190 North Interview

Chigago, IL,

Source: 190 North

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190 North is a general entertainment program on the local ABC station about what is happening in the Chicago area. Janet Davies, host of this program, interviewed Viggo Mortensen when he was in Chicago promoting Hidalgo.

Janet Davies:
What did you take away from the movie regarding the man Frank Hopkins? Or, what did you learn about him?

Viggo:
When you read a script that interests you, as this one did. I thought it's an interesting time period in US and world history.

It's a good adventure, a lot of good characters, involves horses, which I like. It includes Buffalo Bill whom I'm related to through my mom.

There were a lot of things that were interesting. But overall it was a good adventure story which was thought provoking at the same time. It's hard to balance that. But it was well done on the page. You never know how it's going to be done. Even with the approach, the director might make it an over the top adventure story and its just action. Or Make it kind of cheesy in some way. Or not touch on the historical points and places and not do it in a very good way.

I asked the director what kind of movie he was going to make. If its going to be a goof ball kind of adventure. He said no and that it was a good story. He said everything and more. I learned a lot from his point of view. I was just excited to do it. The more I got into the story, the more we traveled to these places and got involved in the different cultures, the more I appreciated the fact that the story, while entertaining and thought provoking, does something in a really subtle way.

Even thought it isn't in any way a message movie, it kind of shows you the proof of the story is that you have a lot more in common with people than you realize at first. You see all these relationships, whether it's with the sheik or his daughter or the other competitors in the race. He meets these people and they seem really different. In some cases he probably doesn't like them or certainly doesn't agree with their point of view, and they with his. But by the end, just by spending some time together, they realize they have more in common than they realized. I think it's healthy and interesting. And I think it's true about the world. Whether you want to look at it that way or pay attention to it, we are connected to other people. I kinda like that aspect.

I really like working with TJ. He's the horse that plays Hidalgo. He's amazing. He's like his own character.

Janet Davies:
Did you have chemistry right away?


Viggo:

I think he had this presence. We got along well. He could be stubborn at times, even though he's little. If he didn't want to do something, you couldn't make him. You just really had to find a way to convince him that he was the boss.

You could see that right away during the first week or two. He would do stuff like, I'd be talking to you in a scene, let's say, and he's off to the side. He's suppose to be standing there looking like a horse. And he would look over, look at you, look at me, roll his eyes. He did these things that were perfect and funny.

In the scenes were there was more tension or I was being threatened, he would be really protective. When I would be talking to the women, he'd act jealous. And after a while, you realize it's not just a coincidence. That was him. He was into it. You can't buy that. And since it's not that kind of movie where it's not special effects making the horses mouth move - he's just either doing it or not.

Janet Davies:
Was that strong personality why you wanted to have him after the movie?

Viggo:
Yeah. I like him. He's a good buddy.

Janet Davies:
How was your riding ability before versus after you made the film? Now you're pretty good. Actually, you are very good.

Viggo:
I think by the end of the movie I had gotten back to where I was almost as good as when I was a little boy. I'll never be that good because when you're a kid you're more flexible and more fearless. You don't care if you wipe out or fall off. As a kid you don't have the concept that you'll never break every bone in your body. Life is interesting and fun as a kid.

But it was nice to revisit, especially the bare back stuff. When I was little I use to do that and I liked it. But it took me awhile to get use to it. Not to be able to do it, but to do it for a long period of time. That was one of the things I worked on before we started.

Janet Davies:
Has your son seen the film yet?

Viggo:
He has seen the rough cut version. He hasn't seen it with the score, etc like you have. I really like the score. It gives the movie an old-fashioned, no frills movie adventure. It's top quality, not in your face.

I like Joe Johnson's style. It reminds me of Howard Hawks. They tell a story and let the audience find the layers themselves. That's respect for the audience. Hidalgo is a healthy balance between entertaining people and letting them get what they will out of it.

Janet Davies:
Let me ask you a Rings question. Obviously everyone thought that it would be nominated for Best Picture. What do you think its chances are? It's pretty much a front runner?

