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Iolanthe's Quotable Viggo


Found By: Iolanthe

This week I thought we’d take a look back to On The Road and Viggo’s memorable cameo as Old Bull Lee, based on writer William Burroughs. Although a small part, Viggo brought all his usual thorough research to the role, channeling Burroughs crazy energy and ‘sepulchral growl’, much to the delight of the film critics.





Viggo Back "On The Road," But With an Upgrade on the Shopping Cart.

Headline announcing Viggo’s participation in ‘On the Road’
Bryan Alexander
NBCWashington.com
5 August 2010




Mortensen’s performance has the genuine, and ferocious, frisson of inhabitation that the biopic demands: alternately gun-crazy, butt naked and sharply observant.

Sophie Mayer
BFI
12 October 2012




When Walter Salles offered me the role of Old Bull Lee, I was finishing shooting A Dangerous Method with David Cronenberg, and I told him, "I don't think I can prepare myself for the role in time." But I had also gained weight for the other film and Walter told me, "I think you can. It's one version; you can look any way you want. I want you in the film for your ideas and for the way you approach your work." And I'm glad I did it.

Viggo Mortensen: "I think I've learned from my mistakes"
By Gloria Scola - translated by Ollie, Rio and Zoe
Tiempo
30 April 2013




“Burroughs was admired by other writers for his unique learning, knowledge of drugs and anarchist thinking. I remain fascinated by his sensitivity and the new forms of syntax and grammar that he experimented with. To get closer to the character, I studied the way he pronounced certain words, the rhythm, the voice affected by drugs and age."

Viggo Mortensen: "Do I look sexy?"
By Simona Coppa - translated by Ollie
Grazia
9 October 2012




In a brilliant cameo, Mortensen gets Burroughs's flat, wry voice exactly right as he denounces Moriarty as psychotic, exposes how the English translation of Voyage au bout de la nuit bowdlerises Céline's original, and hilariously demonstrates his version of Wilhelm Reich's ludicrous, once fashionable orgone boxes for the control of psychic energy.

Philip French
The Observer
14 October 2012




What did you think of the Beat Generation before the film? Had you already read the book?

"Yes, in the '70s, when I was 17-18 years old and living in America, on the border with Canada. On the Road was an initiation book for many adolescents of my generation, even for me.

Viggo Mortensen: "Do I look sexy?"
By Simona Coppa - translated by Ollie
Grazia
9 October 2012




“Salles could have made the classic iconographic film, a harmless postcard. Instead, he chose to represent even the darkest side of the journey, the drugs, car racing at full speed, the smoking, the sleepless nights. The director brings to the screen the desire to break the mold and the rules, to go beyond the limit that has inspired generations of young rebels, but also highlights the painful consequences."

Viggo Mortensen: "Do I look sexy?"
By Simona Coppa - translated by Ollie
Grazia
9 October 2012




For many people, this novel was deemed unfit for filming. Did you ever have similar qualms?

I never thought this novel unfit for filming, yet it was obviously no easy task. But after reading the script, my concerns were easily resolved. The movie takes over the novel's best elements, stays true to the characters and besides focuses on the women, which for me is a true improvement compared to the original.

"Nostalgia strikes me as being dangerous"
By Dieter Oßwald - translated by Athelin
Frankfurter Neue Presse
1 October 2012




Viggo Mortensen, priceless in Old Bull Lee / William Burroughs, highly intelligent and completely smoky.

Norbert Creutz
Le Temps
26 May 2012




It was such a crazy experience. There were things that were not in the script and you were asked to do on the day, like improvising with Viggo Mortensen, which is quite crazy. He’s a very cerebral man. He turned up with these beautiful old antique books from the time, like Baudelaire, and things that his character would have had. He had a bag of goodies that he brought with him and a hat, a tie and a shoulder holster. I thought, ‘this guy is f**king cool.’ I was quite intimidated.

Sam Riley
Sullivan on Cinema: Sam Riley
By Chris Sullivan
Redbull.com
9 June 2011




…I would love to see a whole movie about Old Bull Lee, played by Viggo Mortensen….

Drew McWeeny
HitFix
23 May 2012




"I re-read the book for the film and became aware of how very relevant it is for today's world. Today too you can sense a sort of rejection of the economic crisis and the authorities on the part of young people. It was thus a very opportune moment to release the film."

