Viggo Mortensen, an actor who speaks strongly and is a polyglot, tells us, between whispers, of his way along The Road, and his taste for different stories.
© Macall Polay/Dimension Films.
Viggo Mortensen speaks softly. So much so that instead of one more interview in the endless promotional tour for The Road which has him roaming all over the world, it seems as if this 51 year old New Yorker with a porteño accent is revealing to us, in whispers, some secret he has decided not to keep to himself any longer. Barefooted, with a worn-out pair of jeans and sporting the jersey of his San Lorenzo de Almagro ("we began the year well, we remain undefeated"), Mortensen allows a cigarette to burn away in the only ashtray of the non-smokers' suite where he receives FOTOGRAMAS. Recently landed from "I don´t know what German airport, with a bit of jet lag," he who was Aragorn and Alatriste has arrived in Sitges, where he is a Grand Prize Honoree at the Festival. And he has arrived, they tell us, having fallen out with Hillcoat, the director of The Road. Maybe that´s so. In fact, the two of them barely meet, but beyond the gossip surrounding the film (delays, disputes, trailers, misunderstandings), Mortensen fights tooth and nail for a film, un cuento, a story, to which he is committed to the end.
It is most appropriate that The Road should bring Sitges to a close, since the movie, really...
...it is a true horror tale. When they take everything from you, when you lose everything, there only remains, as a human being, the choice of being good or bad to your fellow men...
Once again you work yourself to the bone, in a very demanding character.
More mentally. It was a challenge. I had to face myself - without cheating; it wouldn´t have worked if we at least didn´t try to be strong and bear what it meant to be psychologically naked.... That was the challenge that interested me as an actor.
The filming was quite challenging. You shot in post-Katrina New Orleans...
Yes, Javier (Aguirresarobe) takes the credit for that colorless world. We shot mainly in western Pennsylvania, a lot of mountains, forest and a lot of winter. We were very lucky because we had a terrible climate.
That´s the way it had to be: this was helpful, too. Although Kodi (Smit-McPhee, his son in the film), suffered from it most. I have lived in the snow; Kodi hasn't. He is from South Australia and he had never seen the snow. To him, the cold was something terrible... But he bore up very well and he even ended up admitting that it was useful to suffer a little to give the impression of suffering.
The Mortensen Method
With answers like that, you can understand why they say you're a very methodical actor...
I don't know what this Method thing is. Sometimes I like to put pressure on those who ask me that. What are you asking me? You have no idea what you are asking me. No one can explain because Method is whatever works. Something that changes depending on the day, the cast working opposite you, your situation ... It's good to be prepared, but the rest depends on being in the moment and using what happens.
How was the working relationship between your character and his son, The Boy?
Kodi's father saw that I was no threat and let us travel around on our own. We went off to discover things in Pittsburgh. One day we entered a shop where they were selling insects to eat. We bought worms, cockroaches... and prepared a cold buffet. What's your opinion on that? I like the other kind better. We suggested incorporating this into the script and the director seemed to like it.
Take to The Road
Aside from additions like this, The Road maintains a reverential respect for the Cormac McCarthy novel from which it was adapted.
I always try to treat what's written with respect. And even more in an adaptation like this.
Faithfulness that was put in doubt following the first trailer, filled with apocalyptic explosions.
They decided to put in things that were not in the film. I understand that they want a bigger audience but I believe that it's better to tell the truth. They do it to sell it, but it's not necessary.
You practice many artistic disciplines. Has cinema become too small for you?
The beautiful thing about telling stories in film is that it's a complete artistic universe. Photography, painting, philosophy, music... I get involved in everything and I learn that way. As a photographer, I admired a lot of what Javier wanted to do; he did his cinematography the old-school way.
Destination: A Good Story
Are you considering making the leap to directing?
I've thought about it... Also, I have the advantage of liking actors, unlike many directors who seem not to like them, for whom we're only tools, nothing more. I like to write, tell stories, photography... I think it's a logical step that I'll end up taking.
Do you follow any fixed course in your career? Are you already planning your next project?
No, not at all... It could be that, within a year, I'll do a small film in Argentina. But for the time being, I'm concentrating on promoting The Road all over the world, something that's already exhausting enough.
What professional goals do you have?
What I'm looking for is to have a little luck. It's hard to put together the money to do a movie, and even more so if it's a film that's that doesn't fit the taste of the majority. The good stories, the original ones, always lead to different stories... That's what I ask for, to find a good story, or to have one find me. Simply that.
At the end of this interview, citing a serious health problem of a Mortensen relative, he confirmed the indefinite cancellation of Purgatorio, the Ariel Dorfman play that he planned to star in, first with Ariadna Gil and later with Emma Suárez, in the Teatro Español in Spain...Despite that, Mortensen did not rule out working in Spain again soon, a place where, he adds, he "feels comfortable."