Viggo Mortensen has got into the role of Captain Diego Alatriste, the character created by Arturo Pérez-Reverte, in Agustín Díaz Yanes' new film, which is released in cinemas this Friday. The actor, who has participated in more than 40 films, and had already worked in Spain with Ray Loriga and José Luis Acosta, explained that with this veteran soldier of the Tercios of Flanders who ekes out a living as a mercenary swordsman in the Madrid of the XVII century he shares "the fear of, either for pride or insecurity, expressing myself openly."
In an interview during the promotion of Alatriste in Madrid, Mortensen, who became world-famous with his role of Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings saga, despite having worked before in movies like Witness and G.I. Jane, said that, although he doesn't "walk down the streets killing people" like Alatriste does, he shares with the literary character the fact of "being vulnerable."
"That is quite related to what it is being Spanish or Iberian. Pride made Spain win some great battles and also to be a leading country in art, literature... But pride is also a defect, with very sad results," said Mortensen, who read Pérez-Reverte's books to make up his character.
"Alatriste is a soldier who is loyal to the crown, to the flag and, above all, to his comrades," remembered the actor, who thinks that, in the present days, Alatriste could have been a marine who his colleagues called captain 'without being one."
Mortensen pointed out that, in fact, Alatriste could have belonged to any army of any empire, "especially in its decline." "In the United States they deny it, but they are starting to run out of the treasure of blood and gold," he emphasized, with reference to the soldiers who are fighting in Iraq, "they are like the veterans of Flanders: aware that they are not there for one flag, but to keep their promises to their comrades."
The bullfighting world
In order to achieve the image that Pérez-Reverte created for Alatriste and keep that "code of honour" which is closer to the one of the bullfighting world than to the XVII century, Mortensen asked the director to take him to a bullfight in order to "learn the manners, the attitude." He met some bullfighters outside the bullring and their manners helped him to capture "that bragging way" that hides "the fear". "All of them fear the bull and I thought that was interesting," he continued.
Mortensen, who speaks perfect Spanish with an Argentinean accent, admitted that the part of Alatriste could have been done by a Spanish actor, "they are very good", and said that he has been "lucky for playing this extremely interesting role." "It has been a great challenge," emphasized the actor, who worked with David Cronenberg in A History of Violence.
This versatile artist - he combines cinema with poetry, photography, music and painting - also praised Díaz Yanes' work, especially because "this project was very difficult to start up." "So far the Spanish hadn't told their version of history so well as Tano has done," he said.
Being asked about the differences between shooting this film and other super-productions, Mortensen explained that he has worked in more than 40 films in different countries, two of those films in Spain. "I've learned that it doesn't matter where you're shooting and that the most important thing is the example the director sets," he said, giving the names of Díaz Yanes or Cronenberg as an example of great directors. "They are intelligent directors who are always willing to listen to the actors," he pointed out.
In March the actor will start shooting Good, a film about Nazism, in which he'll incarnate a literature teacher. "It shows that the ordinary people can also be part of the horror, as it happened in Spain in the XX century, they supported something that wasn't the best for the people, and it's happening in the United States in recent years, although people are already realizing that and they want a change," he concluded.