Viggo Mortensen is no flake. He's a pretty intense guy -- with a mellow sort of presence. While shooting The Road, Cormac McCarthy's post-apocalyptic story of a father and son's survival amidst a world in ruins (otherwise known as western Pennsylvania, where the movie was filmed), Mortensen often slept in his wardrobe of grimy, soaking wet clothes to stay in character. In order to look like the starving survivor he plays, he lost 20 pounds during the filming by existing on a diet of dark chocolate and red meat.
"He's a method actor like DeNiro and Daniel Day-Lewis," said producer Bob Weinstein, while relaxing on a banquette last night at SL in Manhattan's meatpacking disctrict, where the after-party of the film's New York premiere was held last. Although DeNiro probably isn't the type of guy who gulps herbal tea day and night. Mortensen, says the film's director John Hillcoat, existed on mate, a type of Argentinean tea. Mortensen, who grew up for a time in Argentina, believes it gives you an enormous amount of energy.
In his spare time on the set, Mortensen, a kind of Renaissance man, wrote poetry but mostly found himself paging over and over again through McCarthy's Pulitzer Prize winning novel. "I'm always reading poetry," Mortensen told Speakeasy. "But 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."
Mortensen hopes the film makes audiences appreciate the little things in life. "I changed somehow in my view of things and realized that some things aren't that important," he confided. "It sounds simple, but any movie that makes you walk out of the theater feeling different somehow and lasts a little while, maybe even forever, and does that in a heartfelt way, is something that most movies can only aspire to."
Even a hard-nosed film exec like Weinstein said the film makes him "want to go home and hug his kids."
"Yeah, I can see that," said Sebastian Junger, who was among a throng of literary types like Richard Price and Walter Moseley who turned up last night. But as for an apocalypse, "Nah, I doubt it," Junger said. "There's supposed to be an asteroid strike in 2030-something, I believe, but that's a long time from now."
As for Mortensen, he lives for the moment. "It's all about what's present -- accepting things for what they are," he said: "It may be bad, but it could always be worse. You could always be dead."