Iolanthe's Quotable Viggo

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Iolanthe's Quotable Viggo

Categories: Quotable Viggo

Trying to piece together the story of how Viggo became interested in acting and what his earliest acting days were like is like trying to complete the edge of a very large jigsaw. No one seems to have recorded it at length or in detail but tantalising mentions crop up in dozens of different interviews, all of which give us a little glimpses of the whole picture. I've been rifling through all those interviews looking for those edge pieces to try and fit them together, and what emerges above all is a huge passion and curiosity for how film is made, and some fascinating influences. This week takes him us from his growing interest in cinema, though his first acting classes and to one of his first cinema auditions. And I bet I'm not the only one who would like to have been a fly on the wall for the 'monologue inspired by Jack the Ripper'...

"....I went to see films with my mother when I was a child. Towards twenty, I lived for a year close to London, and I went to a cinema which only showed classics. I discovered Bergman, Ozu, Pasolini, Dreyer ... It was a revelation. It wasn't just that I liked going to the movies, it was that on leaving the theater I wanted to enter this world...... To discover Bergman, Pasolini, Ozu, Dreyer, at twenty, that was a revelation. Could that be it, the movies? My jaw dropped in admiration. These filmmakers really inspired me. I like the simplicity of Ozu, I like the films of Carl Dreyer, which capture so well the pain of the human condition. I like the purity of Bergman and Pasolini. It was after I discovered their films that I became very curious about film as a means of expression."

Viggo Mortensen: The Soul of a Warrior
By Juliette Michaud
December 2002
Source: Studio Magazine

"When I saw Death in Venice, by Visconti, I had a big shock. It is one of the movies that has really inspired me. I saw it again recently, it's a little dated, especially the flashbacks, but still ... That mixture of beauty and sadness ... And also the performance of Dirk Bogarde is so extraordinary! Its impact on me has been enormous."

Viggo Mortensen: The Soul of a Warrior
By Juliette Michaud
December 2002
Source: Studio Magazine

After graduation, he moved to Denmark - driven, he said, by the need for a defining purpose in life. He found it there, writing poetry and short stories while supporting himself as, among other things, a dock worker and a flower seller.

Back in the saddle 'Rings' hero Mortensen is riding high with 'Hidalgo'
By Nancy Mills
Daily News
25 February 2004

EMPIRE: You had a lot of different jobs before you started acting: waiter, dock worker, translator... Which did you enjoy most?

MORTENSEN: A little about each of them, and about the friends I made in them. I like being outdoors, so driving around the Danish countryside, delivering sacks of flour to remote village bakeries for a mill, and another job selling roses on the streets of Copenhagen, were particularly enjoyable.

In Conversation With Viggo Mortensen
By Dorian Lynskey
March 2008

He fell in love in 1982 and followed his girlfriend to New York City, hoping for a long romance and a writing career. He got neither.

In New York, Viggo found work waiting tables and bartending. He also became interested in acting.

Back in the saddle 'Rings' hero Mortensen is riding high with 'Hidalgo'
By Nancy Mills
Daily News
25 February 2004

"When I would see a really seamless, fully realized performance or an ensemble performance, I would wonder, How did they do that? How did they make it so effortless?"

Viggo Mortensen
Good Fellow
By Jamie Painter Young
Backstage West
5 January 2004

"I was a bit older than most when I started acting. I was around 27, while many start as teenagers, even earlier. I came to acting because of simple curiosity: I wanted to know how movies were made."

The King Is Mortensen, Long Live The King!
By Marc Toullec
Cine Live #71
September 2003

[In New York] he came across an ad for Warren Robertson's repertory company and after signing up and doing a monologue inspired by Jack the Ripper, he decided to continue acting. "I never thought it would last," he says. "I just tried it to see what it was like and it just clicked, I guess. Now here we are, 20 years later, and I'm still doing it."

The Other Side of Viggo Mortensen
By Paul Young
Variety Life
October 2003

[He] went in for what he thought was an audition for a play. Instead, he found himself signed up for an acting class. Robertson encouraged him, and so while working odd jobs such as waiting tables and bartending, Mortensen committed himself to the workshop.

