Bad Viggo - Good Viggo

Source: Cover

Image Henrik Bulow.
© Malling Publications Aps..
Master Fatman and Cover met the Danish-American world star at the St. Petri Hotel in Copenhagen to a talk about the good and the bad, war and love film, and why it is childish that Trier and Aalbæk are making critical stories about USA while they make a show of never having visited the country.

Image Henrik Bulow.
© Malling Publications Aps..
I am going in a taxi to Valby in order to buy some pot for Viggo Mortensen. This happens very seldom. Both that I buy pot and that I buy something for Viggo Mortensen. But here I am. In this old hippie"s apartment with tea in the pot and toast with cheese while the hippie carefully puts the one gram that I have bought into a fine small Indian envelope with an OM-sign. 'The best pot in Denmark at the moment, I guarantee,' she says and smiles in that freaky but also super cute way that people do who themselves smoke a lot of the stuff.

Viggo has not asked me to bring it. No way. It is more a compensation because I did not manage to see his new film - and really it is the film we should meet and talk about. A little naive I have thought that if I put the envelope with the pot in a fancy signed book of my good friend the painter John Kørner and give it all to Viggo, then he will not ask whether I have seen the film, and we could talk about everything else and have a great time.

'He is so nice but very quiet,' says the TV-journalist Niels Friid as he is leaving St. Petri Hotel with his cameraman and someone named Gitte.

'You have precisely 30 minutes,' says Line, a woman from the film company. Everyone is a bit tense because they all have such a short time with Viggo and you can see them working it all out in their heads in order for them to get the most of their 15 or 30 minutes. Luckily Marta from Cover is also present. She has seen the film and she will support me during the talk. 'You are next,' Line nods and leads us into a hall crowded with all the people who are waiting. The atmosphere is special. Neither uptight nor depressed. Just a bit special. Quietly T-shirts, make-up, and the possibility of letting a background stay so that TV 2 may use it, are discussed, - and so on.

The door opens and Viggo walks out with a shirt in his hand. He walks into the toilet and a little later he comes out with the shirt on. Marta and I knock. The door is half-open.

'Two minutes,' says Line and she looks very strict. When at last we enter the photographer is not finished. 'Yes like that - it looks good...yes...yes...yes! Viggo poses and after that he looks at the clock demonstrating that we only have 17 minutes left, we realise that we have to go for it. I give Viggo my present, the camera flashes, and I am trying to draw his attention to the pot that is in it. When I tell him the second time, he says 'Really?' He also has a present for me, he says, and he gives me his new CD, Intelligence Failure. On the cover credits it says Buckethead & Viggo and the playlist has titles such as Voice of The People, Weapons of Mass Distraction, Why They Hate Us, It's the Economy and What Kind of Nation. Viggo says that he plays on the CD - with a little help from others.

Image Henrik Bulow.
© Malling Publications Aps..
Fatman: This morning I had to tell my son that I could not collect him from the kindergarten because I had to interview an actor. He asked, 'Who is he?', and we found the cover from Lord Of The Rings. I pointed at your picture and Wilhelm asked: 'Is he good or bad?' - Are you a good one or a bad one?

Viggo: I am both, like all other human beings.

Fatman: How much of you is good and how much is bad?

Viggo: It depends on the day and the situation. It changes from one day to another. When you wake in the morning you are not the same person as when you went to bed. You act in a number of ways. It depends on the situation. To who you speak and how well you have slept. And where you are in the world.

Fatman: Do you do something special on days when you feel that this day you think you're a bad guy?

Viggo: Yes you easily get sour. If you feel bad you project bad feelings and discontent to other people.

Fatman: When you are in Denmark and look at the USA then you may think: Viggo seems to be a nice guy and a good human being, who has his opinion; why does he want to live in a country where there are so many bad guys?

Viggo: There are also many good guys in the USA. One of them is David Cronenberg. History of Violence is a commentary on the American society and as you may learn from the film that it is so much more complicated with society and with, say, the violence in the USA.

Cover: You mentioned that you wake up as another person every day. This is also a theme that fills a lot of the film, where the leading character Tom/Joey several times faces points of no return, when he must make a choice in relation to his old and new identity. How has it been working with this character and to co-operate with Cronenberg about it?

Viggo: When I read the script I thought: 'It is good as a story. But there is nothing new in it.' When I heard that Cronenberg was going to direct I thought: 'Well, that is interesting, I like him and there is a possibility that it can be detailed, varied and challenging.' In relation to Cronenberg it felt as if I had a new older brother. In fact I have never had a better relationship with any director. And I believe that most of the actors in History of Violence will say the same. William Hurt also had a good relationship with him.

Viggo Mortensen rounds off his sentence with laughter that really comes from the stomach, and by the way is as quiet as his whole appearance. David Cronenberg is best known as the director of some Hollywood-productions of the weird kind; especially sci-fi-thrillers and horror-inspired films from the Eighties and the Nineties like Crash (1996), Naked Lunch (1991), Dead Ringers (1988), The Fly (1986) and Videodrome (1983) - several are today considered to be cult-classics. In a way the environment in Cronenberg's recent film is more real life than in his earlier films - even though History of Violence also has a plot that happens in parallel-environments. In History of Violence it is merely the lawless versus the legal USA that is portrayed.

Fatman: Do you believe that you can use evil for anything at all? Has there ever been a good war? A war that has done something good?

Viggo: I do not know. Essentially I do not believe that there is anything good in violence. On the other hand violence is a part of human life. I believe that there will never be a world without violence in human life.

Fatman: Did the production of the film make you think about your own bad sides?