Viggo Mortensen, Cannes Press Conference
23 May 2012




"The movie is disturbing at times. It's very pretty, and the more you get into it and let it carry you away, the more you enjoy it. When I saw it, I was just caught up in it. I let it carry me away as if it were a song."

Viggo Mortensen: "I think I've learned from my mistakes"
By Gloria Scola - translated by Ollie, Rio and Zoe
Tiempo
30 April 2013




You will find all previous Quotables here.

© Viggo-Works/Iolanthe. Images © MK2 Productions.

Iolanthe's Quotable Viggo



In 2012 Viggo played the small cameo part of 'Old Bull Lee' in On The Road but made a HUGE impact. Reading through the reviews recently I was struck again by how completely he inhabited the part and how much the critics loved his voice and every 'completely smoky' moment. While I'm sure Viggo would be horrified at the idea of 'stealing the show', we can enjoy the recognition of his work here.





…spare attention too for Viggo Mortensen. He gets two minutes in which to draw a spot-on caricature of William Burroughs.

Nigel Andrews
Financial Times
26 May 2012




In a brilliant cameo, Mortensen gets Burroughs's flat, wry voice exactly right as he denounces Moriarty as psychotic, exposes how the English translation of Voyage au bout de la nuit bowdlerises Céline's original, and hilariously demonstrates his version of Wilhelm Reich's ludicrous, once fashionable orgone boxes for the control of psychic energy.

Philip French
The Observer
14 October 2012




Show-stealer Viggo Mortensen channels William Burroughs with relish.

Tara Brady
The Irish Times
12 October 2012




Viggo Mortensen, priceless in Old Bull Lee / William Burroughs, highly intelligent and completely smoky.

Norbert Creutz
Le Temps
26 May 2012




Of those men, all the Beat icons, only Viggo Mortensen's William Burroughs makes a strong impression, albeit only fleetingly in a brief cameo. Unlike the others, Burroughs is a stay-at-home fellow at this point, but what a home (a crumbling abode in the Louisiana bayou) and what a fellow (by turns brilliantly incisive and demonstrably unhinged). Again, the balance inadvertently shifts – we'd rather forego the highway to stick with William and his William Tell act.

Rick Groen
Globe and Mail
18 January 2013




Mortensen's performance has the genuine, and ferocious, frisson of inhabitation that the biopic demands: alternately gun-crazy, butt naked and sharply observant.

Sophie Mayer
BFI
12 October 2012




Viggo Mortensen's Old Bull Lee is perfect in his grizzly, strung-out-on-heroin brand of isolation.

Julien Hawthorne
Colombia Spectator
13 January 2013




Viggo Mortensen… does an uncanny job of reproducing Burroughs' well-known voice, while capturing the whole of the character as well as (or better than) Peter Weller in "Naked Lunch." Very little of the book's humor comes across on screen, and Mortensen manages to provide what little there is.

Andy Klein
Glendale News
5 January 2013




… Viggo Mortensen amusingly nails William Burroughs' dry, paint-chip voice in the role of Old Bull Lee, a Burroughs-esque junkie already deep into violence and paranoia.

Owen Gleiberman's
Entertainment Weekly
23 May 2012




Viggo Mortensen makes things jump with his sepulchral growl as Old Bull Lee (William S. Burroughs)

Manohla Dargis
The New York Times
23 May 2012




One could watch an entire movie of Viggo Mortensen playing Bull, a sharp-dressed heroin addict who nods off with his child in his arms and strips off his clothes to get in an orgone accumulator he built in his backyard.

Jenni Miller
Hollywood.com
10 December 2012




Mortensen steals the show with a perfect Bill Burroughs drawl....

Jonathan Romney
The Independent
14 October 2012




…Viggo Mortensen is purely glorious playing a thinly-veiled William Burroughs, the trio's wise but wonky mentor.

Xan Brooks
The Guardian
23 May 2012



You will find all previous Quotables
here.


© Viggo-Works/Iolanthe. Images © Gregory Smith/MK2 Productions.

