Viggo Mortensen: Always The Bad Guy

Source: Parade

Viggo Mortensen got an Oscar nom for playing a Russian gangster in Eastern Promises. Now he's on the right side of the law in Appaloosa, co-starring with Ed Harris, who also directed and co-wrote the new Western.

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Mortensen and Harris play a pair of peacekeepers for hire in the Old West who are brought on to clean up the small town of Appaloosa.

Q: You have a very large shotgun with you wherever you go in this film. Did it get in the way?

A: I didn't like it at first. I thought, 'Oh, jeez, am I actually going to have to walk around with this thing?' I mean it was 50 inches long and weighed, like, 11 pounds. But after a few days I got used to it and instead of being an obstacle, that shotgun became my friend. I said to Ed Harris, 'I'm just going to carry it everywhere, indoors, outdoors, even when I'm in bed. It's always going to be there.' And Ed said, 'Fine.' So what at first seemed like, 'This is going to just ruin my life on this film,' ended up becoming a plus.

Q: It did some serious damage in the gunfights.

A: Yes, but they were kind of messy, direct and quick, which I think is the way they happened in those days. We weren't glamorizing the violence. We were reminded that you don't always hit someone when you shoot at them. There were a lot of misses in the gunfights in the old West.

Q: Are you a fan of Westerns?

A: I think most Westerns are pretty terrible, as far as acting goes, and I've watched a lot of them over the years. I enjoyed some of them. The ones that are good, like High Noon, are really good.

Q: In Appaloosa, you and Ed have a tight relationship as a pair of buddies who always have each other's backs. Have you had that kind of relationship in real life?

A: Yes, I've been lucky. There have been a couple people in my life like that. Not that everything I did was OK, but I could count on forgiveness and understanding and tolerance. My definition of a good friend is somebody who's brave enough to tell you the truth even when it's not what you want to hear.

Q: You've been known as a "bad guy" since you turned your image upside down in Eastern Promises.

A: It's funny. When I started my career, I could never play a guy who was a bad guy or dangerous. But once you do a bad guy successfully then they want to put you in those roles because it seems like good business. After Eastern Promises I was getting a lot of offers to play villains. In Appaloosa I'm a little bit of both. There's a very fine line dividing the outlaws and the lawmen because they each justify the violence they cause.

Q: You're known for being somewhat of a loner on film sets.

A: I tend to need a certain amount of time by myself so I write, take photographs and draw and paint. Some people might read or nap or eat or drink or whatever, but that doesn't work for me.

Q: You're an accomplished artist and photographer and your work has been well received in several exhibitions. How does that compare to acting?

A: Movies are about compromise. I take photographs, paint and write because they're individual pursuits where the end result is yours alone. A movie is put together by somebody else and it doesn't matter how good it is, it's never that direct translation of what you did.

Q: What influences your choice of roles?

A: I think you get lucky. Accidents happen. You got to know what to do with luck when it comes your way. I agree with Sidney Lumet when he said something like, 'Consistent work is the best possible preparation for accidents that happen.' They will happen. And if you are somewhat aware, you might catch a couple of them and use them.
Last edited: 22 September 2008 09:18:13
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