Viggo Mortensen
The Hero Returns
By Tom Roston
Premiere 2003

"Warren saw something in what was probably rough work and saw enough to encourage me to keep trying and to keep auditioning and so forth."

Viggo Mortensen
Good Fellow
By Jamie Painter Young
Backstage West
5 January 2004

"I didn't know anyone, so the anonymity of it made it a little safer." He approached acting with a photographer's perspective, examining the mechanics of the craft from every angle. "I started watching more movies and looking at things in that light as a potential performer. You get kind of hooked on it, the workings of it. You start thinking about how to make something interesting."

Viggo Trip
By Liane Bonin
Flaunt magazine #39
November 2002

"The performance which most astonishes me is certainly that of Maria Falconetti in The Passion of Joan of Arc. It is so vibrant. The first time I saw this film, I felt moved in every fiber of my body. When a performance leaves you so marked, so to speak, it's because you have watched great art. Or, quite simply, the form of art that comes closest to you. When I started to take acting lessons in New York, I used these performances as models. It's not surprising I still can't break through!"

Viggo Mortensen: The Soul of a Warrior
By Juliette Michaud
December 2002
Source: Studio Magazine

"Right out of the gate, I was auditioning for leads in studio movies. It would get down to the last two people," says Mortensen, who recalls the whirlwind of being flown first class to England for the lead in 1984's Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes. "The next thing I know, I'm training with monkeys."

Viggo Mortensen
The Hero Returns
By Tom Roston
Premiere 2003

© Images © MGM / CBS Television.

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Iolanthe's Quotable Viggo

Categories: Quotable Viggo

All the exciting talk about Viggo possibly appearing in a play took me back to Viggo's first review for a role in Bent in Los Angeles in 1987, for which he won the Drama-Logue Critics Award. What has this got to do with this week's quotes? Almost nothing, except it sent me thinking backwards to the very beginning of Viggo's career. One thing always leads to another and soon I was looking at the teenager and, before that, Viggo as a boy. So over the next couple of weeks Quotable Viggo will all be about early days, starting today with a childhood in which, it seems, he liked to live dangerously - playing with snakes, living as a Viking and ending up as the ass-end of a dragon. Every Oscar Nominated actor has to start somewhere...

© Unknown

The eldest of three brothers, Viggo was born in New York in 1958 and given his father's name. Viggo is, he says, considered in contemporary Denmark to be a slightly archaic, eccentric name for a young man. "It would be like being called Herbert..."

The Rebel King
By Chris Heath
GQ magazine
April 2004

"Every once in a while you do something really dumb when you're a kid and you realize when you're an adult that that's dangerous, but.. you know.. There was one time when I was coming home at the end of the day, going through the paddocks, and you open the gates from horseback, and the last gate I was about to grab the latch and there was this beautiful, beautiful snake wrapped around it.. it was orange and black and white stripes. And I thought 'I'm going to take this home and show it to my family'. And I tried to grab it and he tried to get me. And I like whacked it just to stun it and I grabbed it by the neck and opened the gate and got through, closed it and said "Dad, dad, look what I got." And he freaked out, cos it was a Coral snake, which if you get bit I think two minutes, three minutes, you're dead."

Viggo Mortensen
David Letterman Show, 2004

'According to my mother I never went anywhere as a child without a pencil, and I drew all the time. Recently she gave me a notebook with some of my old drawings. I especially noticed one I drew when I was 7 - it was rather wild. On the top it said: 'Little Red Riding Hood', and then there were a lot of oil colours mixed together, almost abstract. I really liked it. But across the drawing it said with a red pen - and underlined: VERY BAD! Some teachers still think that is motivating...'

Viggo from Hollywood
By Poul Hoi
M/S (Danish magazine)
August 2001

As an 8-year-old, Mortensen played "the ass end of a dragon" in a school play...

The Other Side of Viggo Mortensen
By Paul Young
Variety Life
October 2003

"I very strongly feel that I share a common past with my family in Denmark. And feel connected to the Scandinavian mythology, when I walk in the forest at Jystrup, where there are many tales told of what has happened. The Danish woods look like Tolkien's, they are the kind that doesn't look dangerous, but if you walk alone by night in the forests of Denmark, you can feel the energies of the past. I felt that already as a child, back then when I played with swords there outside my uncle's farm, played and felt like a Viking."