Iolanthe's Quotable Viggo



Viggo has appeared in rather a lot of literary adaptions (not surprising for a man who reads and reads and reads...) – A Portrait of a Lady, The Lord of the Rings, Alatriste, Appaloosa, The Road, On the Road, Two Faces of January and Loin Des Hommes - and it's always clear how important the text is to him and that the script honours the book and the author's vision. Sometimes the book has been familiar to him for a long time, sometimes the script has introduced him to the book. Either way it's important that it's a good adaption and you can bet that in every case a copy of the book is always with him, sprouting post-it notes from nearly every page.





Loin des Hommes

Q. Was the Camus story a strong influence on how you conceived of your character?

A. Both David and I referenced the story as much as possible. I have always admired Camus and thought he didn't get a fair deal from the left in France. History has proven him right; he spoke truth to power and paid a heavy price for it. He thought people should find a way to live together, whatever their differences of skin color or language. I think the character in the story in many ways represents who Camus might have become if he had stayed in Algeria.

Q&A: Viggo Mortensen and David Oelhoffen on 'Loin Des Hommes'
By Roslyn Silcas
New York Times
26 August 2014




Two Faces of January


Mortensen appears to be a fine connoisseur of the novelist and her work. He admitted he liked her short stories "even the ones that are a page and a quarter and you go 'oh come on' like the collection 'Little Tales of Misogyny'".

The American Friend, Strangers on a Train and The Talented Mr. Ripley also made the cut but he prefers the approach in The Two Faces of January, a "more graceful" one.

Berlin: Viggo Mortensen knows his Patricia Highsmith
By Tara Karajica
Screen Daily.
12 February 2014




On the Road


"...in the '70s, when I was 17-18 years old and living in America, on the border with Canada. On the Road was an initiation book for many adolescents of my generation, even for me. Much later, I discovered other writers such as Allen Ginsberg, Céline, Rimbaud, Camus ... But I find that Burroughs was the most original, an outsider, a pioneer of the language."

Viggo talking about 'On the Road'
Viggo Mortensen: "Do I look sexy?"
By Simona Coppa - translated by Ollie
Grazia
9 October 2012




I read this novel for the first time as a teenager, and since then three times as a whole and often in parts. I've read everything that was published by Kerouac, Burroughs and Ginsberg. In preparation of the movie, I listened to all available voice recordings of Burroughs... among them were also talks between him and Cronenberg concerning the filming of Naked Lunch.

Viggo talking about 'On the Road'
Viggo Mortensen
"Nostalgia strikes me as being dangerous"
By Dieter Oßwald - translated by Athelin
Frankfurter Neue Presse
1 October 2012




For many people, this novel was deemed unfit for filming. Did you ever have similar qualms?

Viggo:
I never thought this novel unfit for filming, yet it was obviously no easy task. But after reading the script, my concerns were easily resolved. The movie takes over the novel's best elements, stays true to the characters and besides focuses on the women, which for me is a true improvement compared to the original.

Viggo talking about 'On the Road'
"Nostalgia strikes me as being dangerous"
By Dieter Oßwald - translated by Athelin
Frankfurter Neue Presse
1 October 2012




The Road


Viggo did you come to the film from reading the book or the actual script?

I'm a big fan of Cormac McCarthy, I had read all of his books except The Road. The Road came out with great fanfare and went on to become his most far reaching universally appealing work because it's more straight ahead, it's easily understood, the dilemmas are understood by any culture. I hadn't gotten around to reading it just out of shear stubbornness because everyone kept telling me how great it was. I was meaning to read it. I had seen it wherever I went, in airports and so forth and I just hadn't read it. But then I read the script which I thought was a great script, a great story. I realised it was quite an honour to be offered this role. After reading the script I ran to the store to buy The Road and read it all

Viggo Mortensen at the BFI London Film Festival
Flicks and Bits
30 October 2009




What did you learn from your discussion with the book's author, Cormac McCarthy?


I talked to him one long time before shooting on the phone. We basically talked about his kid and my kid and being dads. I had tons of notes and questions to ask him. I was ready to pick his brain. At the end of the conversation, he asked me, "Do you have any specific questions about the book?" I had 50,000 post-it notes in the book and not one but two pens in case it ran out of ink. I mean I was ready. But I said "Nah, I don't really" because I realized the conversation we had was all I need to get going. His book and his words are so heartfelt and so free of any gimmickry. He just transcends cultures and languages.

