In a Quotable I posted a few weeks ago, I included reporter Micjelle Devereaux's remark that Viggo could 'run on in at least six different languages'. It's not just everyday fluency in English, Spanish and Danish, and conversational French and Italian, his facility for languages gives him confidence on screen in a whole series of roles where another language is required. Viggo has used a smattering of Japanese in American Yakuza, sung and spoken onscreen in Lakota and Elvish, and done sizable chunks of dialogue in Russian. Only this week we discovered on the Todos Tenemos Un Plan Production Notes how much he likes "the challenge, the transformation".
© Estudios Piccaso/Origen Producciones/Focus Features/New Line/
Touchstone/Buena Vista Pictures/Image Andrés de Gabriel/Teatro Español.
You're doing a play in Spanish right now. In how many languages are you proficient enough to perform for paying customers?
Once you learn a second language, it's easier to add more. As a child, I learned English, which has Germanic roots, and Spanish which has Latin roots, so I was well-prepared. I could probably do a role in Danish or French or Italian. If I had to.
A Few Minutes On The Couch With Viggo Mortensen
By Joe Williams
St Louis Post-Dispatch
7 January 2012
"Language changes you. The accent too, but the language, speaking a Latin language, compared with English or Danish in my case, is different; it changes you. I like the challenge, the transformation. I'm comfortable learning, adapting. When I have to do different accents in English, regional accents of the United States or of other countries, or put an accent on top of an English accent, like Russian, it's not that hard for me. It´s work you have to do and you have to prepare well. In Spanish, I´m less flexible, and I think it´s because it was my first language, or the one that marked my childhood most. I´ve shot in Spain and I had to think much more about the accent; it took me a bit more to get adapted then because I had not lived in that country before. But everything can be learned and be done well with time and patience."
Viggo Mortensen - Todos Tenemos Un Plan Production Notes
By - translated by Ollie, Rio and Zoe
Todos Tenemos Un Plan website (Spain)
How come your Italian is so flawless?
Because I spent many years in Argentina, where the Italian culture is deep-rooted, so I spoke Italian and Spanish fluently.... Moreover, ten years ago I even worked in Rome, and I have to admit that I deeply love the musicality of your language..."
Viggo Mortensen hero in Alatriste in the Spain of King Philip IV
By - translated by Cindalea
Corriere 17 October 2006
'Many people have said that I wasn't able to master the rhythm of Spanish speech but what I was looking for was a specific manner of speaking: the pace and the rhythm, as they would have been spoken by a terse Northern Spaniard. I found that way of speaking, a little slow, very cautious, without revealing too much, because that's how they speak in the mountains of Leon in the north of Spain, near Asturias.'
Viggo Mortensen talking about Alatriste
An Old-Fashioned Hero
By Daniel Ritz - translated by Margarita
The American star delivers his own lines in Castilian Spanish, having lived as a child in Argentina and Venezuela, with a curiously more authentic accent than the slurred modern diction of the supporting cast (including Eduardo Noriego in a minor role).
Peter Besas reviewing Alatriste
7 September 2006
It seems a luxury to me to be able to see a star like Mortensen onstage in Madrid, speaking Spanish (with an Argentinian accent; something that surprised some people, but not me, having already listened to many of his interviews in Spain). Viggo is often criticised for his accents. I don´t agree. He´s an actor capable of changing, not only his tone, but his voice from one film to another, from a film to a stage. If you don´t believe me, listen to the sombre accent they work on in A Dangerous Method. Or the differences between his Alatriste and his Aragorn. It seems incredible to me that the guy I had seen the day before in Freud´s skin in Cronenberg´s flick was the same actor we had less than a metre away (we were in the first row, facing the stage). He looked like another, completely different person. With another voice, other features, other movements...If this is not a huge actor, I don´t know who could be.
By José Angel Barrueco - translated by Ollie and Rio
28 November 2011
They say that childhood is the homeland.
I suppose it is. From time to time, I´d read a book in Spanish. After some years, I began travelling; I met people in New York, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Spaniards, Argentinians, Uruguayans, and re-entered that world with my out-of-date slang.