Viggo Mortensen
The American Dane
By Susanne Johansson - Translation by Majken Steen Thomassen
BT (Berlingske Tidende)
28 November 2001

"I didn't have friends when I was little that I know now - there wasn't any sense of continuity like that," Mortensen says. "But I got to see a lot of things and learn a lot of things. And I learned to rely on my imagination, and on myself."

Finding Viggo
By Alex Kuczynski
Vanity Fair magazine
January 2004

In high school, the shy kid began carrying a camera everywhere he went. Structuring his vistas within a viewfinder was a natural impulse. Already he had hopscotched through many disparate worlds, never lingering long enough on any to burn a permanent image. .....

Viggo Trip
By Liane Bonin
Flaunt magazine #39
November 2002 an adolescent, he felt comfortable behind the lens of a camera. Mortensen says he started taking pictures as a teenager, although he wasn't "really serious about it." For him, the camera not only offered a sense of control over his surroundings but a kind of veil to help him feel invisible from a world he found both intimidating and inspiring.

The Other Side of Viggo Mortensen
By Paul Young
Variety Life
October 2003

"I remember trying out for a play once in junior high school, and as soon as the audition started, they said 'Speak up! Speak up!' And I just stopped and took off. I wasn't really cut out for it."

Viggo Mortensen
Viggo Trip
by Liane Bonin
Flaunt magazine #39, 2002

"We arrived in Northern New York near the Canadian border, and there were no Spanish-speaking people at all, one black person in the whole county, some French-Canadians, and no tradition of football. It was just completely different. But when you're kids, you adapt very quickly. Within a month or two, I knew all the swear words."

Viggo Mortensen on leaving South America
I've taken on too much...
by James Mottram, The Independent / UK.
23 October 2007

'[It was] a combination of a fist and a barbed-wire fence. I was drunk on Halloween, and so were the other people I was with. It was mistakes of youth.

I was 17 and we went to a clinic and the doctor was 80 at least and it was 2 or 3 in the morning. He just started sewing because he realized I wouldn't feel a thing, which I didn't. My friends outside ordered pizza. I remember after, they were feeding me these pin-sized bites that night.'

Viggo Mortensen on gettting his scar
Mooning Over Viggo Mortensen
by Stephen Schaefer
USA Today 1999

© Images © Unknown.

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Iolanthe's Quotable Viggo

Categories: Quotable Viggo
Well, it's been a very up and down week as the reviews have come out after Good's limited release. I don't mind telling you that I've gone from misery to elation and back again as this movie has polarised critics. To cheer myself (and all of us) up I've done a small round-up of comments from those critics this week who have admired the film and Viggo's performance or, at the very least, thought it had something very important to say.

© Good Films. Image Larry Horricks.

Good...turns the Holocaust narrative around by telling the story of an ordinary German, his small negotiations for survival and success, and their sum. It unsettles the audience because it shows that the most horrific human sin may be the weakness to do the right thing, not desire to do the wrong.

Alisa Harris
World Magazine
27 December 2008

In telling the story of a man swept up by the tide of National Socialism despite never subscribing to its tenets, the movie maintains a particularly terrifying feel. By refusing to caricature John Halder (Viggo Mortensen) even as he joins the propaganda apparatus, dons a uniform and neglects his Jewish best friend (Jason Isaacs), the film drives home its unsettling message: That could be us.

Robert Levin
Critic's Notebook
2 January 2008

Mortensen continues to stretch as an actor. The coiled violence that radiated through every cell of his body as a Russian gangster in "Eastern Promises" is replaced by a skittish uncertainty in "Good" that is palpable as he reaches again and again to adjust his wire-rimmed glasses.

Betsy Sharkey
Los Angeles Times
31 December 2008

Mortensen, best known for playing forces of nature ("A History of Violence," "Eastern Promises"), is here all mild manners, spectacles and fawning body language. His Halder is a character who lacks character, and Mortensen subtly turns him into a pitiful, pitiable villain.

