His Middle-earth exploits made him a planet-sized star, so what does shy, ungodly handsome Viggo Mortensen do with his shiny new fame? What he doesn't do is cut big deals then hit the clubs. Mortensen would rather work on offbeat art projects and hang out with David Cronenberg. The brainy director with the creepy resume (Scanners, Dead Ringers, Videodrome) and Mortensen team up for A History of Violence. Now in comfy flannel, Aragorn plays a mild, midwestern family man, whom mobsters from the big city mistake for one of their own. Or are they mistaken? The way Viggo takes out threats with swift, deadly moves kinda makes you wonder.
In this movie, you look like you really could kill somebody easily. Could you? Would you?
No, I would rather try to discuss a problem or even avoid one than get into a fight about it. I'm only doing what's required for the stories. But the way of doing it? I dunno, maybe I'm channeling some barbaric ancestor or something.
I'll say! Weren't some of the Lord of the Rings stuntmen afraid to work with you because you got so into the fight scenes?
Well, it had to look right.
Just how weird is a David Cronenberg set? Does he wreck cars for erotic excitement or try to stick videotapes in bodily orifices?
No, it's not like that. I think he's just a really good - and interested, more importantly - observer of life and of people. His sense of humour comes out not so much in practical jokes or forced attempts to be bizarre. He'd just chuckle at things that didn't on the surface seem to be funny, some accident or some perhaps even horrible or very disturbing moment. He's relaxed and secure enough about himself as a person that he can pretty consistently see how absurd life often is, no matter how seriously we present ourselves. And he would occasionally say something very odd, then laugh.
Your character, Tom Stall, may or may not be hiding a deep, dark secret. Are you hiding something?
Everybody, in some sense, has some kind of secrets. You'd lose your mind, it would probably be unsafe, if you let everybody know everything you think all of the time....wherever you went....I think you'd get in a lot of trouble! Most people would. You have to have some kind of monitor of your own behaviour.
You do have kind of an alternative life, though. You're a publisher, painter, photographer, writer, musician. Does that help you cope with the madness of Hollywood?
I don't know. I'm just sort of doing what I've always done since I was a teenager. I like to write a little bit, I like to take pictures. I don't see them as being separate from working in the movies; nor do I purely see it as an escape from it either. I never thought it wasn't different ways of doing the same thing, which is essentially about observation. Observe, take it in, process it and put out your version of what you believe you saw.
You're still pretty shy when it comes to the limelight, right?
It's not something I'm terribly comfortable with. I sort of dread having to go and do talk shows. And the premiere situation, even though I'm grateful if people like the movie and stuff, it's just a public thing, it's not comfortable. I'm not a big party kind of person, with strangers.
Even so, the adoring female fans must be nice.
I imagine that's probably fading as I get older and they move on to younger material. I dunno. It's flattering.