"La Argentina esta en estado de coma...es imposible vivir aso." [Argentina is in a coma...it's impossible to live like this.] This was no phrase from the mouth of an activist. It was said, with a Buenos Aires accent, by Viggo Mortensen (43), co-star of The Lord of the Rings. "I was born in New York, but I lived between Buenos Aires and El Chaco until I was eleven. That's why I'm so saddened by what's happening in Argentina, even if I don't live there anymore." In a solidarity gesture with his second homeland, Mortensen recently posed for a Vanity Fair shoot in a post-modern gaucho costume.
Viggo Mortensen: I have an affinity for some aspects of your culture. I listen to Argentinean rock and I love tango. The literature as well. When I was little, I used to read Martin Fierro in school and I still remember a few passages from the story, which by the way is very similar to Lord of the Rings.
In what sense?
Both are based on universal questions. He's a solitary man who must face extreme situations and make key life decisions...I talk about Argentina and I get homesick. I hope to travel there at the end of the year to present the second instalment of the story and show my son the country.
Are you a single father?
I know it sounds strange, but yes, I'm a single father and it's a pleasure to raise Henry (14). We consult each other in everything we do and we advise each other. He convinced me to do the movie; he had read the book and he loved Aragorn, the character I play. I had my doubts because they offered me the role when shooting had already started and after the previous candidate had backed away at the last moment.
He got scared by the demands of the role and by the movie in general. The work was very hard, living for a year and a half in New Zealand, learning to ride wild horses and speaking the Elvish language to perfection, a complex language created by Tolkien which is only used by the characters in the story. In short, I accepted the challenge, I read the book on the plane taking me to the set.
In the cinematic trilogy of Tolkien's literary classic, Mortensen is Aragorn, a hero and warrior from the group of humans - in the Fellowship there are other species, such as hobbits, elves, dwarves and wizards, from which the Fellowship is formed that will try to save the Ring. "Aragorn is able to survive in the wild, to live off the land, to read its signs and lives happily without needing anybody," Mortensen explains. "I lived for a year and a half under his skin and that brought me even closer to my Danish roots."
Why is your face still largely unknown among the general public?
I don't know. I've co-starred with Michael Douglas, Gwyneth Paltrow, Demi Moore, Sandra Bullock, but I'm not like them. Hollywood is a place where people care more about the results than about the movie-making process itself. Everybody wants an Oscar and to earn a lot of money, and that's what motivates them. I enjoy the creative process and don't care so much about the rewards. That's why I also don't expect to become a mega star because of this movie. I don't waste time thinking about fame.
It's said in Hollywood that you are a bit obsessive...
I like to create the character down to the last detail. I have fun doing it and sometimes I do things that others see as obsesssive but that for me are completely normal.
Why did you sleep in Aragorn's costume?
I didn't have a lot of free time during the shoot, so it was more comfortable to wear the same clothes all day. I do not regret it because it was useful in getting in character, like the time I lost a tooth during a dangerous take; I would never accept that a stunt double would do my riskier scenes. Excuse me, do you know if the movie is going to be dubbed in Argentina?
I think there will be a dubbed version for the kids and another in the original.
If there is one thing I can't stand it's badly dubbed movies. And generally they are bad. I once had a huge fight with a Spanish distributor. They dub every movie over there and the results are awful. So I offered to dub my role in the movie itself, but when I finally convinced them, they didn't like the result, they said that my accent was "not very Spanish." I was so angry; the Argentinean accent is as Spanish as the Spanish from Castile.
What do Middle-earth, where the movie takes place, and today's Argentina have in common?
It's a very strange time in which you live, but this is not a problem that only affects Argentina. These are strange times for everybody. The United Strates against Afghanistan, Israel against Palestine. What prevails is prejudice and intolerance. It's not the first time it's happened. When Tolkien wrote the story, World War II had just ended. Everything pointed to the assumption that this was the end. That's why I think that when they see the movie, instead of setting their troubles aside, people will be more involved in finding a viable solution. Every representative in the Fellowship has their own challenges and one common objective: to rebuild a society destroyed by individualism. Hopefully, we will also manage to do that.