Viggo: Besides the violence and its consequences I thought most upon that you in any relationship - between father and son, a couple or brothers - have to make an effort. As we said before a person is not the same all the time. When you say: 'Oh she is like that,' the relationship dies slowly - or fast.

Viggo Mortensen seems to be relaxed in our company. Maybe because he has had time to get used to the activity in the room and the everlasting snaps from Henrik Bülow's camera. It is remarkable how much more introvert his charisma is in real life than when he is acting. Viggo's glance, so far a bit unfocused, suddenly focuses on Master Fatman's trousers, where a scarlet keychain hangs out of the right pocket with the wording Tyrkey and the Turkish flag's characteristic white moon symbol on the scarlet background of the chain. 'It is unbelievable that you are wearing that today...(laughter)...provoking! You should wear a Danish national soccer team T-shirt,' Viggo says without reservation - apparently his mind is on the forthcoming match - and he brings us out of the film universe.

Fatman: Yes but Turkey also needs love too...

Image Henrik Bulow.
© Malling Publications Aps..
Now as the flow from the film talk is broken and the person of Viggo appears from behind the Hollywood star, it is time to pose a necessary and more personal question.

Cover: You did mention love and relationship. Is it something that fills a lot of your life right now?

Viggo: (Laughter) What a nice way to ask...yes, but I normally do not talk about it. Not with friends and especially not with journalists.

Fatman: We talked about good and bad days...are there days where you yourself feel like hitting somebody?

Viggo: I'd rather not. It is not something that I seek nor am I happy to be part of. I prefer to run away.

Fatman: Even though all people are both good and bad don't you believe that it is good that you chose to focus on the good?

Viggo: Yes. But you cannot avoid violence. It is a part of human life but it is still best to avoid the violence.

Cover: Now that we are talking about good and bad; you have had your home in different places in the world; both in the USA, Argentina and Denmark. What is the best and the worst thing about these three countries?

Viggo: Many things... For example, I brought my son to visit Denmark and he is aware that things are more civilised here. Many things in the Danish democracy work better than they do in the USA. Among other things the health system and the idea of being a part of the world as a member of the UN. I believe that is a good idea.

Cover: What pleases you about the USA? After all you have chosen to live there - why?

Viggo: I have my family and roots over there. I wish to say that the fact that Lars von Trier and Peter Aalbæk are proud of never having visited the USA, but at the same time they are happy to produce films about the USA...or their fantasies about the USA... I might regret what I am going to say...I believe that it is childish and that they are missing something. If they want to produce films about the USA it might be a good idea to visit the country that they're criticising. They can probably afford to fly to the USA. I myself am very critical towards the administration of USA, and there clearly are many things in American society that do not work. The way in which the administration of the USA behaves in the world I do not support. However I believe that it is childish not to visit the country. There are no places in the world that I would not visit. And no people in the world that I would not hear from if I had the time.

Fatman: Don't you believe that is because...

Line: We have to stop the interview.

Viggo: Yes - was it wrong what I just said?

Line: No I believe it was fine.

Viggo: (Loud laughter) Now I will never get work in Denmark... I must say that I respect the work of Lars von Trier and Peter Aalbæk a lot. I have never met them but I think that what they have achieved is impressive. But they miss so much. Also as human beings not only as artists. And even to brag about it. I believe it is childish and silly. The Danes who travel and experience something; I am impressed by them. Like the Americans who travel and learn about the world. Because on that path lies the possibility to avoid war and racism and all that shit. The other path where you say ' No, I will not, they are idiots'; I believe it is very childish and not positive.

Line: Time for one more question if you have any.

Image Henrik Bulow.
© Malling Publications Aps..
Viggo: Yes, we could go on forever...more questions?

Cover: Earlier we talked about Danish film and I heard that you would like to act in a Danish production. How is the future looking?

Viggo: I do not know. I have no other plans than to promote History of Violence and the film I made in Spain (Alatriste). But if there is time and the possibility it could be interesting. I would be happy to do something here.

Fatman: What you just said about Lars von Trier and Aalbæk. Peter Aalbæk is the kind of person who brags a lot. It is his nature.

Viggo: I believe that they are good people and it came to my mind something you say in English and you may also say in Danish: 'If you do not have something good to say, then do not say anything'. And it might be a good idea. (Laughter).

Fatman: However it is right. It applies to a lot of Americans that they believe the USA is the centre of the world.

Viggo: They are some of the best in the world in producing films, not only in Denmark. They would be even better if they did not have the attitude and did not miss the experience of visiting the USA.

Line emphasises that the interview is over and at that moment David Cronenberg enters the room. Obviously the two men are relaxed in each other's company.

David Cronenberg: I hear that your Danish isn't really very good. People have been telling me, he has got a funny accent, like a Danish Arnold Schwarzenegger or something.

Fatman: There were only three words we didn't understand.

On the way out we meet TV 2. In the hall there is a bodyguard in a suit. He smiles. 'Any incidents?' I ask. 'No it has been very quiet.' 'Are you expecting any trouble.' 'Maybe some screaming girls but they have not been here yet,' he says. Our 17-minutes impression of Viggo is good. We feel that we have looked through his endless fatigue after a long day of interviews. You have to admire the composure, how he handled it all. Photographers, change of shirts, presents, Line who pushed all the time and the rest that happened in 30 minutes. We both believe that he is a cool guy - also in private. Three hours after our interview one of the TV stations brings a direct interview with Viggo. I do not watch it but many comment that he seems to be a little absent. I call Marta from Cover. She has also heard people talk about Viggo's stoned and nervous presence in the studio. We agree that no matter how stoned and paralysed he seems in the live-interview, it is 100 % guaranteed it is not because he has been smoking the pot that I brought him.
Last edited: 22 March 2006 06:17:44
© Malling Publications Aps..