustache, Mortensen carries the film, his human grumbling and surprised, rageful violence conveying the sense of a nervous, basically average man caught on a journey into his own heart of darkness. Increasingly, as the other characters drop away, Mortensen has nothing to play against but nature and himself.

Alonso is easily lumped in with the slow-cinema auteurs of the international fest circuit, and indeed, though following a strong narrative line, Jauja (the title refers to a variation on the El Dorado myth) does so at its own pace, equal parts drawn-out, ravishing landscape shots taken from a distance, and static accounts of fumbling behavior. But though slowed down, the movie is hardly stripped bare: its disintegrating plot, mirrored by a landscape that seems increasingly volcanic, eventually arrives at some pretty far-flung metaphysical precincts. The presence of a shaggy dog becomes increasingly symbolic, in a couple of different senses.

© Brooklyn Magazine. Images © Guadalupe Gaona/4L Productions.

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Iolanthe's Quotable Viggo

You may have noticed (how could you not!) that we have had Viggo the Swordsman every day this week as our 'Good Day Viggodom' offering. I do like a bit of swash-and-buckle so I have been teasing you in readiness for a whole quotable of swordplay from The Lord of the Rings and Alatriste and, of course, from that true King of Swords, the great Bob Anderson.


It is the return to the big screen of the king of swords...

The Soul of Viggo (El Alama de Viggo)
By Miguel Juan Payan, Accion magazine, April 2005
translated by Chrissie

In the darkness, Alatriste's sword glows like Luke Skywalker's lightsabre. By day, his steel blade would be the envy of The Three Musketeers.

Alatriste: The Great Spanish Hero
By Carlos Maranon - translated by Margarita
September 2006

What was the physical training like for this role?

I worked not only for the swords, including the "vizcaína", but also to get used to the character. I went to the sword fighting rehearsals with those boots, the hat, the cape, to get used to handling the cape, to swirl it around, just like the "gauchos", that's where it comes from.

Viggo Mortensen ZonaCinemania Alatriste Interview
By - transcribed/translated by Graciela
29 March 2007

I remember a practice session with Bob [Anderson] which was attended by several highly experienced fencers who were my opponents, including one who was internationally ranked. This man was attacking me with some ferocity when Bob suddenly halted the practice. He asked him to come closer, that he wanted to ask him something. Bob wasn't feeling well at that time; he had a lot of problems with his health, and was seated in a chair. He wasn't able to fight with us to show us how he wanted to put the sequences together. He remained seated, watching the practice, occasionally giving us instructions with absolute calmness and authority. He didn't miss a single detail. He asked the fencer if he felt comfortable. He said yes. Bob asked him if he wouldn't feel a little more comfortable if he slightly changed the way he held the sword, a matter of a centimeter. The swordsman said it wasn't necessary, that he'd done it that way for many years, and quite successfully. So Bob grabbed a sword that he had on the table beside him and asked the guy to put himself en garde. "Are you ready, sir?" asked the master fencer. "Yes, always," said the swordsman with a small smile, probably thinking that Bob was joking. "Are you really ready?" "Yes, sir." With a light but very quick movement of his wrist, Bob struck the man's sword, and it flew some 10 meters. The swordsman stood there amazed and a little upset. We were very still, amazed..

Warrior Geniuses Sought For 2012
By Viggo Mortensen - translated by Ollie, Rio and Zoe
Club Atlético San Lorenzo de Almagro
17 January 2012

'Enrico Lo Verso was there, a great discovery for this film, a tall guy who plays the baddie, and Unax Ugalde and Viggo. They were rehearsing and I saw it: they were sweating like pigs, he insulted them and beat them with a stick..."You're a sissy, this isn't done like that! You would have been killed already, you son of a bitch! Come on, do it again!!, Do you want to kill?. You can't kill s**t!!. You're a mug!!' Do not expect "ornate postures" in the duel scenes, because you're looking for the right moment to move in (for the kill), because if you make your move too early you'll lose. That's what Bob Anderson transmitted to the actors, that's how it was done in the Golden Century.'

Arturo Pérez-Reverte
Talk About Alatriste at the Alatriste y su mundo exposition
By Luthien 66 (transcription) - translation by Paddy
4 April 2006

The Lord of the Rings

... Mortensen... has already entered into cinematic folklore as one of the great screen swordsmen of our time.

