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Iolanthe's Quotable Viggo

Found By: Iolanthe
Categories: Media Quotable Viggo

A week from now Viggo will once again be walking down the Oscar red carpet. The last time we were here was for Eastern Promises at the 2008 Oscars (was it really nearly 10 years ago?) after his stunning performance as the complex and troubled Nikolai. His preparation for the film was extreme and detailed, as always, vanishing into Russia, introducing Cronenberg to the culture of Vory tattoos, fighting in the buff in a tiled bathhouse. Nobody does it like Viggo. As Zack Sharf of Indiwire said this week, 'Power to Viggo, stick it to the Oscars!'

In 2007 (when he was nearly 50), Viggo Mortensen showed not just one of the great bodies in modern film, but naked commitment to one of the screen's most uncompromising fight scenes. He was playing a Russian gangster living in London, speaking very good Russian, and acting as cool and sultry as Brando. There's a scene in that film, Eastern Promises, where his character, Nikolai, stubs a cigarette out on his own tongue. At that moment, all was made clear: Mortensen was an old-fashioned star, as confident and as taciturn as Gary Cooper.

Viggo Mortensen
By David Thomson
The Guardian,
10 April 2009

'I admit I was looking for something I could do with Viggo. A director has a strange relationship with his actors, because after the actor has gone on to his next movie, you're in the editing room living with him every day, dreaming about him and hearing his voice. I had always thought he had a very Russian, Slavic look. And when I read the script I thought, "This is a role made in heaven for Viggo."'

David Cronenberg
Q+A : David Cronenberg, Film Festival Preview
30 Aug 2007

"You say, 'Well, where's Viggo today?' " says David Cronenberg, recalling the conversation that happened more than once on the London shoot, last year, of the exceptionally fine new thriller, Eastern Promises. "And they say, 'Oh, he's in St. Petersburg.'

"And you say, 'What!? I thought he was at the hotel.' "

Star's Eastern Immersion Impresses His Director
By Steven Rea
Philadelphia Inquirer
16 September 2007

"I know everyone was a little bit worried because I disappeared for two weeks. They said I should have someone go with me into the underworld, but the whole point of me of going was not to get a filtered version of what Russians do and what they're like. "I just wanted to draw my own conclusions."

Viggo on his trip to Russia
13 Sept 2007

"It's a complete transformation from the inside out. He played two characters really in A History of Violence, and I saw traces of neither of them in his portrayal of Nikolai."

David Cronenberg
Eastern Promises Production Notes
Focus Features
20 August 2007

"You would think, 'Of course Cronenberg was drawn in by the tattooing,' but it was almost not there," says the director. "In the original script, tattooing was just alluded to. Viggo discovered a set of books called Russian Criminal Tattoo and a doc called Mark of Cain, which was about the tattooing subculture in Russian prisons, and when I saw them my mind was blown completely."

Ties that bind
by Melora Koepke, Hour CA
13 Sept 2007

When he appears, getting out of a black limo, in front of a Russian bath situated in a small London street, I can't recognise him. The actor is one those perfectionists who works on his roles to obsession… He is so scary that all the clients from a bar ran away in a panic the minute they noticed the tattoos on his hands.

Cronenberg and the Russian Godfather
By Serge Grunberg - translated by Celine
Studio, May 2007

"Some of the tattoos were humorous - and some were quite poetic. On the instep of my right foot, one said 'Where are you going?' On the instep of the other foot, another said 'What the hell do you care?"

Viggo Mortensen
Eastern Promises Production Notes
Focus Features
20 August 2007

"We were shooting in London and my hotel room had a 24 hour Russian channel, so I just left it on all the time. I watched movies, variety shows, very strange soap operas…."

Viggo Mortensen
By Natasha Stoynoff, People Magazine
1 October 2007

Any clip from the bath house scene would make the best darned Oscar clip ever.

Daniel Feinberg
23 December 2007

"Viggo blew me away on a daily basis..…He spent time in Russia and every day he would come to the set with something interesting: a piece of writing or a Russian chocolate or a photo album. I think he stayed in character pretty much the whole time. And that's great. It really helped me… I saw Viggo yesterday for the first time since we finished the film and it was like a whole different person. I almost didn't recognise him."