Rafer Guzman
31 December 2008 demonstrates the surprising power of character flaws in drama. How else to explain that the portrayal of a good man who does nothing in Good should prove more dramatically compelling than the stories in Valkyrie and Defiance of good men who did good?

Bob Mondello
29 December 2008

Brazilian director Vicente Amorim understands, unlike so many other filmmakers who have tackled the subject, that the horrors of the Holocaust are enough to stir and disturb audiences; there's no reason for the movie to clobber you over the head with one of history's darkest chapters.

Alonso Duralde
2 January 2009

If you can get past the strong feeling that you've seen all of GOOD's parts elsewhere at some time or another, it's actually a decent drama. The points made by John Wrathall's screen adaptation of C.P. Taylor's stage play are all valid and well-articulated, and Viggo Mortensen's turn as a milquetoast professor made into an unlikely Nazi official is pretty striking.

Abbie Bernstein
If Magazine
31 December 2008

Vincente Amorim's Good is a masterful achievement, both as a drama and as a symbolic cautionary tale. As a drama set in the early to middle Nazi era in Germany, and steeped in one man's self-destructive adaptation to the morally compromised atmosphere of that time, it's an intensely serious film, and also a very moving one, touching all of the right emotional buttons at just the right moments in its depiction of the destruction of a country, a people, and a character....

...Mortensen is never less than note-perfect as Halder, as he descends from harried, over-extended family man -- near his wit's end in terms of responsibilities to his wife, children, and mother, even as the Nazis take power and threaten his future as a teacher -- to academic philanderer, carrying on an affair with a student; to silent collaborator with the Hitler regime; and finally to uniformed representative of the SS.

Bruce Eder
TV Guide Online
31 December 2008

Fewer films have looked at the banality of evil that, person-by-person, constituted a state bureaucratic machine implementing the Final Solution, beyond the ruminations on corporate complicity in the recent Heartbeat Detector from France. Good is a worthy attempt to give that reality both an individualized credibility and a somber universal warning.

Nora Lee Mandel
31 December 2008

One of few admitting itself "a story with a message," Good exhibits the single-minded approach of most such works, an effect increased by the necessary concentration of stage origins. In memoriam to Scottish playwright Taylor, who dwelt on idealism in the face of corruption, and to producer Miriam Segal's "devoted to the betterment of the world" father Ronald, the film bares its heart on its sleeve way prior to such closing dedications. Fable and allegory have often served to urge tolerance and mercy, so why not today, too, on the screen?

Donald Levit
30 December 2008

© Images © Good Films.

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Iolanthe's Quotable Viggo

Categories: Quotable Viggo
As the New Year is almost on us I thought I'd set myself the nearly impossible task of finding a quote for each month of 2008. There were a few 'dry' months (March and August - thank goodness for interviews) and April almost qualified as impossible, but luckily there were big things going on at San Lorenzo . So this week we have a bit of a mixed bag - Viggo talking about a variety of subjects that have been occupying his mind over this last year. There are, of course, musings on art in a year that has seen him preparing two outstanding exhibitions (Skovbo and sådanset). In the last part of the year the focus shifted back to film. Appaloosa was released, and challenging thoughts about individual responsibility rose to the surface with the 'Good' promotions coming alongside the US elections. But winding back to the beginning of 2008 we start off with the New Hampshire Primaries and the year's most fearsome challenge....the Oscar Red Carpet .



Of course, conservative Sean Hannity took a few swings. But Mortensen struck back at the dark lord of talk television.

After complimenting Mortensen's film performances, Hannity said, "In spite of everything, I'm going to forgive your politics..."

"You don't have to," said Mortensen. "I'm not going to forgive yours."

That was typical of Mortensen's campaigning on behalf of Kucinich, which was a good deal sharper and more engaged than that of most of the absolutely exhausted contenders in New Hampshire.

Viggo supporting Dennis Kucinich
New Hampshire Presidential Primaries
Fox News' "Hannity & Colmes" Show
January 2008


"This road is more daunting than the road in the movie I'm making -- and that one has cannibals."

