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Often we hear actors saying that the most important thing about their career is not how big the budget for a movie is, who is the director, or who are they working with, but they make their acting choices based on the interesting characters they are being offered to play. When this statement is made by one of the most successful and recognizable faces in Hollywood like Viggo Mortensen, we believe it to be true.
Mortensen played the lead in the big blockbuster franchise, Lord of the Rings and was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance in the critically acclaimed film, Eastern Promises. His most recent film is Everybody Has A Plan (Todos Tenemos Un Plan), an Argentinian film shot entirely in Spanish and the directorial debut of Ana Piterbarg. Mortensen plays two characters, Agustín, a man desperate to abandon what for him has become a very frustrating existence. After the death of his twin brother, also played by Mortensen, Agustín decides to start a new life, adopting the identity of his brother and returning to where they lived when they were boys.
I was pleasantly shocked by Mortensen's perfect Argentinian Spanish. What most people don't know is that he spent his childhood on a farm in Argentina. Before his teen years, when he moved to New York. If life is a cycle, he is back to where he once belonged.
Entertainment Affair: It is not common for a first time director and screenwriter like Ana Piterbarg to have a cast with your name on it. What made you decide to participate in this movie?
Viggo Mortensen: The script was amazing. It was unexpected for her and for me. I feel I was lucky too. It doesn't matter if it's their first time or they've done 20 feature films, there are very few directors who know how to communicate well and calmly with the cast and crew. And I think that is why this movie doesn't feel like an 'opera prima'. She was very well-prepared and it came out as a mature work.
EA: In my eyes, you play 3 roles: Pedro, Agustín and Agustín pretending to be Pedro. How did you prepare for those roles?
VM: I didn't notice right away. When we began shooting was when I realized I was playing 3 roles: Agustín, Pedro and Agustín failing to be Pedro. Pedro feels very comfortable with his job, with his love life and where he lives and he is not scared of death. His journey is beautiful.
EA: Which one did you develop first, Agustín or Pedro?
VM: Both at the same time. During filming, luckily, we shot all the scenes with Agustín and Pedro talking to other characters, separately. The last scenes we shot were the ones they have together. By then, I knew them both pretty well, the way they talk, their manners? It was a lot of fun. They don't know each other very well, they don't love each other, but for some reason there is some harmony between them and somehow they connect.
EA: Do you relate more to Agustin or to Pedro?
VM: None of them, but while we were shooting, it would vary. If I was playing Agustín for a long time, I would miss Pedro. He was fun, he says what's on his mind and that makes him a very attractive character to play. But at the same time, it is a difficult person to see everyday or to live with. Then, if I was playing Pedro, I wanted to play Agustín and Ana agreed with me. I love them both very much. One character is more subtle than the other.
EA: You've worked in big blockbuster franchises like Lord of the Rings, critically acclaimed movies like Eastern Promises and it is not your first time working in Spanish. As an American actor why do you feel the need to play foreign movies?
VM: It is my fourth movie in Spanish and next month I am doing another Argentinian film. I don't look for it. It happens to me. My responsibility as an actor is to play characters with a different point of view than mine. Characters that if I see them on the street, I would not talk to them or I would've been scared of them. That's my challenge as an actor.
EA: Do you think American actors, especially those in Hollywood should speak more than one language?
VM: It is a disadvantage to only speak one language. But what is interesting is that they only work in movies in English or they don't play characters with accents. It is very important to travel or to work with actors from different countries. Many times Americans in our industry think they do great movies and that they are the best in the world. They make good and bad movies. When you travel abroad to shoot a movie, you find actors that only have one scene in the entire film and they are amazing. That happened to me. I was doing an American movie in Greece and Turkey and I had one scene with an amazing local actor. I had the chance to talk to him and to learn from him. Then I found out he was the best theater actor in the country. If I didn't have the chance to travel, I would have never met him. Then we hear people say that Americans are the best and we watch the Oscars thinking they recognize the best talent in the world when in reality what is been recognized is a tiny part of the great work that has been done around the world. If you stay in the same place all of your life, you have limited experiences. If you travel, you get the chance to work with different people who can teach you a million things. If you can speak a different language or if you can play different accents, it gives you the opportunity to have different experiences. That's what's important.