Viggo on The Road
By Cindy Pearlman
Chicago Sun Times
22 November 2009




"…the book was my constant companion. It's pretty well-worn. The interior life of the characters are so beautifully written, so poetic that it was what I kept going back to. But this movie is about man's humanity, this flower that blooms in a desert between two people."

After "The Road" Viggo Mortensen Looks on the Bright Side: "You Could Always Be Dead"
By Jeffrey Podolsky
Wall Street Journal
17 November 2009




After the movie, Viggo came back up on the stage and answered a few questions. When put on the spot to add on a final word he thought for a second then dug into his bag and brought out his personal copy of THE ROAD. There were what looked like a hundred stick-it notes marking different pages and the spine was cracked and worn. It's obviously seen a lot of use.

To close the event he read a bit from McCarthy's description of the sea-area landscape. That was pretty cool…

Quint at the Telluride Viggo Mortensen tribute
Ain't it Cool News
8 September 2008




Appaloosa

Ed Harris read Appaloosa while you guys were still working on A History of Violence. Then you read the book after that, right?


Mortensen:
When A History Of Violence was presented here at the Toronto Film Festival, he was here to do interviews, just like I was for that movie. He handed me this book and in his kind of quiet way said, "Here's this book. You might like it. It could make a good movie." He wasn't very forward about it but that was sort of a big step, I thought. It must mean something, being that he's such a good actor. And he did a great job directing Appaloosa. I thought that it was intriguing. I knew that was what he was driving at - that he wanted to direct this movie.

So you kind of committed to him based on the book?


Mortensen:
The book, yeah. He hadn't written [the screenplay] yet.

Interview With Appaloosa Star Viggo Mortensen
Reelz Channel
3 October 2008




Alatriste

While the texts that this film is adapted from are widely known in the Hispanic world, in the United States they haven't had such a similar recognition. Assuming that fact, how did the opportunity to take part in this production fall into your hands?

I didn't know Arturo Pérez-Reverte's novels. Long ago, I had worked in Spain with Ray Loriga, in My Brother's Gun. One day, Ray told me he was going to be in Berlin, where I was promoting Peter Jackson's The Return of the King. Loriga went with a friend, Tano (Agustín Díaz Yanes), who brought a script that he gave me to read. I liked the plot as a tale, as a story. And it captivated me. So I decided to do it, against everyone and against everything.

The Filming of Alatriste - Viggo Mortensen Interview
By Jesús Martin - translated by Paddy
Acción
July 2006




'When I read the books which the movie is based on, I liked them so much: they told me an interesting and complicated story. The character too is more complicated than my previous ones. For this reason the movie can even catch the viewers unprepared: they expect a lot of action in imperial Spain, and they find themselves deeply lost in events full of shadows.'

Viggo, a movie star forced to fight - "Heroism? It's only propaganda..."
By Claudia Morgoglione - translated by Cindalea
Repubblica
18 June 2007




Lord of the Rings


Basically, I got a call: "Do you want to go to New Zealand for fourteen months to film The Lord of the Rings?" Just, you know, this famous epic trilogy! And my first reaction was "No!" Obviously I'd heard of Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings, but I hadn't read the book, and I certainly hadn't read the script; I usually like to have a lot more time to prepare for a major role; and I really didn't want to be away from my family for that long. I have to say, it didn't sound like a very wise move to me at all!

My son said I was crazy and that I had to do it, even if I was going to be gone a long time. So there I am on the plane for New Zealand, reading that enormous, telephone directory-sized book and then the scripts, and a couple of days later I'm filming. I continued to feel unprepared, but at least I didn't have much time to get nervous, which was probably good!

Viggo Mortensen
Official Movie Guide




Were you a J.R.R. Tolkien fan before the film "The Fellowship of the Ring?"


VIGGO: No. I'd heard of Tolkien and Hobbits and "Lord of the Rings." But I didn't know much about it. l assumed it was about elves and dwarves, maybe fairy tales. When I got the job, I started reading the book immediately so I knew what we were dealing with on film. ... I recognized themes from lots of other cultures, Samurai, Native American myths, not just European fairy tale -- the idea of a heroic journey, characters being tested.

