Lecturas - 8.30.2006...
Image César Urrutia.
© 2006 Lecturas.
Those who know him well insist that he's a simple man. Whether or not that's true, what's certain is that after repeatedly getting under the skin of assassins and other individuals tortured by life, Viggo Mortensen is the spitting image of a hero.
After playing the role of Aragorn in Lord of the Rings, here comes Captain Alatriste...
They're so different! Right? I'm happy with Alatriste. When they asked me to play the part, I knew nothing about him. I read the script in 24 hours and it hooked me so strongly that I couldn't resist.
You've never regretted the decision for a moment?
Never. And, if tomorrow I'm offered another Spanish project of this calibre, I'll say yes again. Some friends asked me why I needed to make a film in Spain when I had the pick of any other project in Hollywood. I told them that no other script offered me the possibilities that this particular story did. For a while now I've been lucky enough to be able to reject projects that don't fulfil me. I'm not looking to be the highest paid actor, that's why I make independent films that are difficult to digest. And this Alatriste is certainly a peculiar character, dark, complicated...
Was conveying his personality your biggest challenge?
The real difficulty I had was with the accent. I had to be a typical Spaniard, so I avoided all contact with anything Argentinean (Viggo spent part of his childhood in Argentina) while we were filming...I only kept my tradition of drinking maté...
Was it worth the effort?
Without a doubt. It's a great film, strong, emotive. All of the actors watched it together once it was complete. When the lights came back on in the room, we all had tears in our eyes. It was powerful!
Are you beginning to enjoy what you do more than ever?
In some ways, yes. It's ironic, right? I've spent 20 years making movies. I've filmed more than 40 movies but, until Lord of the Rings showed up in my life, I wasn't really known to a wide audience. And that wasn't something that obsessed me, to tell you the truth. I tend to run from popularity, from awards and public recognition.
What did you have in common with Aragorn?
We shared the same enjoyment of the outdoors, for example. And, in a certain sense, I'm fairly solitary. I'm a very sociable person, but I love to be alone, to listen to the silence, to not speak to anyone for a while. What would drive some people crazy gives me energy.
And how do that timid guy you're describing, and the superstar you also are, get along?
Not always very well. My shyness occasionally turns me into someone who seems cold and distant. Luckily, I like people and that makes me somebody outgoing, who uses conversation as a kind of self-defense mechanism.
We hear that you're a good friend who is honest and loyal. Do you have any flaws?
Those descriptions of me were given by my friends, right? Well, don't trust them; you know that friends always believe the best things about us. You're asking me for a flaw? I think that my impatience is one. I want everything 'yesterday' and it takes time for me to adjust to others rhythms.
That's not so bad...
Injustice also bothers me greatly, to see somebody who is defenseless being mistreated, for example. That kind of thing makes me hot under the collar. I know that by shouting I don't gain anything, but I can't help it.
Even with those faults, nine out ten women sigh when they see you. Is it flattering to be considered sexy?
Whoever thinks of me that way isn't being insulting, of course, but I'm not at all interested in such things. Do you really think I'm sexy? Take a good look. I'm a normal guy who people pay attention to because I'm a celebrity. If I were walking down the street without being famous, I assure you that nobody would turn and look.
But, deep down inside, it has to be a little flattering...
The one who is really happy about it is my mother. When, a while back, an American magazine decided I was one of the 50 sexiest men in the world, my mother told everybody. Honestly, those kinds of things just make me laugh.
Were you happier before, when you were just 'another guy'?
I don't know, but I'm convinced that whenever I was critiqued - whether it was good or bad - it wasn't because people were fixating on my looks, but because I aroused critics' curiosities with my work.
So you're saying that the physical thing is a cross you have to bear.
I'm handsome to my dismay (laughs). I haven't had to go through life apologizing for what I look like but, maybe, it's a little harder to convince people that, behind the physical aspect, there's an actor who works hard to improve with each role.
Is it true that you owe your success with Aragorn to your son?
He's the one who convinced me to make the movie. He had read the trilogy and knew the story by heart. The same thing happened with Alatriste, I didn't have a clue what it was about until I read the scripts. I mentioned it to him...and he wouldn't let me say no.
Without knowing it, he became your best representative.
I have to admit that these days I'm frequently thanking him. I laugh a lot with him. He's going to turn 19 and, for a long time now, we've been having very interesting conversations. I'm proud of him because he's a really sensible boy, very patient, who loves animals. I don't know, it seems crazy, but every day that goes by I see him as an example to emulate.
It's usually the other way around...
They say that parents see themselves, to a certain extent, projected in their children. That doesn't happen with me because my son and I are good friends. I was a young father and my son grew up knowing me as an unconditional friend. It's a matter of trust.
What do you have in common?
He's a really curious boy, he likes solitude. When I was his age, I liked fishing, playing quietly and taking walks by myself. And he's inherited that from me. There are moments when I really see myself reflected in him and I remember my childhood.
You spent those years in Argentina. That's where you became fluent in Spanish and in certain customs...
If you're saying that because I love to drink maté, you're right! It's an Argentinean trait and I can't live without it. I also love soccer. I remember my time in that country with great affection and nostalgia. I still have ties to Argentina. I was really happy as a child there, that's the truth.
Would you go back to those days?
Without hesitation. I would repeat each and every one of the things I did. The passing of years have given me a perspective that has made me more mature. Now I see things in hindsight and what I learned in those years is what has made me who I am today. And, even though I recognize that I'm a rather strange guy, I don't think the end result has been so bad.
Are you your own worst critic?
Yes. I'm really hard on myself, I'm permanently dissatisfied. I always think that things can be done better, that's why I strive to be better and better in each role. I appreciate good criticism, but nobody knows better than me what I need to improve upon.
Is it easy to survive in Hollywood?
With the life I lead, yes. I'm famous for wanting my space and it's true. The 'pomp' of Hollywood doesn't interest me. I'm lucky not to have to live there in order to work, so my survival is guaranteed.
I'm a little vain. If I wasn't, I wouldn't be an actor. But I work hard so my ego doesn't grow too big. My job is to tell stories, not to obtain fame and awards.
What's the best part of filming a movie?
Contact with my co-workers and, above all, being able to develop my hobbies: taking pictures, painting, writing, composing music...
Have you ever asked yourself what you're doing in the world of movies?
Many times, but I always come to the conclusion that I'm in the right profession, one that permits me to share what I have inside and, by chance, allows me to explore other means of artistic expression.
Have you ever thought of going into politics?
Nooooo! Arnold Schwarzenegger already did that. We each need to know our limitations and what we are really good at. I think that I can reach people very effectively through my work.
What do you owe the movies?
A lot of things, especially having been able to meet a group of people who became my family during the filming of Lord of the Rings, and now on Captain Alatriste. That's what I take with me.
Do you care about the image that is projected of you?
I don't worry about it. I'm passionate about this work, just as I am about painting, writing...all these activities make up my life and allow me to feel very good. Everything else is marketing.