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Iolanthe's Quotabe Viggo

This week I thought I'd take an overdue look at Two Faces of January with a roundup of the comments and anecdotes I've been collecting since last February. Along the way we find out where Viggo's influences for the character came from, how he nearly set fire to Kirsten Dunst and the fate of the beautiful cream linen suit which, according to critic, Leigh Singer, no one can 'rock' quite like him.

After Viggo Mortensen committed to playing Chester MacFarland, Amini slightly tweaked his conception of the character. "Viggo looks heroic and there's an element of Gatsby in the character, which doesn't exist in the book so much," says the British-Iranian Amini. "I love that element of striking, handsome, charismatic men who are destined to be defeated somehow; Chester struck me as that sort of character, whereas in the book he is a little more wasted from the very beginning."

"The Two Faces of January" - Production Notes
February 2014

"Chester is kind of a slob, all sweaty and paranoid; he's crazy from the start, really."

Viggo Mortensen
Kirsten Dunst, Viggo Mortensen, Hossein Amini – The Two Faces of January
By Robyn Candyce
24 September 2014

How did you research to play Chester?

I was mainly interested in what kind of generation he was from. I spoke with my father's friends, men who came of age during the Great Depression and served in WWII, like Chester. And that informed how he'd wear his clothes, how he'd speak, his gestures and his attitude towards women. The one thing about these men that I found most interesting was that, even at their most downcast, their appearance was paramount. Every day, they ironed their shirts and smoothed their hair, no matter what.

Actor Viggo Mortensen
Vanessa Keys
Sunday Style Magazine
13 June 2014

"But there's another side, too. There was a certain intolerance of foreigners. And if you yourself had any kind of leanings or unusual interests — jazz, say — you could be a little suspect, too... It was interesting to look at all that, my father's generation, through a magnifying glass."

Viggo Mortensen on 'Two Faces of January,' LOTR and what his movies teach him
By Stephen Whitty
The Star-Ledger
21 September 2014

''s part of his con, the look, he wants to look like he came from money and all that. I don't think his origins are those clothes that you see.'

Viggo Mortensen on "Lord of the Rings" — and playing an American at last
By Andrew O'Hehir
24 September 2014

"I liked that suit because it's a great suit. It's an additional character in the story. It has its own transformation. By the time we get to the end of the movie the suit has its wrinkles, it's a little torn, a little soiled and it ends up in the dark and rain in Istanbul."

Viggo Mortensen talks The Two Faces Of January, singing with Fassbender and throwing a nappy at Al Pacino
by Tom Ward
16 May 2014

"[As an actor], you lie as well as you can, that's what you're paid to do. And in this case I'm lying about a guy who's lying about being this person who's lying about being another person. It's kind of like a hall of mirrors. Instead of looking in one mirror and trying to be that person as an actor, it's a whole series of mirrors. It's fun."

Viggo Mortensen
The many faces of Viggo Mortensen
By Karl Quinn
Sydney Morning Herald
5 June 2014

"Everybody's got their secrets; even the nicest, calmest nun has got the possibility to think strange things or have resentments. All these characters have their secret desires and resentments, and their own sense of morality. Chester's just an opportunist. No one's purely good or purely bad in this story."

Viggo Mortensen
"The Two Faces of January" - Production Notes
February 2014

'The people have these beautiful clothes and these idealized lives. You wish you could be them. And then it starts to descend rapidly. You go down this crazy wormhole. It gets darker as you descend. And by the end, you go from the sunny hilltop and this happy life to this sad life in the gutter, in the rain on some nameless street in Istanbul.'

Viggo Mortensen explains rooting for the bad guy in 'The Two Faces of January'
By Chris Lee
Entertainment Weekly
26 September 2014 matter how badly they behave you're on their side somehow. You don't want the cops to catch them."

Berlinale Press Conference
11 February 2014

"It was kind of fun to speak with an atrocious accent. He's speaking in a muddle of Greek and Italian; that was sort of a funny little touch."

Viggo Mortensen
The many faces of Viggo Mortensen
By Karl Quinn
Sydney Morning Herald
5 June 1014

That one shot when you focus on Viggo gripping the bed frame, was that inspired by Nicolas Winding Refn?

It wasn't really. That was something that Viggo did at the time. I found with the actors, with Oscar as well, the scene I have in the ferry when the two of them are staring at each other, I could see them working themselves up into moods and I'd always thought as a director you go in and tell them what you want. Sometimes I learned that it was best to stay away and see what they were going to try to do. That bedroom scene, things where he's squeezing the bed frame and also when he's ruffling the sheets and smelled his fingers, that was all really Viggo. We let the camera roll and watched him and then decided where to put the camera afterwards. There were days where it was much more discussion and whatever, but other days they're such great actors I think just watching what they come up with was really fascinating.