Viggo arriving at the Oscars
The Envelope
By Geoff Boucher and Chris Lee
February 24, 2008


"I can understand why people get so hardened that they become almost callous. They get this Teflon coating to their personal presentation, and even, finally, their acting. Because it is, in some ways, psychologically injurious as an occupation. I understand that, but I don't think it's good for the work. You have to leave yourself open to be hurt, just as you do in life. You have to be willing in life to suffer, even if it's in subtle ways, if you want to grow as a person."

In Conversation With Viggo Mortensen
By Dorian Lynskey
March 2008
Source: Empire


"I came because I feel passion for San Lorenzo, because it is something that I always understood and that I incorporated into my life from when I was child. I felt very happy among the people on Monday's night of great joy as we marched down to the place where our glorious Old Gasómetró once was, a ground that we remember with much nostalgia and without which we suffer. Many people say to me that I am supporting from the outside, but I feel like a supporter right at the heart of the club. The greatest honour of my life is to be part of El Ciclón,"

San Lorenzo Celebrate Centenary With Viggo Mortensen In Tow
By Nick Dorrington
3 April 2008


"This is only me and my camera. I sit down and watch the sky, stop, and maybe sing a little or write something down. When I have time to do that, I am as happy as I can be."

Viggo Mortensen
Capable Of Many Things
By Hanna Björk Valsdóttir - translated by Ragga
30 May 2008
Source: Fréttablaðið


"A photo, a painting, a poem or music that we use to express our experience is not the main thing, but what you are expressing. How you sense the world around you is art in its own form. To stop for one silent moment and just see what happens."

Viggo Mortensen
Margt til lista lagt article from Fréttablaðið
Translated by Ragga
June 2008


"This world is a dream we all contribute to, in one way or another. We are part of the dream, if we are aware or not, if we like it or not. These pictures are a part of my dream, of the way I exist and act in the world."

Viggo Mortensen, The Photographer Of Dreams
By Giovanni Valerio - translated by Cindalea
July 2008
Source: Panorama First


"I think Cole trusts Hitch more than anyone else in the world, specifically because Hitch is very honest with him, even when it's difficult to bring certain things to Cole's attention," says the actor. "That is my definition of a good friend: somebody who is brave enough to tell you the truth even when it's not what you want to hear."

Viggo Mortensen
Emmanuel Levy
August 2008


"I can't lie to you, I had a lot of fun riding around on horseback..."

Viggo Mortensen talking about Appaloosa
CBS News Interview
8 September 2008


"Things that happened, let's say in the United States in the last eight years, maybe if they had to do it again, legislators and citizens, they may not have given up so many things," says the self-identified "proud American" with quiet insistence. "There have been incredible changes in a short period, just as there were then in Germany. If somebody said to you, 'Would you be willing to put up with all these changes to your rights and the legal system,' you'd say, 'Well, no.' But by having it happen little by little, it's like death by a thousand cuts. Pretty soon you're bleeding to death."

Viggo Mortensen's history lessons
By Michael Ordoña
LA Times
31 October 2008


"I believe in luck and in the thousands of ways attracting it. I can go into a Mosque, or into the San Isidoro of León Collegiate Church, and sit there until things happen. I love visiting temples, churches, places that are supposed to be sacred, and that includes a cinema or a theatre. Where there's acting, there's communion."

Mortensen Code
By Sol Alonso - translated by Remolina
November 2008
Source: Vanity Fair (Spain)


"When we put the frog in hot water, it will jump out of it; but if we put it in cold water and heat it up slowly, the frog will be cooked before it notices. This is what happens to Halder; and it could happen to all of us if we don't pay attention,"

Viggo Mortensen
17 December 2008

© Viggo-Works. Images © Chrissiejane. Used by permission.

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Iolanthe's Festive Quotable Viggo

Categories: Quotable Viggo

"'Tis the season to be jolly..." so for the last weekend before Christmas I've compiled some quotable quips - by and about Viggo - to put a smile on all our faces. They are all favourites of mine, many are new and some are old chestnuts that I've posted here before, but - hey - I like them so it's time to give them another festive outing.

