We sat down with Viggo Mortensen this morning to discuss A Dangerous Method, the Danish-American actor's third collaboration with director David Cronenberg.
Mortensen received a Golden Globe nomination for his superb portrayal of Sigmund Freud in the psychoanalysis-themed period piece, but the film failed to earn any nominations for the BAFTAs or the Oscars.
Here, the 53-year-old actor discusses tackling the role and learning some odd facts about the father of psychoanalysis.
Did you get this role because you'd worked with David Cronenberg before?
"He offered me the part the year before we shot it, which was flattering but somewhat surprising. But I couldn't do it. He ended up casting Christoph Waltz, and, I guess fortunately for me, Christoph decided to drop out and do a studio movie [Water for Elephants]. So David contacted me again and told me he always thought I should do this part. I had a little window so I said yeah. I mean I had some trepidation. Obviously, physically, there's not many directors who would have thought I was right for the part without knowing me"
The play you've just been in was a physically demanding role for you.
"Yeah. Just having that much dialogue. Plus, I hadn't done theater for over twenty years. I actually--during rehearsals--was asking myself what the hell I was thinking. I could have picked a one-scene part in a play, just to get my feet wet again. But it was a challenge. It was worth it. It was a good script. Challenging. I think I learned more doing that, these past few months, than I have the last ten or fifteen years making movies."
"In some ways. I mean, obviously not about cameras and technical things. They're different sorts of challenges. I guess this year, having lots of dialogue in both David Cronenberg's movie--more than I usually get as an actor in the movies--and then this play, it was just getting used to working with that."
That's an interesting connection to A Dangerous Method. This movie is, in part, based on a play, and like you said, it's a very talky movie. Was your interest in the part, in the movie, rooted in a desire to dive into the theatrics? Something more dialogue-driven?
"I suppose. The dialogue's one way to get comfortable with playing Sigmund Freud, which, if you had asked me a couple years ago, I'd have said, 'You're crazy. It's not a part for me.' Probably. Even if it was interesting to me. If another director other than David had asked me, I might not have taken the plunge."
Why is that?
"We've done two movies before. We get along really well. We're good friends."
Did you learn anything about Freud that was surprising?
"He was very engaging and very funny, also sometimes quite self-deprecating. He was the sort of person who tells you a joke, and it might be quite subtle and not everyone would get he was telling a joke."
So a Bill Murray type.
Wouldn't it have been funny if he told dick jokes?
"It would be funny. He did enjoy silly humor. He was also an admirer of Mark Twain. The two met, and they smoked cigars and cracked jokes."
Have you ever been to a shrink?
"I only had one experience when I was about 24. I went for a short time. For me, it was helpful. I think it's a great idea -- the idea that you can go and confess everything, your deepest fears, your insecurities, your strangest thoughts to someone and know that it won't go any farther than that room. If you don't find some way to discuss or recognize what's going on inside you, it can come out in other ways that are self-destructive."
Your most famous role is Aragorn in Lord of the Rings.
"That series was a stroke of luck for everyone involved. Anyone who says they knew it would be the hit it became is not being honest. The fact that it did so well helped everyone involved to get more opportunities for work. Obviously I wouldn't have gotten to do A History of Violence if I hadn't been someone that was bankable and somewhat of a name. You do need to get lucky, no matter how talented you are. It's really what you do with it, which, for me, was looking for good scripts."
Is your name popular in Denmark?
"It's a really old name. You find it in some of the sagas. You know how names go through phases of popularity? In my generation, it was pretty odd. It'd be like being called Oswald."