Viggo Mortensen - All of Us are Mestizos
by Carlos Shilling - translated by Ollie, Remolina, Rio and Zoe
"I could really see Viggo in that role [Nikolai]. You don't do an actor a favor by miscasting him, even if he's a good friend and you like working with him," said Cronenberg, who, to this point, has done all the talking. "I absolutely thought he would be great for the role, and in particular because I know he has a musical ear for languages."
Mortensen, director discuss their noirish Eastern Promises
By Dixie Reid, Sacramento Bee,
12 September 2007
"My goal was that when people in Moscow see this film they say, 'I didn't know he was Russian.' We began preparing when Viggo came back from Russia - where he was very inspired. He's a stronger linguist than most actors."
Olegar Fedoro, Russian dialect coach
Eastern Promises Production Notes
20 August 2007
French co-star Vincent Cassels says he and Mortensen "tried to use as much Russian as possible because, to be realistic, when two Russian characters are speaking together, they wouldn't be speaking English, so we kept trying to add more Russian phrases. David Cronenberg was going, 'What are you two saying to each other?' "
"It was like some creeping disease," Cronenberg says. "You wake up one morning and everyone is speaking Russian."
Globe and Mail
10 Sept 2007
I know you used to be a translator with, I think, the Swedish Hockey Team in the Winter Olympics?
Well, I was meant to be a translator for the Danish Olympic Team but nobody showed up. Literally. And they said "Well, can you understand the Swedes?' I said "I probably can. I'm not sure they can understand me.' But it became...what I really got to do was go to a lot of hockey games with drunken Finns and Swedes...'
Rove Live interview
February 28 2006
"The sport that I grew up watching and still love is football - or soccer. When I moved up to northern New York in 1970, we didn't have Internet or cable TV. I would listen to Canadiens games on Radio-Canada, which is actually how I started learning French; watching Montreal play in the early '70s is when I really started to learn about hockey. My favorite player was always Guy Lafleur!"
The Last Word : Viggo Mortensen
8 December 2009
His dedication to his roles is obvious and for Hidalgo Mortensen learned to speak Lakota, the language of the Sioux. His tutor was Sonny Richards who plays the older guy in the wagon at the end of the movie and it wasn't just a case of being able to repeat words or sounds in a parrot fashion. "I understood what I was saying," stresses Mortensen.
Comes A Horseman
By John Millar
Film Review (Special #51) Summer
How was learning an almost lost Native American tongue, say in relation to having to learn Elvish for the Lord of the Rings trilogy? "It helps if you know more than one language," Mortensen states. "You have a little head start on adapting, you can get your mouth around certain words and vowel sounds a little easier than if you only come at it from an English speaking background."
The Lord of the Rings & Hidalgo Star Discusses Horses, Learning New Languages, Photography and More.
By Spence D.
3 March 2004
"For our love scenes, he would come to me the night before and say he wanted to change all the lines to the Elvish language. He was trying to make that connection stronger, and I thought it was beautiful that they'd speak Elvish to each other because it adds a layer to their history that you wouldn't otherwise see."
By Anthony Breznican
South Coast Today
15 December 2003
If you got the opportunity to meet Tolkien today, what would you say to him?
I would want to hear him speak the elvish tongue, hear his accent and find out, how close our version is.
The Star Is Named Viggo
by Rolf Pedersen
You sense that what Mortensen prizes in Aragorn, he prizes in himself. When he tells me that Aragorn understands the value of "stretching yourself, being passionate about other cultures and languages", I discern only the thinnest of veils separating observation from autobiography.
Viggo Mortensen: A Method Actor in Middle-Earth
by Ryan Gilbey
"Now, Viggo, you speak seven languages, you write poetry in three languages, Danish, Spanish and English, you ride horses superbly and you're a great swordsman and all our womenfolk are in love with you... do you understand how annoying you are?"
Radio interview with Richard Glover
24 March 2009
The Empire Icon award this year went to the disgustingly multitalented Viggo Mortensen, who speaks more languages than God, paints, writes poetry and still finds time to do a bit of acting.
Jameson Empire Award Winners Announced!
30 March 2009