Interviews 2012

Viggo Mortensen: "Do I look sexy?"

Source: Grazia (Italy)

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© Grazia/Corbis.
For Viggo Mortensen acting "Is the easiest thing in the world, but it can become the most humiliating," travelling an essential requirement (speaks six languages), poetry a real and true love ("I write with pen and paper".) Does he seem irresistible to you? To us also, but he doesn´t notice it ?

Oh God,no! Viggo Mortensen is wearing the sweatshirt of San Lorenzo, the Argentine soccer team of which he is a big supporter. The effect is what I feared: all male journalists present at the meeting with the actor unleash questions about who will win this game, this season, the derby ... with the result that the first 20 minutes with one of the most fascinating men in the world are wasted with talk about sports! And I knew it, because the same thing happened a few months ago when, a guest on the famous David Letterman Show, Viggo (who on that occasion wore an elegant dark grey suit and tie with the colors of the Giants), brought pins, posters and magnets of the New York football team, as a gift to the host - and so the first 10 minutes of the programme went to thank yous and sports commentary.

Poet, painter, photographer, musician and extraordinary actor (among the favourites of director David Cronenberg who directed him in A History of Violence, Eastern Promises and A Dangerous Method), Mortensen has the "defect" of being a rabid soccer fan.

While we continue to waste time as if we were at the sports bar (men ...), I look at him.

Usually handsome men like him are fully aware of their charm, but Mortensen gives the impression of having forgotten about it, or at least of not caring.

American mother, a Danish father (Viggo is an old Viking name) and Canadian grandfather, the actor speaks five languages fluently and when he shakes my hand, says in Italian: "How are you, Simona?" (You can tell me about goals and penalties all my life, Viggo.)

The reason for the interview is the release of On the Road, the film adaptation of the emblematic book of the Beat Generation (On the Road, by Jack Kerouac), presented at the Cannes Film Festival and coming out on October 11.

The idea for this film was born 30 years ago, when Francis Ford Coppola bought the rights to the novel. His son Roman went ahead with it and finally found the right director, the Brazilian Walter Salles, of The Motorcycle Diaries, the film about Che Guevara´s youth. Among the protagonists of the legendary road trip across the United States are Kristen Stewart (Twilight heroine), Kirsten Dunst, Garrett Hedlund, Sam Riley and Viggo Mortensen in the role of Old Bull Lee, or rather the writer William Seward Burroughs, Kerouac´s spiritual father.

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. 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."

Did you immediately believe in the film? No doubts? After all, talk about it has been going on for 30 years ...
"I knew it would not be easy to create a single story based on the episodes written by Kerouac. There was the risk of producing an infinite sequence of beautiful images: the cars of the 50's, western landscapes, deserted streets. 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."

But you had some doubts about your role ...
"I was undecided whether to accept ... I still had Sigmund Freud with me (the last character that he played, ed.), and there was not enough time to "clean up" and enter another one. But the director insisted and eventually convinced me.

Let's talk about your character, that Burroughs that Kerouac in his novel renamed Old Bull Lee ...
"Never thought I'd play him. As a reader, I have always imagined myself in the role of Dean Moriarty (Neal Cassady, Kerouac's best friend, who is played in the film by Garrett Hedlund, ed. ). 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."

Is this "on the road" way of life part of you ?
"I was born in New York, grew up on a ranch in Argentina and in Copenhagen. My father moved continuously and my brothers and I grew up changing landscapes, customs, language. I never stopped traveling through countries and characters; this is my job. The journey, physical and mental, is the best way to live."

What languages do you speak?
"English, Swedish, Danish, Spanish, Italian and French."

You have acted in Spanish on stage, made a movie in French (sic): not everyone ...
"It was tough for me; speaking is not like acting."

What country is the real Viggo from?
"Regarding my emotions, my DNA and also my appearance, I would say they are 100 percent Northern European. But there's a part of me that makes me eat late at night, makes me lazy and accentuates my sense of humor. That part is tightly linked to Argentina."

Which is the place where you feel right at home, your favorite city?
"This is the kind of question that puts me in a difficult position. The more cities you know, the more difficult it becomes to choose one. And the same goes for books, movies, paintings, restaurants ... "

You are also a musician, play the piano and have produced several CDs ( Reunion, the last one in 2011). I really wanted to ask you what´s your favourite song, but ...
"There are many, too many ... But if you really want an answer, here it is: Envidia, sung by Ada Falcon, is a piece that knows how to tango."

Let´s continue with the list of your talents. You are a writer, poet, and still use pen and paper. Is that right?
"Absolutely. But partly I had to resign myself to the computer to facilitate and speed up the work of the editor."

Always calm, thoughtful, but is there something that you cannot stand, and that makes you lose your temper?
"Lies, cruelty and avarice."

What is your relationship with the passage of time?
"I´m aware of it. I was five years old the first time I thought that sooner or later we all die. An injustice that made me very angry! Growing up, I did rationalise it, but sometimes the anger comes back to me. The more time passes, the greater the number of things that I want to do. Life is too short."

The profession of actor continues to please you?
"When it works, acting is the easiest and most fun job in the world. When everything goes wrong, it can become the most embarrassing and humiliating. And there, unfortunately, no one can help you."

Are you are aware of being very seductive?
"Only when I get into a character. And only if I believe in it myself."
Last edited: 30 November 2012 20:43:38
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