Naomi Watts
Matt Mueller, Total Film
October 2007

Nikolai's charming nickname is "The Undertaker." Around the set, his squared-off Dracula pompadour acquired a nickname, too: "The Soviet Bloc."

The Great Dane
Men's Vogue
By Phoebe Eaton
March 2008

It's a watershed role for Mortensen and, such is the commitment he offers, it's not too rash to compare his performance to Robert De Niro's Oscar-winning turn as the young Don Corleone in The Godfather Part II.

I've taken on too much...
by James Mottram, The Independent / UK.
23 October 2007

"To me it's a movie about kindness and compassion and self-sacrifice," he said. "Nikolai is a man who holds hope and compassion next to his despair and fear. In this increasingly complicated and confusing world, there are people even in the darkest realms who will nonetheless do the right thing.

"Just because it is the right thing."

Viggo Mortensen
A Violent Tour De Force
By Robert W Butler
Kansas City Star
15 September 2007

"I wrote the lines but the heart and soul of Nikolai is really from Viggo."

Scriptwriter Steven Knight
Eastern Promises Production Notes
Focus Features
20 August 2007

You will find all previous Quotables here.

© Viggo-Works/Iolanthe. Images © Focust Features.

Why Viggo Mortensen Deserves to Win the Oscar for Best Actor

Source: Indiewire.
Found By: Iolanthe
Thanks to Iolanthe for this piece from Indiewire:

The Oscar race for Best Actor has come down to Casey Affleck vs. Denzel Washington, but it's really Viggo Mortensen's magical work in "Captain Fantastic" that deserves the gold.

Image Eric Simkins.
© Bleecker Street.
There's a moment early on in "Captain Fantastic" where Viggo Mortensen's Ben Cash, still reeling from the news of his wife's suicide, addresses his children on the matter. "Last night mommy killed herself," he says, "she finally did it." The bluntness hits like a shock to the system.

It won't be the last we encounter Ben's child-rearing directness. Over the course of the film, he sticks firmly to his "no lying" mantra, going as far as to tell his young daughter about sexual intercourse after she asks. But that initial encounter is critical. As played by the extraordinary Mortensen, it's a moment of deep tragedy. He gives the line a no-nonsense edge that proves euphemisms don't run in this family, but his swelling eyes hint at how crippling that can be. It's at this moment that "Captain Fantastic" asks its big question: How does a parent live with himself when the way he has raised his children begins to betray them all?

The answer to that question is charted by Mortensen over the rest of the film in a performance defined by affection and heartbreak. His work has landed him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor, the second of his career, though he is hardly a frontrunner. By most accounts, the race has boiled down to "Manchester By the Sea" star Casey Affleck, winner of over 30 awards this season, and Denzel Washington, a last-minute threat for "Fences" who most recently won the SAG Award.

But Viggo doesn't just deserve to be in the frontrunner conversation with them — he deserves to win. With Ben Cash, he finds a way to undercut our expectations of him as an actor, and he becomes more vulnerable on screen than we've ever seen him before.

The same can't really be said for Affleck, whose role in "Manchester by the Sea" embodies his strengths as an actor. Affleck has long excelled at tapping into the emotional despondency of his characters. His withdrawn nature makes him a natural fit for writer-director Kenneth Lonergan's material. His detachment is a peculiarity as the film begins, but it develops into an embodiment of inescapable grief when his tragic past comes to light. It's an ideal pairing of character and performer that is heart-shattering. The same goes for Denzel Washington — who directs himself in "Fences" — as Troy Maxon, resulting in the fusion of a major American actor with a major August Wilson character. Both actors are tremendous, but they're not exactly exploring new territory.

Mortensen, however, challenges our perception of him as an actor the more "Captain Fantastic" progresses. The story follows Ben and his children as they leave their isolated home in the Pacific Northwest and travel to New Mexico to attend the funeral. The more the family is put up against the real world, the more Ben is forced to reconcile with the way he decided to raise his kids. The Ben Cash we meet at the start of the picture — covered in dirt, knifing the heart out of a deer and feeding it to his son — may be jarringly left-of-center, but he's so in line with the protective, masculine strength Mortensen has built a career out of that it makes it easy to see past, and even fall for, his extremeness.

