A couple of weeks ago I looked at how Directors choose actors, but there is a lot of serendipity involved in matching an actor to a role and sometimes getting picked doesn't mean you end up on screen, especially at the start of a career. You are very lucky if you even make it past the auditioning stage as we saw this week in a great quote found by Dom, about the casting for Blood Red. Even when everything comes together a role can be turned down or an actor asked to leave, leaving the gate open for another. Viggo himself very nearly didn't take The Road and he's currently playing Freud because Fate has played an unexpected hand. So this week's quotes are a whole bunch of 'might have beens' and 'nearly nots'.
© New Line Productions Inc.
The early days of Viggo's film career were marked by an epidemic of raised hopes and false starts. He was flown to England to screen-test for the lead role of Tarzan in Greystroke, "in a loincloth, sitting up on the tree branch, pretending to be a monkey," and flew home believing that he had the part. He didn't.
He was cast, however, in Jonathan Demme's Swing Shift, playing a brash young sailor trying to pick up an emotionally fragile Goldie Hawn in a movie theatre. He felt it went well, but when he saw the movie he discovered that they had reshot the scene with Goldie Hawn in the movie theatre alone.
The Rebel King
By Chris Heath
'What happened with The Purple Rose of Cairo, by Woody Allen, was worse as he cut all the scenes I was in. That was frustrating! I looked a real fool, ashamed, especially with my family and friends as I had announced my participation in the films to them. My parents thought I was lying and would say: "Son, tell us the truth! What do you do in New York?" [Great laughter]"'
A Multi-talented Hero
Dominical, by J. A. - translated for V-W by NacidaLibre
27 August 2006
'The "Blood Red" auditions at the Actors Studio were notable for one other reason: Viggo Mortensen came by every day--barefoot, with long, dirty blond hair--wanting to audition in the worst way for one of my Italian immigrants. His dirty feet and hair scared me just as much as his blue-eyed blondness wasn't right for the cast I was building. After days of just being rude to him, I finally threw him out of the studio and told him never to darken my casting door again. I have since apologized to him for my lack of artistic vision and behavior. It's the one truly bad casting mistake I ever made. He's such a talented actor; he could have played Italian or anything else he made up his mind to do. I often use him as an example of how one-pointed, dedicated, and willing to be rejected an actor has to be.'
I tried out for a lot of parts where looks were necessary and I didn't get them. I've probably done two dozen on-camera tests for those roles and I've never gotten anything that way. It's scary to think of all my audition tapes out there somewhere.
Any tapes you wouldn't mind seeing?
One. The test for the part Patrick Swayze got in To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar.
What was your drag queen outfit like?
I think it was Chanel, like a Jackie O. thing with Ann-Margaret hair. Before the audition, I wanted to practice a little so I called up a friend of mine, [actress] Valeria Golino, and she helped me to get all dressed up. Then I walked on Broadway in New York in the middle of the day. Nobody even blinked an eye, and some guys whistled.
How did the screen test go?
I asked if I could sing 'When I Fall in Love' a cappella, figuring if I could make that much of an ass of myself I'd be less embarrassed saying the dialogue.
The Hot New 39-Year-Old
By Dennis Hensley
'I was visiting a friend in Los Angeles and he had a part in the third. "We need a man. Wasn't that something for you?', he asked. Why not? I had seen the original 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre', and I thought there was something about it - in spite of everything. I hoped the third would contain the same. But the movie company got cold feet and cut away the most terrifying and gruesome scenes, and it ended up being a rather incoherent movie.'
Viggo from Hollywood
by Poul Hoi
M/S (Danish magazine), 2001
Oliver Stone cast Viggo as a sergeant in a war movie that he was making. Platoon. Then the financing fell through but Viggo knew that Oliver Stone would get the movie made in the end, and he would be ready as an actor had ever been. For the next year, Viggo read every book on Vietnam he could lay his hands on. "I researched that part as thoroughly as I f****** could," he remembers. "Mentally and in every way. Physically."
One day he heard that the film was going into production and that Oliver Stone had recast his role, giving it to Willem Dafoe.
The Rebel King
By Chris Heath
"I landed in The Prophecy the same way I did in The Lord Of The Rings, that is, at the last minute. I read the script on the plane taking me to the location."
The King Is Mortensen, Long Live The King!
By Marc Toullec
Cine Live #71
'Basically, I got a call: "Do you want to go to New Zealand for fourteen months to film The Lord of the Rings?" Just, you know, this famous epic trilogy! And my first reaction was "No!" Obviously I'd heard of Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings, but I hadn't read the book, and I certainly hadn't read the script; I usually like to have a lot more time to prepare for a major role; and I really didn't want to be away from my family for that long. I have to say, it didn't sound like a very wise move to me at all!
My son said I was crazy and that I had to do it, even if I was going to be gone a long time. So there I am on the plane for New Zealand, reading that enormous, telephone directory-sized book and then the scripts, and a couple of days later I'm filming. I continued to feel unprepared, but at least I didn't have much time to get nervous, which was probably good!'
Viggo Mortensen on joining the LotR cast
Official Movie Guide
'I felt a little funny about it,' the softly spoken Mortensen says. 'It was really an error on the filmmakers' part. As right as he is for that character, Stuart was simply too young. He looked like he was the same age as the hobbits.
'I think he and the filmmakers realised they would have spent half or more of their time trying to make him look older and more experienced than he was. There was enough work to be done without having that added burden, so I think the change was mutually agreed on.
'But I still felt funny about it. As soon as I got the role, I wrote to him and said I was sorry about what had gone down. I said 'it's probably difficult to look at it this way, but you have many more years than I to play roles like that - rest assured I'll do the best I can to honour the role'. And I guess indirectly honour him. I basically wished him luck and said, without saying it, that I wasn't taking any pleasure in replacing anyone.'
By Claire Sutherland
9 March 2006
"I guess in the end I did it because I would feel that I had been chicken shit really. I had to leave the next day, so I'm on the plane reading, looking at this gigantic book and thinking, 'What the hell have I done?"
The Man Who Would Be King
by Nick Dent
Black & White magazine 2001
'When we ended up with Viggo, fate was dealing us a very kind hand.'
The Lord of the Rings: The Untold Story
By Ian Nathan
Is it true that you almost turned down The Road?
Yes, I was very tired, and I did not want to accept the role unless I felt I was capable of giving it my best. But then I changed my mind because the story was really good and the topic is one everybody can relate to. Besides, my being exhausted fit the role perfectly. It is about a man who, in some sense, is dying of exhaustion, so the result was very interesting.
Viggo Mortensen Under The Spotlight
Translated for V-W by Graciela
Viggo and I will be reunited in this movie, is that down to chance?
It's a matter of perfect casting. As you say, there's a strange similarity in the relationships between your two characters in these two movies. In Dangerous Method, you play Otto Gross, a very crazy psychoanalyst, a kid of antisocial agitator. And the master, the controller, is Freud, sure enough, played by Viggo. In the beginning we were thinking of someone else to play Freud, so it could have been not between you and Viggo. But fate decreed otherwise. When luck is with you, you end up with the people you need to have. But it wasn't that I felt any obligation to re-unite you. If the role did not suit you, it would not have been a service to you to offer it.
Vincent Cassel talking to David Cronenberg