Viggo:
I think a lot of people will be upset if it doesn't get it. But in a sense it doesn't matter. If it does win or if it doesn't win, either way it doesn't make the movie better or worse. The movie and the trilogy is a significant accomplishment. And it's gotten recognition from millions of people and critics. I don't think Peter Jackson has to prove anything to anyone in that sense.

Janet Davies:
Are you ever afraid that the cult status will build and build over the years and get into an almost Star Trek where people are always after you for your character?

Viggo:
I have people come up to me with pictures from other movies from a long time ago. So I'm sure with the success of Lord of the Rings there will always be that. And it doesn't bother mer. Why should it? It's flattering that people feel we did a decent job taking the book to the screen. That the characters and the story struck a chord with people.

Even this movie, there are people who have seen it or heard about it from someone who has seen a screening and they are excited about it. It can be weird sometimes when people just assume that everything about the guy you're playing is true about you or something. Some things you have in common and some you don't - it's a different person.

I take that as a compliment. That means that people were into it and believed the story and, more importantly, enjoyed it.

Janet Davies:
Is it a blessing or a curse once you truly breakout? You've been doing this for a lot of years. Then all the sudden everyone wants to know everything about you. Good, bad, and ugly.

On the cover of Vanity Fair, looking very Ralph Lauren.


Viggo:
Yeah. That was a photographer I knew pretty well. He was persuasive. [Laughs] But it was fun, dressing up.

People are going to be curious about the group that are in a popular movie. Just like- I think it's going to be like Lord of the Rings for Hidalgo because I think Hidalgo will strike a chord and be popular. And this cast is made up of people largely from the US, England, Europe, the Middle East, Lakota nation in South Dakota, and Blackfoot in Montana. Most, except Omar Shariff and me from Lord of the Rings, are unknown. This movie will bring them to people's attention. Then it's up to them what they do with it.

So, people want to know about you.What's weird is when they make up stuff. And when it keeps being printed and it's not true. Sometimes it's funny and sometimes it's not funny.

Janet Davies:
Have you had something recently?

Viggo:
Yeah. It's like I'm supposedly having all these passionate affairs with women I never met. I guess if you like being talked about it could be flattering.

Janet Davies:
Well, I'll deny it if my name comes up!

Viggo:
[Laughs] OK! Naw, we've met - we know each other!

So that's weird [Note: Viggo's referring to made up stories]. Or people that I've just been introduced to at some event and then later it comes out we've been spending there torrid weekends together. That's weird. And sometimes people will take things that you said and knowingly misconstrue them to imply that you are for something or against something to serve their own agenda. Then it can be damaging to your loved ones.

Other than that, any of us who have been put in this position, it's a compliment.

Janet Davies:
Are you going to the Academy Awards? Are you a presenter?

Viggo:
No, I'm not. Actually, I'm going to be touring until April. I'll be selling Hidalgo, and happy to be doing so.

I'm not someone who... as you can see, I'm not giving you a good snappy answer! I'm not someone who is good at trying to sell you on seeing something that I don't like. I can do it, I can fake it. But it's easier on a long promotional tour like this one where you can get kind of burn out to like it. It makes it easier to talk about.


Janet Davies:

I want to say one more thing about Hidalgo. It thought the makeup was great. There were so many times where you looked like you had not one ounce of liquid in your body. Dry lips, ashen face.

Viggo:
The guy who did that is an amazing makeup artist. His name is Mike Mills. He's a really excellent makeup guy. He's one of those guys that toils away. He doesn't go to the parties. He's not a smoozer. He just does his job. He's one of the great classic Hollywood crafts people.

Remember that move Mask with Cher? That whole head and everything that Eric Stoltz had. He did all that. The guy that won the Oscar for it was his boss. And Mike should have won that. But to his credit he doesn't care. He's just about doing a good job. I like working with people like that. This movie was full of individuals like that, both in the US and Morocco.

So, I've been lucky. Two projects in a row, Lord of the Rings'and then Hidalgo, where I worked with a cast and crew that were just - liked the story and were into it.

Janet Davies:
Thank you.

Viggo:
Thank you.
Last edited: 20 September 2012 11:24:49
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