Viggo on locusts, life and kissing Liv Tyler
By Molly Woulfe
Northwest Indiana Times thetimesonline.com
3 August 2004




"While Peter obviously cares a great deal for Tolkien's writing-otherwise he wouldn't have given so much of his life to it-what seems to have drawn him most as a filmmaker was the pure adventure aspect of the tale. The heroic sacrifice of individuals for the common good. All the breathtaking sequences-he really poured himself into those. The more I explored Tolkien, the more I felt I had two bosses: Tolkien and Peter Jackson. I tried my best to be loyal to both of them."

Viggo Mortensen
We Were All On an Epic Journey
by Jeff Giles
Newsweek magazine, 2001



You will find all previous Quotables here.

© Viggo-Works/Iolanthe. Images © MK2 Productions.

Iolanthe's Quotable Viggo



Last Week Kirsten Dunst observed how funny Viggo is and suggested he should do a comedy. I'm sure we all inwardly agreed because we know just how much humour he can inject into seemingly serious roles - those which sometimes call for light touches of irony or telling looks. As he said to Dominical in 2006, he often slips irony into his roles and certainly found the funny side of Freud. He may have never played in a comedy, but he does play comedy, from Hitch's constant vocabulary suggestions, to his take on Burroughs in On the Road and Freud's drier than dry observations.




"He's surprisingly hilarious. The first time I met him, he was reserved. It was in an elevator. I was like, 'Hi.' He was like, 'Oh, hi.' I learned later he was very shy. So I was nervous, even a little scared, to work with him. I thought, 'This is going to be intense.' Then I got the whole other side, which I don't think many people know. He should do comedy, I've told him that... I'm sure he wouldn't be happy with people knowing how funny he is."

Kirsten Dunst
By Ajesh Patalay
Harper's Bazaar
May 2014




'I've never been offered comedy and don't know why. But sometimes I subtly slip ironic touches into my roles.'

Viggo Mortensen
A Multi-talented Hero
Dominical, by J. A. - translated for V-W by NacidaLibre
27 August 2006




Cleverly, the actor likes to slip a bit of that absurdity into his characters, whether they are On the Road´s Old Bull Lee or the methodical killer from A History of Violence. "For me, in all serious films, there are moments of humour." In that case, wouldn´t you like to play in a comedy? "I don´t think they would consider me for those kind of roles," says Viggo, almost regretfully. "I don´t know why, but they´ve never given me the chance."

Lost in La Pampa
By Pierre Boisson - translated by Ollie
So Film #10 (France
May 2013




In a brilliant cameo, Mortensen gets Burroughs's flat, wry voice exactly right as he denounces Moriarty as psychotic, exposes how the English translation of Voyage au bout de la nuit bowdlerises Céline's original, and hilariously demonstrates his version of Wilhelm Reich's ludicrous, once fashionable orgone boxes for the control of psychic energy.

Philip French
The Observer
14 October 2012




Even though the Beats were expert at perpetuating their own PR (so much of their work is about how great they all are) they were, you know, just guys. Young guys who thought they knew a lot more about life than they actually did. (That is, except for the spaced-out sage William Burroughs, played for marvelous laughs in quick scenes by Viggo Mortensen).

Jordan Hoffman
Film.com
7 September 2012




'I wanted to show another Freud, not the strict looking grandfather we all know, but someone in his fifties who, it's said, was handsome, funny and charismatic. How was I not to think of Viggo?'

David Cronenberg: "Nunca he ido a terapia, pero me parece una situación fascinante"
Rafa Vidiella
20minutos.es
3 November 2011




'I realized from the research is that [Freud] was very funny. He doesn't crack jokes in an obvious way, but he found a way to slip that wit and that irony into things, and in some sense, I guess that character is the comic relief in the movie. The humor helped make Freud feel like not such an impossible task to play…'

Viggo Mortensen Wants the Oscars to Start Noticing David Cronenbe
By Kyle Buchanan
New York Magazine
22 November 2011




I have no idea what Freud was like in real life, so I have no idea how well Viggo plays the Freud, but he gives the character a smug electricity that makes every moment he's on camera pop. He's quite funny too, in a droll and sarcastic sort of way, savoring Freud's many witticisms. This is a Viggo you don't think of when you think of Viggo.

