Interviews 2005

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'I came to León to walk in the footsteps of Alatriste whose roots are in Valdelugueros'

By Miguel Ángel Nepomuceno - translated by Elessars Queen

28 February 2005

Source: Diario de León, Entrevistas

Viggo in Leon
Viggo in Leon
Image Diario de Leon

Diaro de León - February 28, 2005

Interview - Viggo Mortensen, protagonist in The Adventures of Captain Alatriste, whose filming will begin March 7th

'I came to León to walk in the footsteps of Alatriste whose roots are in Valdelugueros'

- His new cinematic adventure, in which he embodies Captain Alatriste, has brought the American actor, Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn in the "Lord of the Rings' trilogy) to the lands of Leon. A few days before filming begins on this superproduction (the most ambitious and expensive in the history of Spanish cinema) Viggo Mortensen has visited the most important monuments in the Leonese capital and has traveled around different parts North of the province, in particular the lands of the high Curueño (mountain) where Arturo Perez Reverte's imagination places the origins of his most well known character. The actor has a special interest in hearing the speech/dialect of this area in order to (literally "file away') the remnants of his South American accent (castellano) and to make his character the most believable.

'The time period of Alatriste, with its lies, its disorder and the lack of information resembles what is occurring now in the United States.'

Caption under photo: The actor Viggo Mortensen contemplates the Leonese mountain (which he says has fascinated him) from the San Marcos Bridge.

Interview: Viggo Mortensen

'I've come to León in order to find Captain Alatriste's roots.'

The American actor made a surprise visit to León and walked among its monuments, the Curueño mountain and various bookstores where he bought various examples about the old Kingdom.

Miguel Ángel Nepomuceno - León

Like, Strider from "The Lord of the Rings', Viggo Mortensen spent the past weekend alone in the city. Only a bookseller and some passers-by could recognize underneath his large moustache and his unpretentious clothing, he who will soon be the definitive face of Captain Alatriste, dark character of the regiments of Flanders who the writer Arturo Pérez-Reverte has wanted to give birth to for his cinematic version, in Valdelugueros, in the wild Leonese mountain of Curueño.

He caught me almost by surprise when he descended the front steps of the Convent of San Marcos, where four centuries earlier the acid and agile pen of Francisco Quevedo had been relegated/banished to obscurity and ostracism. For love of the literary friend and protector of the Captain, Mortensen dedicated part of his time in order to comment to us on the origins of the character he will portray in his next film, directed by Agustín Díaz Yanes. One of the most ambitious cinematic projects in Spanish film history whose budget surpasses 20 million euros.

In Castilian, with barely a trace of an accent, his voice slow and spare of gestures, the New York born actor mentions that it is the second time he has visited León: 'In the beginning it was much easier, we hadn't done any promotion for the film and people didn't recognize me, but now it's different,' he assured us.

- Even though León will not be one of the shooting locations for the Adventures of Captain Alatriste, you have made deference to coming all the way here. Why?

- I came in order to get in touch with the land and to find Captain Alatriste's roots, which according to Arturo Pérez-Reverte, have their origins in Valdelugueros, on the Curueño mountain. In these days, I've bought various books that have informed me about the history of the Kingdom of León and I have visited the villages of that region. I saw lots of snow and I have enjoyed the landscape. This morning, I still got up at 6:30 in order to return to Redipuertas...What is certain is that I find myself very much at home/comfortable in this land.

- And the people, how have they reacted?

- During the first visits I could pass by unnoticed, but now it has been more difficult for me. The truth is that people from the northern part of León, have seemed to me, the same as their speech/dialect, very plain, but I want you to understand me, not cold or distant, as they have been very cordial with me. I have felt very comfortable.

Mortensen is a man who likes to inform himself and get to know the places he visits well, losing himself in them as well as anonymity allows him to. Like a good artist almost before being an actor, he absorbs himself in the landscape and art, and has not failed in visiting museums, monuments and above all bookstores.

- 'I have visited as much of León as I could,' he said. 'The San Isidoro Cathedral, the San Marcos Museum and the amount of good bookstores in the city has surprised me. I have visited several and bought everything that makes reference to the Curueño and the Kingdom of León.'

'The disorder of the 17th Century is comparable to that of the United States.'

Next March 7th filming will begin on "The Adventures of Captain Alatriste,' a film whose script is based on the classic novels from Arturo Pérez-Reverte and directed by Agustín Díaz Yanes. Mortensen will have as his filming companions Antonio Resines, Juan Echanove, who embodies Quevedo, Ariadna Gil, Elena Anaya, Javier Cámara as the Count Duke of Olivares, Eduardo Fernández, Blanca Portillo, Unax Ugalde and Eduardo Noriega. The film will try to remain faithful to the book(s) and to the vision of a Spain in decline, engaged in holding up an empire that came crumbling down in the 17th Century, under the reign of Phillip the IV.

- After your role as Aragorn, a hero without (literally "fissures') cracks/flaws, how do you face this new role of a survivor, almost an anti-hero, from the Regiments of Flanders?

- More so than the anti-hero, what has most caught my attention is the world that surrounds him. A 17th Century in which good and bad are equally combined in the empire in which the same lies, the same disorder and the same lack of information are likened to what is occurring right now in the United States.

- Your son, Henry had a lot to do with the final decision for you to play Aragorn. What has he said about your new character?

- My son is not familiar with Captain Alatriste, and even though I miss him very much, I know he is happy because I have learned a lot through this experience. King Elessar would return to being the untamed Aragorn, Captain of the Dúnedain in order to submerge himself in the solitude of the Leonese mountain and return to "Middle-Earth' turned into that other captain. Diego Alatriste is more quarrelsome and swaggering but also nearer (more approachable) and more human.

'Filmmaking is a collective job (effort), but it belongs to the director, not the actor.'

Viggo Mortensen, citizen of the world, was born in New York in 1958, the son of a Danish father and American mother. At the age of 11 he went to live in Buenos Aires, later living in Denmark until he was 16, and after that in many different places. He speaks English, Spanish and Danish. He is a bit of a nomad much like his characters. 'Filmmaking,' he says, 'is interesting because it is a cooperative effort, but it is a job that belongs to the director, not to the actor. In contrast, in painting, poetry and photography the process as well as the result belongs to one's self. The difference is in the speed: in film and theatre you can't stop something that is already in motion. In contrast, when you work with yourself you detain yourself much more: sometimes you stay still for much more time.'

Poet, photographer, painter, musician and actor, these are only some of the facets of his complex personality that are summed up in a special sensitivity that captures the essence of everyday life. 'Being an actor or photographer or whatever else allows one the opportunity to pay more attention to everything that surrounds you. A friend of mine once told me that it is better to travel hopefully than to reach your destination.'

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Last edited: 22 August 2005 03:32:00
© Diario de Leon. Used by permission.