Of all the stars who emerged from Peter Jackson's The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, Viggo Mortensen seems to be the least ambitious, the most humble, the least likely to try to capitalize on the phenomenon.
David Cronenberg, the Toronto filmmaker who directed Mortensen in A History Of Violence, calls his Danish-American leading man 'a really down-to-earth guy' for whom he harbours great affection. The fruits of their friendship opens Friday in Toronto, plus eight other North American cities, before expanding wide next week.
'He really is not very concerned with money,' Cronenberg tells the Sun, 'and he really is not very concerned with career goals. It's genuine with him.'
Cronenberg flew from Toronto to Los Angeles to meet Mortensen during the casting of A History Of Violence 'because I had to seduce him to do the movie and it had to be in person. You can't do that over the phone. Once we had the discussion, he was talking about it like he was doing the movie, even before the deal was made. And he never wavered from that. He's fantastic. We had the best time. He is a complete collaborator.'
Call it a mutal admiration society. When Mortensen sits down with the Sun during the Toronto film festival - where A History Of Violence was a featured Gala - he is shy and even awkward about the legacy of playing the heroic warrior Aragorn in The Lord Of The Rings.
'That trilogy had its own life,' Mortensen says, 'and obviously it's something that affected people.' Among the autograph seekers and fans at the filmfest Gala, he says, 'there were a lot of people with images from A History Of Violence, a few from the Spanish movie (El Capitan Alatriste) I just did, and some from other things. But there were a lot of Lord Of The Rings pictures there - and you see them everywhere.'
After the screening, Mortensen had his own Rings reunion, hanging with Sean Bean and Hugo Weaving at the Cronenberg festival party. 'It shows how it had an effect on me, as well, because it was long and interesting and it was a bonding experience, more than most. There is an interest in that project but I don't know if it gets in the way of them watching this movie.'
The projects are just too different, Mortensen says. Even through the issue of heroism is raised in both, the context is different in A History Of Violence. It is a searing drama in which Mortensen plays a 'perfect' husband and father whose American Dream life is thrown into turmoil through an explosive act of brutal violence. So he never worried about the Rings legacy, he says.
'I guess, if I did, it wouldn't do any good anyway. But I don't have to make myself not worry about it. I actually don't really care. When Lord Of The Rings fans show up, it doesn't surprise me. But I don't think I thought of Lord Of The Rings once when we were shooting this. Why would I, you know?'
The fame that Rings brought him is useful, however. 'Well, I wouldn't have even been in this movie,' he says of an Aragorn-free life. 'Let's face it, I would not have been given the lead in David's movie.'
Not that he would be idle. Besides acting, the 46-year-old Mortensen pursues jazz music, poetry, art photographs, painting and being father to his teen son Henry (Mortensen is divorced from the boy's mother, Exene Cervenka). But Mortensen says he would have regretted missing out on Cronenberg's made-in-Toronto film.
'It's beautifully done. It's like music. I think any good movie is, I suppose, but his are always so well thought out. And within its boundaries, it's a live performance and things happen.'