Joshua Miller
Chud.com
21 October 2011




'Viggo and I tried to find the comedy in it, as much as possible. That was fun. I've always been a massive fan of him. He's an impressive human being.'

Michael Fassbender
Michael Fassbender Explores A Dangerous Method with Movie Fanatic
by Joel D Amos
Moviefanatic.com
25 November 2011




'Viggo Mortensen is an absolute joy really, he has his work very methodically put together, he's very precise. But he's also got a great sense of humour, we had a lot of fun, a lot of fun doing our scene's together. The more we did the more fun we had (laughs). It's important as well I think when you're dealing with very heavy material and serious material, that you keep a lightness in-between takes. So when you come to the scene a bit more loose and a bit more relaxed. That helps you find the little nuances within it.'

Michael Fassbender
Michael Fassbender Interview For David Cronenberg's 'A Dangerous Method'
Flicks and Bits
21 November 2011




As an admitted Viggo fanatic, it was nice to see Mortensen play second fiddle in Appaloosa. Ed Harris is Marshal Virgil Cole and Mortensen is his trusted friend and fellow gunmen Everett Hitch. The way the actors play off one another is hilarious, with Mortensen's Hitch continually assisting his partner's attempts at reading any word longer than two syllables.

Most under-appreciated performances list
Brian Zitzelman
Seattle Movie Examiner
December 2008




Mortensen is funnier than we tend to remember, and he successfully pulls of Everett's jealousy about Virgil and Allie's relationship without pushing it into homoeroticism or farce.

Katey Rich
Cinema Blend
18 September 2008




….a perfect, dryly comic Viggo Mortensen.

Tom Hall reviewing Appaloosa
The Back Row Manifesto
6 September 2008




"Good luck talking someone into that: ' History of Violence , The Road – that guy? Forget it.'"

Viggo after the interviewer suggests a comedy
On the Road, signs of the apocalypse hit home
Johanna Schneller
Globe and Mail
27 November 2009




You will find all previous Quotables here in our Quotes Section.

© Viggo-Works/Iolanthe. Images © Hanway/Lago.

Viggo Mortensen: "I think I´ve learned from my mistakes"


Source: Tiempo.
Found By: Ollie
Many thanks to Ollie, Rio and Zoe for translating the interview from Tiempo posted earlier this month.
Quote:

He is premiering On the Road, an adaptation of Jack Kerouac´s celebrated novel, icon of the Beat generation, published in 1957, and considered one of the most influential books of the twentieth century.

27oblcap.jpg
© MK2 Productions.
 
No pretentiousness at all. Born in New York in 1958, a year after the publication of On the Road, Viggo Mortensen returns to the screen with an adaptation of this title, which, according to Time magazine, is one of the twentieth century´s hundred best novels written in English. Directed by the Brazilian Walter Salles (Central Station, The Motorcycle Diaries) and with Francis Ford Coppola as executive producer - who some decades ago bought the rights - the film competed in the official section of the last Cannes film festival and later went on to the one in Toronto.

How did On the Road come about - which is not to be confused with The Road based on the Cormac McCarthy novel that you also brought to the screen.

Yes [smiles]. When Walter Salles offered me the role of Old Bull Lee, I was finishing shooting A Dangerous Methodwith David Cronenberg, and I told him, "I don't think I can prepare myself for the role in time." But I had also gained weight for the other film and Walter told me, "I think you can. It's one version; you can look any way you want. I want you in the film for your ideas and for the way you approach your work." And I'm glad I did it.

So you went from being Freud in A Dangerous Method to Burroughs.

Yes, and in certain ways, the characters are related. Walter Salles, like Cronenberg, wanted me to do a character who acts as a mentor, so that ended up being very interesting. Freud and Burroughs are different, but they're alike in some things. They are unorthodox, but very cultivated. Burroughs was a junkie, a little crazy and very methodical in his reading. He'd read a lot and continued reading all his life. Freud taught Jung because he seemed to him like a talented young man who could contribute things, and Burroughs also had that taste for teaching others, a very generous man who, like Freud, did not claim ownership of his intellectual ideas, his conclusions, but rather shared them.

