Viggo Mortensen: "I put the alfajores aside"

Source: Clarín

The actor had to slim down to act in the post-apocalyptic film that will open shortly. He spoke about the movie in which he will portray Sigmund Freud and reveals in advance that he´ll come to film in Argentina in 2011.


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Image Macall Polay.
© 2929/Dimension Films/MGM.
As if he chose the most tormented characters among the twisted ones he´s offered, Viggo Mortensen agreed to play the Father in the adaptation of Cormac McCarthy´s The Road. He and his son roam through devastated lands and confront dangers in the form of other starving human beings in the film which is announced for the end of the month.

Mortensen talked to Clarín on the phone, identifying as he usually does with his role.

You filmed in terrible, complicated circumstances. How did it go?

Obviously to be truthful to the novel it was not enough to film in devastated settings, places where the environment had been destroyed by men or natural circumstances, be that earthquakes or hurricanes; we also went to New Orleans, we coexisted with landscapes and every day we had the ghosts of injured or dead people. We hadn´t taken this into account, to make an emotional journey at the same level of what was surrounding us.

But in the film you look thinner.

I ate much less; I put the alfajores [sweet pastries covered in chocolate] to the side (laughs). Superficially I had to slim down quite a lot. Kodi (Smit-McPhee) was an Australian, had never seen snow in his life; he was so sensible that the first day he said to me, " 'I´m freezing...' But I was thinking that we already had enough to do, dealing with the story, without thinking about complaining because we were cold, that up to a certain point it's OK, right? He did not complain more than a normal amount, and kept going.

It was also a challenge to play a such a taciturn character. Film is a visual medium; I have been fortunate to begin my career with small roles: often they give you few words and you get used to finding a way to express yourself. Anyway, in my opinion a good performance is a matter of reacting to what happens, or what they say to you, not necessarily with words.

It's not the first time you've had a character like that.

Exactly, in Eastern Promises and in many films that I've made. Also, in the way they filmed The Lord of the Rings, my character (Aragorn) did not speak as much as in the book. What you see, what the character feels is reaction without words. It's not a problem; a lot of times it's problematic to have to speak much in films because they don't write good scripts and that nonsense can often be expressed in a few words. And in every script that I get even if it's with little dialogue, I always look for what I can do without words. Many times I've said to a director, "Look, I believe that I can do this with less dialogue." People are not stupid, they understand what's going on, and if you have a very good co-star like I had with Kodi, he expresses a lot without words. It's easy. But if you don't have a director that pays attention to the details, especially in the editing, you lose a lot.

Are you in the cutting room with your directors?

No. It interests me and I have learned a lot watching how what is done is portrayed on the screen; what remains of yourself, what doesn't. It's quite common that they spoil things, it's sad but true; there's a lack of talent, vision. But I don't get involved. If I'm ever a director, it will be different. There are actors who get into it or insist, whatever, but I think it's not my thing. The truth is that the more lasting memories, the beautiful things I remember in a shoot, are things that happened with the cast and crew, are often the rehearsals, or moments that were not used afterwards, things that are not going to be seen. Unique moments that only happen once and may not work in the context of the story that is going to be told.

When do you begin A Dangerous Method, the movie about Freud and Carl Jung, with David Cronenberg?

I begin filming at the end of May. I was fortunate that he offered it to me when the actor who was to play it (Christopher Waltz, from Inglorious Basterds) left and decided he would do a, let´s say, bigger thing (he means Water for Elephants, with Robert Pattinson). So, well, his decision was my luck, because I obviously like filming with Cronenberg. And also it´s a role that is not on screen all the time, so I can get away from time to time to take care of my family and my other things.

How are you going to work out Freud? Are you reading books, studying psychoanalysis?

Yeah, I've read a ton, and I've already done some traveling. I've been to Freud's hometown, visited his old office in Vienna as well. I keep re-reading things I'd read before...The truth is that I thought I knew who Freud was - he underlines with his voice - but I realized having read this that I knew more about Jung's life, that I had a wrong impression, as I believe many people have about Freud, much more naïve.

What was that impression?

That he was very formal, that all of his ideas are obsolete, that Jung was right when there was the clash between them, and the truth is there was much more there. It's good to learn, always. Film helps you. Because sometimes I am a little lazy and this way I end up reading many things that otherwise I would not have read. It's interesting to read things that Freud wrote. He was a pioneer. There are things that he wrote and said that maybe were incorrect ; it wasn't always the right way to go, but on many of things he came up with, he continues to be right.

Are you undergoing psychoanalysis?


Have you at some time?

Yes, many years ago, for a brief period. I can't say I've had much experience with that. But a little bit...

Now you're going to have experience on the other side of the couch...

Yes! But it's not a film filled with scenes like that. It has a lot to do with Jung (Michael Fassbender from Hunger) and the patient, Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley) who suffers from mental anxiety and was a complicated person. A Russian woman who after more or less recovering, was an acquaintance of Freud and had a relationship with Jung that was, shall we say, not very correct. That did not seem right to Freud, and was part of the rift between them. I don't know, two big egos.

Before saying goodbye, Viggo informed us that in the winter he will be coming to present a book in a bilingual edition "with photos" and he's grateful for "the time you've devoted to me." It looks like he is still the gentleman who, in fiction, he portrayed in Tolkien's saga.

Pirated Copies and Choripanes

Viggo Peter Mortensen, a 51 year old Libra, is the son of a Danish farmer and a New Yorker. From the age of 2 till he was 11 he lived in Argentina and Venezuela, and when his parents separated he moved to New York with his mother and his two younger brothers. It is known that from his stay in Chaco and Buenos Aires,he became a San Lorenzo fan. "There was an incurable Red in the film crew, the cameraman Matías Mesa (who worked with Gus Van Sant and Gozález Iñárritu) who talked non-stop about Independiente, but who could not prevent Kodi (who played my son) from becoming a Cuervo.

Viggo has his own opinion about the pirated copies of the film that go round. The Basque, Javier Aguirresarobe, a great talent who has worked with Amenábar, did a tremendous job in The Road´s cinematography. "I understand, I know that because the premiere has been delayed so much there are fake copies. But if you don´t see it, at least once, in a good copy on the screen, you will miss a lot, because it´s an accomplished job, with a lot of detail," he says. And he has an anecdote "With Matías, we taught Kodi Spanish, with very porteño words - Kodi didn´t call him Matías, he called him `Che, Rojo,' and he drove the Basque crazy. And poor Javier, who was all the time praying, looking at the sky, because if the sun came up for a second we were ****** up, and Kodi says to him `Maestro, the sun is going...I want a choripán.' `But kid, I´m not the one who feeds people.' A true comedy."

In 2011, He is coming to film in Argentina.

You've been approached with scripts here in Argentina?

I've filmed in Spanish a couple of times in Spain, and yes, I'm going to be filming in Argentina in the coming year.

What can you tell us?

That the project is from a new director, Ana Piterbarg (assistant director of The Magic Gloves (Los guantes mágicos) and Goodbye Dear Moon (Adiós querida luna), a very good script that has won several awards. It's a small film but interesting. It will be filmed in the capital and also in Tigre.

Tentative title?

At the moment, it's called Everyone Has A Plan.


Finished with the interview, Mortensen - also a poet - read "a poem that I read not long ago that comes close to my character." It was Balada de Ausente by Onetti. It can be read at

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Last edited: 1 July 2010 06:57:35
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