As director Matt Ross told IndieWire last summer, "There's something about Viggo — he's a man's man and believes intellectually the words coming out of his mouth." We may identify celebrating "Noam Chomsky Day" or faking a heart attack to steal groceries from a supermarket as questionable parenting choices, but Mortensen makes it all charming.

But slowly Ben is pulled apart by the real world, and the power of the performance is how far Mortensen goes to make the character morally complex, to turn everything we've come to admire about him (his no-bullshit charm, for instance) into things we can't quite trust anymore.

The centerpiece of the movie finds Ben's father-in-law (Frank Langella) threatneing to gain custody of his children, and it's a brutal moment of truth. Mortensen turns Ben into a complicated, self-realized anti-hero. We find ourselves no longer able to fully sympathize with Ben, just as he realizes he can't sympathize with his decisions, either. He has blindly led his children down a dangerous path he was too scared to acknowledge himself. The internal confusion Mortensen plays with here is undeniably effective. Is he guilty of child abuse? As Ben wrestles with that question, the question lingers to powerful effect.

No other actor in the Oscar race has an arc this tricky to maneuver, and Mortensen does it with such reserved emotion that you almost take it for granted. It's not until Ben stops lying to himself that the full power of Mortensen's work becomes impossible to ignore. "I'll ruin your lives," he says to his children about why they can't keep living with him. The silent emotional turmoil that follows as Ben drives away might just be the most bare one minute of Mortensen's career. He once again forces us to reconsider our sympathy for the character in a single glance. He manages to break down Ben to his essential core — a parent who loves his children and just wants to do right by them, no matter the cost — and gets the viewer aching for his redemption.

That moment is the last step in Ben's transformation and represents how radically Mortensen has broken down a character that started so safely in his wheelhouse. Back when "Captain Fantastic" was playing Cannes, the actor openly admitted to taking on roles that were "off the beaten path," and that's certainly the wild man we first meet.

But the story forces Ben — and, by default, Viggo — to get on the damn path. The final image says it all (spoiler warning): Ben, having just packed school lunches, sits in peace as his kids do their homework while eating breakfast. It's the kind of domestic bliss you'd rarely associate Viggo with. He's no longer a "man's man," but a domestic man. The magic of his performance isn't just how right he makes this endpoint feel for the character, but also how rewarding he makes the journey to it.

There's a moment earlier in the film where Ben's daughter analyzes Professor Humbert from "Lolita." "I hate him and feel sorry for him at the same time," she says. A variation of that sentiment could apply to Ben as well. We don't necessarily hate him, but our loyalty to him and his loyalty to himself is constantly being challenged, and it's in this moral grey area where Mortensen's performance thrives. He takes the viewer on a shapeshifting emotional journey, forcing us to admire, distrust, and ultimately put our faith in Ben. What other Best Actor nominee can you say that about? Mortensen taps into a paternal humanity so real, so honest that it more than holds its own against both frontrunners.

Power to Viggo, stick it to the Oscars!

© IndieWire. Images © Eric Simkins/Bleecker Street.

DP/30: Captain Fantastic, Viggo Mortensen

Source: YouTube.
Found By: Kath
Thanks to Kath for this in-depth interview.

Viggo interview with Deadline Hollywood

Source: Deadline Hollywood.
Found By: Iolanthe
Many thanks to Iolanthe for bringing us this latest interview.

“I Think It’s A ‘Yes We Can’ Movie”

© Eric Simkins/Bleecke....
'Captain Fantastic' Star Viggo Mortensen On The Way The Film Plays Post-Election: "I Think It's A 'Yes We Can' Movie"

It's been over a year now since Viggo Mortensen embarked on the press circuit for Captain Fantastic, seeing Matt Ross's second feature, Captain Fantastic, draw raves and a standing ovation at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. Certainly, the year that followed has been just as welcoming. Repeatedly, Captain Fantastic has announced itself as this year's little indie that could, netting a Cannes Directing Prize for Ross, an Outstanding Cast nomination from SAG, and various accolades at festivals, domestic and international.