The Reluctant Hero,
by Douglas Andrews
Sunday Express 2002

Well the first day I met the fight choreographer, Bob Anderson, who's been around a long time - he taught Errol Flynn to fence and represented the UK at the Olympics. I went into this room and there were all these stunt people standing there and screaming and yelling. He had them all pumped-up and he stood me in front of them and said "Okay, go!" And they all started running at me, and I was like, "Holy shit!" He said "stop" and they all stopped. Then he told me: "This is what you're going to be dealing with so let's get to work..." He gave me a sword and it was just, like, crazy for two days. The first thing I did on camera was swordplay and I liked it. It was fun.

The Ranger - Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn
by Martyn Palmer
Total Film magazine

Mortensen's facility with the sword became immediately apparent. "The people who were teaching him said that he was insanely talented," says Miranda Otto, who plays the Lady Eowyn, who falls for Aragorn. "There's one scene [at the end of] the first film where a knife is thrown at Aragorn, who clocks it with his sword. One of the stunt guys who was meant to be his double said, 'I've been practicing that and I've never been able to [hit the knife] once, and Viggo hits it on the first take. I hate him.'"

Miranda Otto
The Hero Returns
By Tom Roston
Premiere 2003

Bob Anderson once called Mortensen as good a fencing student as he'd ever instructed.

A History Of Defiance
By Daniel Mirth
Men's Journal
October 2009

'...I had to get a sense of not only what it was like to fight, but also to walk around with a sword around your belt. Just getting the physical baby steps of the character helped.'

Lord of the Horse
By Anne and Lynne Huddleston
Manawatu Evening Standard
8 December 2003

"It was very important to me to make everything as believable as possible. That's why, even when I was exhausted, I always fought with the [heavy] steel sword rather than the lighter one," he explains. "I wanted to make sure the fight scenes were realistic. I shouldn't be able to just throw my sword around like Errol Flynn did, especially when I'm really tired. It should be hard to fight with it! Even when I was just walking around, I'd still wear the steel sword because it was heavier and it affected the way I moved."

Viggo Mortensen
Viggo Mortensen
by Desmond Sampson,
Pavement #62, 2003

Mortensen... has already entered into cinematic folklore as one of the great screen swordsmen of our time.

The Reluctant Hero,
by Douglas Andrews
Sunday Express 2002

'I was given the ranger sword, not the re-forged sword, but the one that I used on my first day of shooting in October of "99 that was really well worn and that I kind of took care of and used throughout.'

Viggo Mortensen on his end of filming gift
Journey's End
By Patrick Lee
Science Fiction Weekly #348
December 2003

One day he suggests we go to a beautiful place he knows, Huntington Botanical Gardens, in Pasadena. He picks me up in his hybrid, clearing a scattering of CDs and a small ornamental dagger of Henry's from the passenger seat. Only later, when we park, do I notice the full-size fencing sabre across the shelf by the back window.

The Rebel King
By Chris Heath
GQ magazine
April 2004

Do you prefer fighting with a pistol or a sword?

"I'm not such a big fan of fighting, I prefer to try to work things out."

Two-Minute Interview
By Anwar Brett
Ultimate DVD magazine, 2004

Storytellers and stories change, but the opportunity to do well or ill by others and ourselves will always be present. The right to choose how we coexist is ours unless we willingly surrender it. There can be no quick fix, no easy or permanent answer to the troubles of today or tomorrow. A sword is a sword, nothing more. Hope, compassion and wisdom born of experience are, for Middle-earth as for our world, the mightiest weapons at hand.

Viggo Mortensen
Introduction to The Two Towers Visual Companion

You will find all previous Quotables here.

© Viggo-Works/Iolanthe. Images © Estudios Picasso / Origen Producciones.

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SHORT NOTICE: Jauja and TFoJ Screening at the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) Today and Next Week

Source: VIFF.
Found By: Sherry
jauja_poster.jpg UK Poster

Our thanks to Sherry for the heads up.

Both Jauja and The Two Faces of January are screening at VIFF today (10-4) and again next week. To get the details go to offical VIFF website.

Jauja Screening : 10-4 and 10-19

TFoJ Screening: 10-4 and 10-7

Images © 4L Productions/StudioCanal.

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UPDATE: Your October Reminders

Categories: Calendar: Viggo

Note Newly Confirmed Info on the Dates that Viggo
Will be at both the NYC Film Fest and the London Film Fest
For Screenings and Q&A's

Click on image to enlarge.

© Images © NBC.

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Last edited: 27 November 2014 20:11:36