[I]Hossein Amini
The Two Faces of January: Hossein Amini on Adapting Patricia Highsmith
By Fred Topel
Crave Online
28 January 2014[/I]

Can you talk about that very fateful moment in the cave, or would you prefer not to spoil it.

KD: Well, Viggo had to illuminate that scene with a lighter, and he was holding it and he burnt me and he was wailing and being emotional, and I couldn't say anything. The light was out was out but it was still so hot. I think I still have a scar. I didn't want to mess with Viggo.

VM: Scarred her for life.

Kirsten Dunst & Viggo Mortensen Talk Bonding On Set, Paparazzi, & 'The Two Faces of January'
by Hillary Weston
Black Book
1 October 2014

"(Viggo's) such a goofball, that's what I was most excited about, he's very funny and just likes having a good time."

Oscar Isaac
London Premier Interview
Press Association
14 May 2014

"One of the first things we did, where it still had to be kind of neat and tidy, we were filming in a bus that travels around Crete," he said. "It was a vintage bus, a 1959 Mercedes bus, and the seats were red leather, beautiful seats. But it was so hot, and we were sweating so much that when I stood up, all the dye from the seats got on it, so I had this big red ass."

Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst Experienced the Downside of Wearing Vintage Costumes in The Two Faces of January
By Bennett Marcus
Vanity Fair
17 September 2014

You will find all previous Quotables

© Viggo-Works/Iolanthe. Images © StudioCanal.

Iolanthe's Quotable Viggo

With all the recent festivals, more movie critics have been commenting on Viggo's performances in Jauja and The Two Faces of January since I last highlighted them in June. Time for another round-up of reviews!


...superb performance at the physical boundaries of acting.

Venniale Tribute publicity
August 2014

Anchored by a rumpled, naturalistic performance by the great Viggo Mortensen—who also produces, contributes guitar compositions to the score, and gets to speak in his native Danish—Jauja is a beguiling little head-scratcher.

Angelo Muredda
5 September 2014

"Jauja" will not appeal to everyone. But those willing to play by Alonso's rules will be treated to a gripping introverted turn from Viggo Mortensen and some truly fantastical imagery.

By David Salazar
Latin Post
27 September 2014

At the beginning... there is something intriguing enough in this story of a Danish military engineer pursuing his love-struck fifteen-year-old daughter, running away across Patagonia in the 19th century, while in the background a genocide of indigenous people is going on. Especially when the possessive and vengeful father has the unyielding face of Viggo Mortensen, as mysterious here as the Sphinx.

Jauja: Viggo Mortensen Lost in Patagonia
By Eric Vernay - translated by Donna Marie
Premiere (France)
19 May 2014

Sweating in layers of bulky long johns, and sporting a droopy, weeping mustache, Mortensen carries the film, his human grumbling and surprised, rageful violence conveying the sense of a nervous, basically average man caught on a journey into his own heart of darkness. Increasingly, as the other characters drop away, Mortensen has nothing to play against but nature and himself.

Mark Asch
Brooklyn Magazine
7 October 2014

The intensity of Mortensen's performance stands in sharp contrast to the non-professional actors Alonso previously cast as leads. Alonso's earlier protagonists spoke as little as possible and largely existed on screen as unknowable, primal mysteries, but Mortensen gets to shade in his part...
...Despite the lack of vanity in Mortensen's résumé, it's still surprising to see him in a mostly silent performance roaming the Argentinian wilderness, and it's equally fascinating to see how the pressures of this low-budget, minimally crewed shoot in remote locations gradually manifest in the actor's increasingly fraught performance.

Jake Cole
20 September 2014

Two Faces of January

If it's almost impossible to feel sympathy or compassion for Chester, who does unforgivable things, Mortensen accomplishes the difficult task of compelling you to respect him, even in failure and defeat.

Viggo Mortensen on "Lord of the Rings" — and playing an American at last
By Andrew O'Hehir
24 September 2014

Mortensen has always seemed to be an underutilized chameleon in film despite acclaimed and recognized performances in "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy and Eastern Promises. As Chester, he lavishes in a new type of slimy demeanor that stands out as one of the actors most dynamic. He enjoys the aura and demeanor of Chester, unrelenting and unwilling to compromise on an escape but driven by jealousy and rage, Mortensen displays some of his most authentic and creative ticks.

