Interviews 2003

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One Man Band

By Beata Sadowska (translated by JoannaP)

December 2003

Source: VIVA Magazine (Poland)

© Viva!.

For him an elvish princess gives up her immortality and becomes a woman. Actor, poet, writer, photographer speaking many languages -- he could have every woman in the world. But he lives alone with his 15 years old son on a farm. Why?

I have no TV, I relax by painting, says 45 years old Viggo. His works are mostly collages. Here he puts some paint, there he adds a verse from his poetry, a piece of cloth, sponge, some sand then he paints the half over again, attaches a piece of wire... "I have the full control of the creative process, unlike in the movies, where the final effect depends on someone else", he says. He is a perfectionist as both a painter and an actor. He can spend two years working on one painting. On the set he used to plague his directors with questions and brings pages full of script additions. His fellow actors and directors are telling legends about his dedication to the characters he plays. While shooting of Lord of the Rings he was sleeping in a hammock with Aragorn's sword across his chest.

Image Perou
He didn't need as much equipment preparing for Lech Majewski's movie The Gospel According to Harry -- he jogged naked across the dunes and spent the nights camping in the Slowinski National Park. [Tr. note: It lies in Poland, on the Baltic Sea coast, sandy terrain, waste sand dunes and beaches]. He was 25 then [tr. note: wrong - he had to be about 35] and was already interested in painting, photography and literature. "He is a true Renaissance Man. He does so many things and all of them well", praises his friend from the Lord of the Rings set, Elijah Wood. Frodo and Co. -- actors Sean Astin and Dominic Monaghan) appeared few months ago at the opening of Mortensen's Exhibition in Santa Monica. It is no wonder that 1500 guests were looking more at the Fellowship as at king's Aragorn works. I'm aware that some people came to see the actor and not the painter. But once they are here, maybe they will like my pictures" said Viggo calmly.

Indeed, the number of visitors to his exhibitions increased with Mortensen's popularity. Three years earlier, at another exhibition, the room was only half filled. Proud king Aragorn doesn't pay attention to critics' voices: "Many of them would send me to a basic painting workshop, but what is most important to me is that I have fun doing this. Everybody should do what he likes". The comments were positive though. "This is a vision of an artist who watches the world carefully. He finds beauty, where nobody else would look for it.", wrote a critic in The Hollywood Reporter. Another one added: "Pieces of sponge, clothes, wires and tapes, all of this gets a new life in his works, new importance. They are magic like amulets are. Their authenticity lies in their emotional content: a risky venture in today's world, where only cynicism and irony are appreciated."

"This is a strange world". Viggo would surely subscribe to lyrics of this old Polish song. "We are living in a strange time," he says. "Prejudice and lack of tolerance are the source of all quarrels. History repeats itself. Tolkien was writing his trilogy during the second World War. His protagonists, instead of running away from problems, try to find the best solution. Everyone in Middle Earth has his own enemy, but they all are united by one goal: the reconstruction of a society destroyed by too much individualism. I hope we will come to this conclusion one day."

This opinion might seem naive spoken out by a 45 years old, who, even if he denies it, is a part of the show business industry. One thing must be said to his credit -- he runs away from it whenever he can. "I don't go to parties, I spend my vacations at my brother's farm. I seldom make new acquaintances, I have problems keeping the old ones alive." Being an outsider makes him even more intriguing. Paparazzi have no success in tracking his romances. It's impossible that a guy from People Magazine's list of the most beautiful people and owner of this seductive glance lives alone. Well, he does. "I am a single father. Together with my son we are making decisions, we are discussing things, look for advice." Henry is 15 today. His mother is Exene Cervenka, singer of a punk band, now divorced from Viggo. That's all. Mortensen says nothing about his private life. There were stories about his romance with Gwyneth Paltrow after A Perfect Murder (he made all the paintings for this movie) "I was playing an artist, who had an affair with her. She was the wife of Michael Douglas. She was a great kisser", he says enigmatically. He played also with Demi Moore, Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock, but he says he is different from other movie stars. "In Hollywood, people are not concentrating on the process of film making itself, but on what it can bring them. Everyone wants to win an Oscar and make a fortune, this goal is their driving force. I don't want to lose my time thinking about fame.'

Image Lindsay Brice.
© Viva.
He never has enough time. While he doesn't play in movies, he plays drums. He published 3 CDs with jazz music and intends to continue. Elijah Wood made a statement recently he wanted to found his own music label, and Mortensen would be his first artist. Well, it seems the Fellowship sticks together. Aragorn not only writes music and lyrics. He writes also short stories [tr. note: anybody heard of those?], "Brilliant, full of humor and criticism of the modern society" (Gwen Dana, L.A. Times) and poems (he published five books).

He already wrote poetry as a child. He still has notebooks full of old verses. He often says: "People devoted to worldly values are ignorant." Maybe that's why he finds his own values in reading, (he has a degree in literature) and writes himself.

In his leisure, he makes photos. He always carries his old camera with him. Even he himself is not able to count all the pictures he has made of his son. He makes pictures of places he visits, and he is a great traveler not only in Tolkien's book. His works from Morocco were shown at an Exhibition in Havana. And they are in his books, which he publishes in his own publishing company, some of them with music CD attached. At the end of the Lord of the Rings shooting each actor got a portrait from him. Those who want to buy one of Mortensen's works, have to pay 350 to 5000 USD, but they could negotiate the prices in English, Danish, Spanish, Swedish and Norwegian. One can see his works as whims of a bored movie star. One can read his poetry or treat it as scribbles of a wannabe poet. One thing is for sure: Viggo is highly intelligent, therefore he is a journalist's nightmare. His answers are sharp-tongued and his gaze can pin you to the chair. Asked if there is something he cannot do, he says indignantly: "Hey, I'm no f... genius!"
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Last edited: 9 May 2005 14:32:34