Mortensen, meanwhile, scored SAG, Critics' Choice and Golden Globe nominations on the road to his second Oscar nod—this time, for the role of a mourning father raising his children in the Pacific Northwest. Speaking with Deadline following the Oscar Nominees Luncheon, Mortensen discusses Ross's strengths as a director, bonding with his young co-stars, and the aspects of the film that have kept it relevant throughout the entirety of awards season.

You've had quite the journey with Captain Fantastic, beginning at Sundance last year. How has the experience been for you?

We got a great reaction at Sundance—a long, standing ovation and very passionate response—and that's what we got everywhere we've been in the United States, and in many other countries. Even though it won quite a few prizes—particularly, audience awards in Seattle, Rome, Deauville, in South America as well—it came out in the first week of July. That's ancient history, the way these things go.

If you'd asked me back in Sundance a year ago whether I or anyone else from Captain Fantastic would be attending the Oscar Nominees Luncheon, I would have said, "That's a really long shot, and not likely." Not that I wouldn't have thought then that we deserved it. I was very happy to represent Captain Fantastic today, and I have to say, a lot of people came up to me and said that they loved the movie, or they just watched it a couple days ago. I wish they had watched it months ago, because maybe we would have an Original Screenplay nomination and who knows what else, but I think it's just difficult for a lot of movies, for them to slip in there.

But it's been great. I honestly think that in a couple years from now, and even beyond that, of the movies of 2016 that were kind of in the mix, Captain Fantastic and Moonlight—I think those are two movies that will be remembered longer than some other ones. They're movies that people will want to see more than once, you know? Which is kind of the mark, to some degree.

As a director, Matt Ross brings extensive experience as an actor to bear, but what do you see as the qualities that make him unique as a collaborator?

I remember seeing movies where he had small parts and speaking parts in the '90s and since then he's obviously known to a lot of people from his work in Big Love, and Silicon Valley. He's a very good actor, and he's obviously learned well from the directors. I think his goal was to always direct—even when he was a kid, he was making Super 8 movies.

What distinguishes him, like the best directors I've worked with, is that he prepares meticulously and is a great listener. His ego doesn't get in the way of making the most of each day of shooting. He'll take suggestions from anyone, knowing that he is going to make the final painting. He'll take everyone's colors and considers them, and that's the mark of an intelligent human being and a great listener. There was never any shouting on the set, or angry words.

He had a lot of pressure. It's a relatively low-budget movie. There's a lot of kids in it, a lot of multiple-actor scenes. The kids have limited working hours, and a lot of what we shot was outdoors, which is always risky when you're on a tight schedule. We also had to move locations, almost on a daily basis. He always made us feel like we had plenty of time, and that it was play, which is the best possible thing you can do. But that shows you what a good actor he is, because obviously, you don't have plenty of time. It's an illusion he's creating for everyone. It's an atmosphere he's creating on set.

Apart from having written one of the best original screenplays I've ever read, his ability to handle very different types of actors with wide range of experience, from zero to Frank Langella, and getting the most out of everyone. He was very helpful and made us all feel like we were a team from long before we started shooting.

Was it easy to find the rapport with the actors playing your children? What exercises did you go through to find that family chemistry on set?

When I read the script, I didn't even make any notes. I just flipped through it, stopping once in a while in amazement, or just laughing out loud, or very surprised that I was so moved just reading a script.

As I said to Matt when I met him, I said, "Well, okay, this is really good. It'd be almost impossible to make anything short of a decent movie from this script, it's that good. But to make a great one, you're going to have to find remarkable young actors." They have some challenging dialogue, and they have to physically do a lot of things. It's a tall order. He included me in the final auditions, and all of them—even the ones that got close and didn't get the part—were so good, so talented, that I just realized that we were going to be fine.

Then, Matt had a boot camp, where we got together, worked really hard on all the collective activities that you see in the movie—the rock climbing, the martial arts, the meditation—the music, especially. Annalise [Basso] and Sammy Isler had to go off and learn how to butcher and skin animals. I had to work on seeming like I could play the bagpipes—things like that. Everybody had their own task, and everybody had to be in good shape.

