I loved Ariel Dorfman's comment this week about Viggo querying his text in Purgatorio. It's so very Viggo isn't it? That depth of knowledge, his constant attention to detail, his desire to ensure that whatever he appears in is the best it can possibly be. Once he's committed he is a power house of information and ideas, from badgering Cronenberg about Freud's cigars to persuading Perez-Reverte that Alatriste came from Leon. It's a dedication that has been greatly admired and drawn on by fellow creatives over the years.
During a production of his play Purgatorio, Dorfman was challenged by the actor Viggo Mortensen, who was insistent about a line of dialogue: "This doesn't make sense!" he kept repeating. "He wouldn't let me go," Dorfman says. And Mortensen was right. The actor was able to teach Dorfman something about his own play. "You learn, if there's no aggression in an artist exchange." If an actor or editor is generous and open, the writer can gain something.
Ariel Dorfman: 'Not to belong anywhere, to be displaced, is not a bad thing for a writer'
By Andrew Madigan
9 May 2018
'We really trust each other's sensibility. I did talk to a director once who said, "You know this guy Viggo you worked with? I sent a script to him, and he sent me notes!" I said, "Yeah? Well, were they good notes?" He looked at me like I was crazy.'
'Dangerous Method' helmer talks working with Pattinson, Giamatti on 'Cosmopolis'
By Christy Grosz
13 December 2011
"Viggo was a central collaborator in terms of his ideas about the script. He had wonderful and insightful ideas about everything, including adding his own original music to the film. For me, he exemplifies a very high level of artistry and integrity. That is one of the things that made him my first choice to play Ben, Physically and temperamentally, he was absolutely right."
Director Matt Ross
Cannes Press Kit
'He comes to the role with such fierce dedication and so many ideas. We invited him into the editing room later in the process and he had a very complete memory of what he had done and what had been shot and asked us very challenging questions about why we had chosen one approach over the other. He was a very good extra eye in the editing room and I was glad we were able to spend some time with him there.'
Interview with Joseph Krings, Editor of "Captain Fantastic"
Manhatten Edit Workshop blog
20 July 2016
'He thinks 24 hours a day about the film; he is insatiable when thinking ideas, dialogues, suggestions for enhancing the images, the work of the group in general, and with the other professional and nonprofessional actors who acted with him in different scenes from the movie. I was very lucky that he liked the story.'
Nueva voz: Lisandro Alonso y el cine de los hombres solos
28 December 2013
'…this is a thing I knew about Viggo -- once he commits, he's committed. He's incredibly loyal to the project, to the character, to the movie. Once he committed there was never any going back; it was full on, "Let's do research of the Viggo kind" -- which is very deep, to say the least. He'd send 25 emails of Freud's cigars, you know, with pictures going back and forth: "What kind were they?" "How many did he smoke a day?" "What shape were they?" "What strength?" "Would he have ever varied the kind during the course of the day, or did he always smoke the same kind?" "Could he afford them?" "Were they expensive?" You know, it went on and on and on.'
David Cronenberg Discusses His Dangerous Method
by Luke Goodsell
23 November 2011
"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
"Viggo's one-man research engine helped mould David's thinking about the script, and fed into the script in a great way. It informed our whole process."
Eastern Promises Production Notes
20 August 2007
Source: Focus Features
'He called me once to talk about certain aspects of his character and history, such as Alatriste's birthplace. I had never detailed it in any of the five novels published up until now, but Viggo was interested in the fact. 'In Old Castile,' I responded. 'Could it be Leon?' he asked after thinking about it for a while. 'It could,' I responded. So then he went to Leon and walked about covering it inch by inch, remaining in each town, in every bar, talking with whoever happened to be in front of him. In effect, he finally concluded that Alatriste was Leonese. And he said it with such conviction that even I didn't question or argue the point.'
Arturo Pérez Reverte: Alatriste
El Semanal, July 2005-08-04
Translated by Elessars Quee
'I went to the Prado Museum, which I had visited many times, but now I saw the paintings in a different light, searching for the character, so I'd call Tano (the director) at 2 am and tell him, "listen, I found this painting by Góngora". Viggo makes a face and changes his voice to imitate Díaz Yanes: 'Okay, let me explain it to you. You're an idiot.' But nothing. I saw the characters in those painting."'
Viggo Mortensen: Alatriste
The Lord of Simplicity
By Ernesto Garratt Vines - translated by Margarita
Wikén - El Mercurio
30 March 2007
'I worked with him 12 years ago on horses, we rode together down by the Mexico border in Arizona while working on Young Guns 2. He played a small role [in which] he rides along with Billy Peterson, who played Pat Garret. He plays John W. Poe, a historical bounty hunter who pursued Billy the Kid. We had all these young actors playing historical figures and I had all this research available. But it was Viggo who had this tiny little role, who just kept coming to me and saying [things like], 'You know, I was doing some research and copper was really big at that time and they were making copper rifle scopes. I think that Poe would've made his own scope, you know, as a bounty hunter to personalize his tool of the trade.' Then he would come back and say, 'What was Poe's relationship with John Chisum? Did he have any cattle interests...?' So when I heard that he was interested in the role [of Hopkins] I anticipated that kind of commitment to research and sure enough, days after he was cast he called me and said, 'Who do you know on Pine Ridge reservation and can I go there?' Within a week he was out with these Lakota horsemen and riding with them, and on a long ride to Wounded Knee."'
IGN gets the behind-the-action goods from the director, writer and star of Hidalgo.
By Jeff Otto, IGN
March 04, 2004
When Mr. Jackson telephoned Mr. Mortensen, whose work he admired, the conversation did not seem to go well.
"Knowing Viggo now, his conversation was incredibly Viggo-like, but at the time it was incredibly off-putting," Mr. Jackson said. "He was asking about the character: how long has he lived with the elves? Where are his parents? If I didn't know the answer, I'd make it up. There would be this terrible long silence, and I didn't know if the phone had disconnected or not, and then he'd ask another question and there would be 30 more seconds of silence."
"At the very end of the call, I thought it had gone very badly, that he wasn't going to do the role," Mr. Jackson continued. "I was thinking, `What are we going to do now?' as I was waiting for the call to end, and then there was another long silence and Viggo said, `I guess I'll see you on Tuesday.' "
Peter Jackson on offering him the part of Aragorn
The Man Who Would Just As Soon Not Be King
By Sarah Lyall
New York Times
"Viggo commits himself to a project with the same intensity as the filmmakers - which is rare for an actor," the director says. "After the end of a long day's shooting, when all the other cast would be either in bed or in the bar, Fran Walsh and I would be home grappling with the script for the next week's shooting. At midnight, a nine-page handwritten memo would come rattling through the fax from Viggo, outlining his thoughts about that day's work and the next few days to come. He would suggest passages from the book we should look at. This wasn't an exception - over 15 months it became the rule. In the small hours, it was actually comforting to know there was somebody else out there grappling with the same nightmare that we were."
The Hero Returns
By Tom Roston
'He is absolutely dedicated to the process,' says Ridley Scott. 'He was constantly revisiting me with questions and notes and suggestions, none of which I ever got tired of.'
Ridley Scott on GI Jane
by Steve Pond
US Magazine #236, 1997
"…with Viggo you don't just get a violin, you get a whole symphony orchestra."
RT talks Eastern Promises
By Sara Schieron, Rotten Tomatoes
12 September 2007