Old Bull Lee is a pseudonym of William S. Burroughs who, by the way, under the effect of drugs, accidentally shot and killed his wife while both of them were acting out a passage from the legend of William Tell.

It's true. I worked on the film for a week, including rehearsals. And I knew that for this story, he was an important character, since Burroughs was a source of inspiration for all young writers like Ginsberg, Kerouac, Gregory Corso and many others, because he had great knowledge of literature, drugs, history, languages...but above all, for his anarchist spirit.

And how was your experience?

The truth is that I arrived on the project after almost everyone else, but Walter Salles was very generous with me and the script was very well written. Besides, I liked his ideas regarding the equilibrium established between Old Bull Lee and William S. Burroughs a lot.

Did you need special makeup?

We were going to do it and possibly Stephan, who had transformed me in The Road, might have done it, but he couldn't and I decided to do it anyway. I resemble Burroughs more, in the color of my eyes and that stuff, so I prepared it more from within.

When did you discover the book? By the way, [it was] one of Jim Morrison's favorites.

I read it at 17 or 18 and later, a couple of times. But the same thing happens to a book as it does to many other things.With the passing of time, what is written, unless you revive it, is something dead. So I had read the book, I had an idea of the time period, the Beats, but I had to go back to read it again so that it would come back to life. So that was the first thing I did and reading it again, I realized the importance that it has now, when we are in a moment of protests and mass movements, especially with young people, in Europe, North America, China, the Near East...led principally by young people who carry the spirit of that time. Because in many respects, whether from fear, insecurity, the economic crisis...the times are quite conservative now. And currently, there's a kind of repudiation on the part of young people similar to that. People were simply saying, "Why not do it? Why not say it? Why is it like this?" There was a rejection of the status quo dictated by authority. And people said , "No, I think not. I won't swallow this." [He laughs]. "I don't believe in this." There are lots of questions in the environment now and I suppose that for Roman Coppola and his father (producer of the film) it had to have been tough to have to wait 30 years for this film to be brought to the screen. However, this is probably a great moment for it to be premiering, since people will want to see the film. Not only older people, people of my generation, people who lived it or the generation that came later, like me, who saw it in the 70's with a kind of nostalgia about the book and about the post-war period in North America. But also young people who are discovering the book now and identify with it.

Did you like the way the movie turned out?


Yes. In fact, while I was preparing, I wondered, "How is it going to be done? The American way, where you put it in a box and there it is, or is it going to make you ask yourself things, almost everything, about the present day? Will we actors make something new with the characters?" I think that Walter encouraged us to do that, and it's a good thing. I think it would have been a mistake to rein us in. Many directors, even good ones, would have chosen to make a version hemmed in by the book, and maybe the real purists would have liked it, but I like when it comes to life. Also, they could have left out the effects of taking drugs, not sleeping, driving too fast, smoking a lot, pregnant, abandoned women. Not everything in the story is rose-colored. Some directors might have left out or minimized those things, but I think that Walter balances it very well. The movie is disturbing at times. It's very pretty, and the more you get into it and let it carry you away, the more you enjoy it. When I saw it, I was just caught up in it. I let it carry me away as if it were a song. It makes you feel like music does: boom, boom. It's almost like Neil Cassady (called Dean Moriarty in the movie), who never entirely stops. I think it's well made and was worth the effort.

What's your opinion of improvisation?


Improvisation is good if you know what you're doing. That sounds like a contradiction, but it isn't. Actually, Burroughs didn't improvise so much as he tried things out, in the sense in which the surrealists did, so that he tried to write more quickly than he was thinking. But the foundation of his thought was there; it's not like the way someone who'd never read a book in their life would do it.

You have a magnificent career. You're very versatile.


[He smiles]. I think I've learned from my mistakes. Acting is a creative thing, and when it turns out well, it's the easiest, most entertaining thing. But when it's not like that, it's the most humiliating. Besides, sometimes the director can't help you; you see that you can't find a solution... Sometimes that happens.

And finally, I know that you're a fan of the Argentine team San Lorenzo, of the New York Giants... and of Real Madrid?


Of course. Go Madrid!

This translation can also be found here in our Articles section.

© Grupo Zeta. Images © MK2 Productions.


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Last edited: 1 February 2023 10:53:17