Clayton Davis
Awards Circuit
29 August 2014

Mortensen's elegant-until-cornered Chester is a layered character with quite a moral range, from nefarious swindler to a man able to make a grand redemptive gesture. He cuts an ugly but human figure vis-a-vis Rydal's petty con man. But as Chester points out, it's only a matter of time before the younger man turns into him.

Deborah Young
Courier Post
3 October 2014

Viggo Mortensen is excellent playing a drunk who's spinning out of control, and it's unlike anything I've seen him do before.

Neil Rosen
NY1 Movie
4 September 2014

Mortensen flexing his knuckles and jaw in ways that insinuate the ruthless steeliness beneath the pressed-suit sophistication...

Mike McCahill
Movie Mail
25 July 2014

Mortensen can transition from rakish to villainous with the slightest facial expression...

Stephanie Merry
Washington Post
3 October 2014

You will find all previous Quotables

© Viggo-Works/Iolanthe. Images © Guadalupe Gaona/4L Producitons.

Interview with The Two Faces of January Star Viggo Mortensen

Source: Barnes & Noble.
Found By: Chrissie
Thanks again to Chrissie for this wonderful interview with Viggo at Barnes & Noble.
UK Poster
UK Poster.
© StudioCanal.
by Molly Schoemann-McCann

Not only is actor Viggo Mortensen starring in the highly anticipated film adaptation of author Patricia Highsmith's novel The Two Faces of January, but he's also a self-proclaimed book-hoarder—who's not afraid to write in the margins. We sat down with Mr. Mortensen to talk about books, movies, and everything in between. Below is our conversation, slightly abridged.

MS: Where do you think your love of reading came from?

VM: I always read as a little boy. I just did a movie called Loin des hommes, which means Far From Men, which has just come out, it was in at the Toronto Film Festival, based on an Albert Camus short story. And he's someone who was inspired by a particular grade school teacher whom he acknowledged and thanked and praised in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech. And for me, too, there were a couple teachers I remember having when I was really little, who encouraged me to read and to be into mythology and literature at the same time. That was important. It's always been one of the great pleasures. I love books. I also love the feeling, the tactile aspect of books—their smell…and I like writing in the margins, which horrifies some people.

We have a debate on our blog about that.

I wouldn't do it in a library book, certainly, and I wouldn't do it in a book that I borrowed from somebody. But my own books, I don't mind doing it. The only books—there are some really old collectible books that I've either been given or that I've found, and those I haven't. I've made notes aside. But it's fun to pull a book off the shelf and open it and find notes I made maybe twenty years ago. It's interesting, it tells me where I was at then. Of course I could do it in notebooks, but it's fun. There's something about the immediacy of the note and the underlining of the phrase, and maybe there's a little stain, a tea stain or something. There's something alive about the tangible book, as opposed to the fantastic world of digital reading that you can do now. I like them. And I am a publisher also, Perceval Press, and I like making books. I like getting it right, as far as the vision of the author. It's much easier to edit and work on someone else's book than my own. In a sense, I think that's what directors do when they work properly with actors. You're helping people solve problems and trying to get the most, the best out of them.

What's your favorite part of publishing other people's books and photographs?

I'm there at the printer's for every book, and I like to make sure (especially when it's photographs or artwork reproductions) the colors and contrast and everything is right. I've never sold the company, as often happens with smaller presses that do have some success, and they sell to bigger companies. But I like to be hands on, which means selecting the paper and the font and everything else.

So you're running a publishing company. How do you find time to read and write on your own?

It takes away from that, but what takes away from it the most is the movie business. I do read a lot in connection; my reading is guided a lot of times by what I'm doing. And I like that—I like that it takes me off the beaten track to read certain biographies or histories or subject matter that I wouldn't normally take an interest in. And all of a sudden I'm reading a whole bunch on psychoanalysis or a certain historical period or a certain country or part of the world, and I think that's interesting. But it does take time to do the movies, and then once you're shooting you don't read as much as you'd like, and when you're promoting, hardly at all, because you kind of use up your energy and time. But it's an okay trade-off because movies can be a very complete universe as far as art is concerned—writing, photography, music, dance in some cases, fashion, sculpture in a sense. It's pretty all-inclusive.

Do you consider yourself a book hoarder?

I am. It's terrible. I take too many books with me everywhere. I often, well, definitely when I'm shooting a movie, end up sending boxes home because they won't fit in my suitcase, books that I pick up or find. And the longer the shoot, the more I accumulate. Like during The Lord of the Rings, which was a very long shoot, we were there a year and a half, I found tons of books—also because we traveled around a lot. I would go into lots of old secondhand book stores in little towns and everywhere. I found incredible things in New Zealand. But yeah, I am a book hoarder. I have a lot of books. I do love giving away books that I love, though, so that's a fun thing.