Everybody was ready, so when we got to those rehearsal weeks, we made the most of it. The best thing, in terms of the movie, being able to shoot it in a stress free way—we got to know each other and like each other, and knew each other's rhythms on the first day, so Matt Ross was able to go pretty fast. We didn't waste a lot of time. Even difficult scenes, like when I tell them that their mother is gone—that's an intense scene, and that was on the third day of shooting.

I looked at Matt when we got the scene shot, which didn't take that long, and said "Wow, we can do anything now. We're there."

A little research into your activities outside of acting suggests you have certain things in common with Ben Cash—a worldliness, a passion for literature. How much did you relate to the character, going in?

There's bits and pieces, but they're not all related, and they're not things that I engage in on a daily basis, by any means. In terms of my whole life, things that I've been interested in—the types of poetry and different languages, philosophy, mythology, history, even a little bit of science—things that Matt and I discussed, and some of the political science or social commentary, writers, progressive social thinkers like Howard Zinn, and Noam Chomsky. Those things, I had read. Most of those, I'm familiar with, but there were a couple things that I wasn't familiar with— some of the high performance training for Olympic athletes, books that Matt sent me or told me about. I read those and found them to be enlightening.

While I agree with and identify with many aspects of the character's approach to childrearing and society, I'm not extreme as him, and there's certain things that work in the story, in terms of humor—and shock value, in some cases—but it's entertaining.

The difference between me and him, for example, is that I didn't speak to my kid when he was seven years old the way that Ben does to his seven-year-old. He doesn't differentiate whether we're talking about sex or death or mental illness, or anything else. He uses the same words to methodically explain things to a seven-year-old that he would to a 17-year-old, and it's funny, and it works in the movie, but I obviously made adjustments, as my kid got older.

I don't know of anyone who is as patient as Ben is, in many ways. When you think about a parent who's a single parent now, in the absence of a wife, and who literally devotes every waking second of his life to help his kids have the best possible start, intellectually, physically, socially, in every way…Well, not socially, as it turns out, because he's deprived them. He's overlooked the fact that they're inept.

He does make mistakes—he's rigid sometimes. I like those contradictions, that he preaches one thing but at the end, he's kind of like a benevolent dictator. What's beautiful in the story is that he does eventually realize it, and he does try in his way to do something about it, which is commendable. I think that's one of the things that made our movie such a word-of-mouth phenomenon—people could relate to that idea of finding new balance, of not quitting, and realizing that there's a way out.

I have to say that post-election, that's when things really started to pick up. I noticed in Q&A's, for example, that people were starting to ask a lot more questions about society, not just relating personally, in terms of family, to the story—[about] some of the problems that we face as a nation and as a society, which is problems in communication.

The movie speaks to the benefits of making adjustments, rebalancing, listening to people who you normally wouldn't listen to, or are different than you, or have different opinions, and probably always will. But maybe there's something you can glean from another point of view. I think that in many ways, the movie has served as a post-election hangover antidote.

What do you think the movie has to say, viewing it from a post-election standpoint?

I think it's a "Yes We Can" movie. Yes we can, individually, yes we can, as a family, yes we can, as a nation, find a way to listen to each other, and make compromises that we can all live with.

That's not happening very much right now—there's not a lot of cohesiveness in the country. You can either feel negatively about it, or you can look at the situation positively. I try to do that, you know? I don't always succeed, but in the case of what's going on in the country right now, I feel it's really positive, because there's a lot of people who are middle-of-the-road, or not prone to speak up in their communities. There's a lot of middle-of-the road politicians, even on the more conservative side, who don't normally stick their neck out, and I'm seeing more and more people of all stripes, politically, starting to speak out and go, "Wait a minute. Is this right? Is this really the United States of America that we aspire to be? Is it okay for our leaders to be telling lies on a daily basis, so many that you can almost not keep up with them?"

People are more socially engaged now with what's happening than they have been in a long time, so I look at it as a positive thing. The possibilities for U.S. society are too positive, too beautiful, in terms of the most delicate balance that can be found, but you have to keep looking at it.

© Deadline Hollywood. Images © Eric Simkins/Bleecker Street.

Viggo Mortensen Red Carpet Interview | BAFTA Film Awards 2017

Source: BAFTA.
Found By: ollie

Thanks to ollie for the find.


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Last edited: 19 February 2017 12:10:39