'...there are some silly-genes in our family, that he benefits from.'

Aunt Tulle on Viggo interview
15 October 2008

Viggo Mortensen scrubbed up for the big night. The best-actor nominee (Eastern Promises) prepped by taking "my annual bath. It was an arduous process of refilling the tub many times."

Viggo on Oscar night
Donna Freydkin and William Keck
USA Today
25 February 2008

'...they're terrible at writing, but I look forward to seeing them soon.'

Viggo on his horses in New Zealand
'Ordinary guy' role a treat for Mortensen
By Russell Baillie
New Zealand Herald
March 18 2006

PA: If you were a flower, viggo, what kind would you be?

VM: Today, I'd be one of those spiky little red bottlebrush trees.

Interview with Patricia Arquette
Interview magazine, 1995

SC: I read somewhere that you had the best walk. What's that about?

VM: Really? (Laughs) I don't know. How do you they know? I guess people are standing behind you. Yeah ... watching me walk. What's a good walk? I stay in a straight line, I think. That's a good thing to aim for.

Leggo My Viggo
by Suzan Colon
Jane magazine 1999

'The one who is really happy about it is my mother.'

Viggo Mortensen on being told he is a sex-symol
"I'm permanently dissatisfied"
by Amelia Enríquez, Lecturas Magazine
30 August 2006
Translated for V-W by Margarita

"I dunno, maybe I'm channeling some barbaric ancestor or something."

Viggo Mortensen on his convincing performance in 'A History of Violence'
E online
22 Sept 2005

As we talk about his feelings after completing the final Lord of the Rings movie, Mortensen says that it can't get any bigger than this. "It's been a long journey, and nobody could have imagined its magnitude. And it will continue to be the greatest ever. As for myself, I look forward to totally ruling the world."

Talkin' To Me?
By Gunnar Rehlin
Scanorama magazine, 2004 Viggo Mortensen sits openly in the lobby of the Sutton Place, gently tickling the ivories of a baby grand piano....

His response to the question, "I didn't know you played:"

"I didn't either," followed by a loud, horsy laugh.

Viggo Mortensen plays piano at Sutton Place
Bruce Demara
8 September 2008

....."the fabulous, luscious..... William Hurt. The amazing, always surprising...... Ed Harris... The startling and scintillating..... Maria Bello. And finally, the really not too bad..... Viggo Mortensen!"

David Cronenberg introducing his cast at TIFF
Toronto International Film Festival

"I heard Lord of the Rings win their first one and I thought, 'Well, I can lie here in the dark like an idiot, or I can go out and be a man and sit in the kitchen and watch it with everybody else."

Viggo Mortensen on trying to avoid the Oscars at a friends house
David Letterman Show, 2004

Why, it's Aragorn Powers: International Middle-Earth Man of Mystery!

Comment on the Armani (?) Red Suit worn at the Copenhagen
Easrern Promises Premier
Life&style Magazine
October 2007

VM: Well, is there anything else? It's onerous to talk to me, I know.

DC: It's torment. I actually had to take some codeine pills before we

A Conversation Between David Cronenberg And Viggo Mortensen: The Interview
Transcribed by Patches
28 Sept 2007

"We both have such bad memories that neither of us could remember we had worked together," says Mr. Cronenberg. "It was only when I saw photographs that I realized."

Behind the banter, 'Eastern Promises' actor and director offer serious insights
By Chris Vognar, Dallas News
12 Sept 2007

In a pivotal scene in The Indian Runner, Sean Penn's first film as a director, a character named Frank Roberts suddenly attacks a bartender played by Dennis Hopper, who is cleaning blood off the bar. Is the blood symbolic of something that triggers the attack? "No," says Viggo Mortensen, who plays the violent Frank. "It was Dennis's breath."

Tough Guy
Eliza Krause
23 September 1991

"After this movie wraps, I'm thinking of going into goatherding, like my mother and her mother before her."

Viggo Mortensen on 'Prison'
Prison Press Kit Biography, 1988

© Images © Focus Features.

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Last edited: 23 June 2019 23:13:07