As an actor, do you like watching movies? Or is it hard to get into it?

No, I do like watching movies. Like the movies I'm in?

Any movies.

Yeah, I look at it as entertainment, as I imagine you do. Or as an audience member, if it's an adaptation of a book, or does it resemble something else, or is it in line of what genre, you know. I judge it—try to—on it's own merits. And I do, since it is my profession, I will watch how the actors do their work. If they seem like they're really listening to the other characters. The best thing is when you're just sort of engaged. That means someone's doing their job in a seamless way, the same way you don't really pay much attention to the music but later you realize you like the score. You'd have to hear it again just to remember all of it because it was so part of the story.

Is there something in particular that you look for in a book that makes you interested in being in its adaptation?

I do like stories where men—men or women—are pitted against nature or the natural environment, I find that interesting, and I've been in movies like that. But if it's a good story or if it's something that challenges your preconceived ideas about the world or about human nature, I think that's always not only a worthwhile read but could be a good movie. Making you stop and question most things that you take for granted is always good—doesn't always happen, but every once in a while a story will do that.

Can you tell us about a book you've read over the last year or two that you really enjoyed?

Many. I often go back and reread books I've liked. As regards relatively new ones, I really learned a lot from reading Michel Onfray's biographical study of Albert Camus as philosopher and activist, L'ordre Libertaire. This book rights many wrongs done to Camus by people like Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, among other French intelligentsia figures on the left who have consistently misrepresented his political positions and activism—not to mention lying shamelessly about their own contributions to the Resistance during World War II as well as their postwar contributions to left-wing activism. On a sociocultural level, it is as important a book about post-war Europe as Stefan Zweig's The World of Yesterday is with respect to early twentieth-century Europe.

What (if any) advice would you offer to someone who is not a fan of reading?

Read a book, a comic book, a poem, an old letter, a recipe, anything. Just do it. Listen to books on tape/CD/your computer device. Take in the words, try to consider a point of view different from your own. Just do it.

As a writer, do you ever find yourself looking at film scripts with a writer's eye and thinking of different ways you might have approached them?

Sure, although I try to give the script a chance to work on its own terms, taking in and considering its ideas and character depictions, before thinking of anything I might have written differently.

Is there a type of book that you'd probably NOT be interested in being in a film adaptation of?

Probably the majority of books would not make riveting movies. It all depends on your gift for envisioning an adaptation. Few can do what Hossein Amini did with Patricia Highsmith's fairly routine thriller The Two Faces of January. Hossein is a master at adapting the work of other writers. His screenplay version of Highsmith's novel is superior to the original in terms of character depictions, pace, structure, tone, and dramatic tension—an improvement in almost every way imaginable.

What do you think is the mark of a good/successful film adaptation? What do you think is the goal of a film adaptation?

To tell a good story that leaves people asking themselves questions and reconsidering their own lives when they leave the movie theater.

You have also starred in film remakes, particularly of Hitchcock movies—do you take a different approach to starring in a film remake rather than a new film or adaptation?

No. The work is always the same, generally speaking. Find a way to present a point of view specific to the character and contribute to telling the overall story in any way possible—that's always the goal.

Do you feel that starring in film adaptations is a way to bring increased recognition to books that deserve a wider readership?

Sure, when it's well done, as was the case with Highsmith's The Two Faces of January and Cormac McCarthy's The Road, to name two book adaptations I've been involved with.

If you start reading a book and you're not that into it, do you put it down and start another book, or do you make yourself finish it?

I am fairly stubborn about finishing books, even mediocre ones, just as I am about watching movies right to the end. I do often have two or more books going simultaneously, though.

© Banres & Noble. Images © StudioCanal.

SHORT NOTICE: Jauja and TFoJ Screening at the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) Today and Next Week

Source: VIFF.
Found By: Sherry
jauja_poster.jpg UK Poster

Our thanks to Sherry for the heads up.

Both Jauja and The Two Faces of January are screening at VIFF today (10-4) and again next week. To get the details go to offical VIFF website.

Jauja Screening : 10-4 and 10-19

TFoJ Screening: 10-4 and 10-7

Images © 4L Productions/StudioCanal.

Nice Images from the TFoJ Premiere: Sep 18

Images © Zimbio/Getty.

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Last edited: 18 March 2023 05:00:24