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Iolanthe's Quotable Viggo

Found By: Iolanthe

I thought I'd stick with A History of Violence this week and move away from the reviews to quotes related to the casting and filming. HOV was the start of Viggo's collaboration with Cronenberg and a film which finally opened critics eyes to Viggo's range as an actor. The film is, indeed, a 'complex piece of music' which rewards you with new insights every time it's watched.

'It's like a great thoroughly satisfying and complex piece of music to me, this movie.'

Viggo Mortensen
Teen Hollywood

Olson said he pictured Mortensen in the role of Stall, something the actor found "flattering and disturbing at the same time." Just to keep the star in line, Cronenberg told him Olson hadn't really written the role for him. "You were second to Brad Pitt."

Cannes Press Conference
National Post Cannes Review, by Chris Knight
17 May 2005

He's got the sort of quintessential type of American look to him. He reminds me of Kirk Douglas sometimes in darker films that he did.

Josh Olson on Viggo Mortensen
Interview with Jock Olson
by Rebecca Murray
August 2005

"Viggo's my kind of actor," smiles Cronenberg… "He is a maniac for detail, which I love. He is very focused and obsessed with details of how his character would move, speak and dress. It's really quite spectacular to watch him work and to interact with him," says the director, who admits, that after two weeks of working closely with Mortensen, they felt like brothers.

David Cronenberg, Director
Cannes Film Festival 2005 Press Kit

'It felt good to shed my hero's costume'

Viggo Mortensen
The Anti-Hero
by Renaud Baronian
Metro 18 May 2005

"The challenge in preparing and playing Tom Stall was to be thoroughly honest and specific with behaviour, to lie as truthfully as possible. But that's what actors are always ideally trying to do anyway."

Viggo Mortensen
V-Life magazine
Jan 2006

"Viggo is not pompous or pretentious. He doesn't arrive with an entourage. He's grounded, quirky, and observant. He is artistic. I deeply appreciate that since I basically arrive on the set with my shovel in hand and go to work as well. And I love it when someone else does that."

William Hurt
Cannes Film Festival 2005 Press Kit

William Hurt killed me. He's so into what he is doing that it's extreme. He'd say, "Viggo! You're laughing again!"

I was trying so hard to be in the shadows. I wasn't laughing, but he could see that there were tears in my eyes.

Viggo Mortensen
Viggo and Cronenberg talking about the dangers of filming the fight scenes
Listening in: David Cronenberg and Viggo Mortenson introduce AHOV at Tiff
14 January 2014

'......even though emotionally there was a lot of difficult days on the set, you know, uncomfortable. There was always a lot of joking going on. It was a lot of fun making this movie. He has a very good sense of humour, maybe a very dark sense of humour, [laughs] but a good one.'

Viggo Mortensen - Cannes Interview
By Lionel Julien, transcription by Chrissie
16 May 2005

"I'd wanted to work with him Indian Runner. He's holy and ridiculous. I've never worked with anyone so determined to create an interesting character. He's a good human being, and he's very, very hot."

Maria Bello
January 2005

'[Cronenberg] continues what he's always done, which is taking people apart, almost like they were a machine or an engine, but now more taking their brains apart than their bodies, I suppose. It's more a psychological autopsy and the results are always a little disturbing. Not because he's disturbing, but because we are. As an audience and as a subject.'

Viggo Mortensen, Actor, poet, photographer
Philip Matthews
New Zealand Listener
March 18-24 2006

'The Stall family is monstrous because it's too normal. That effort to make everything work well, of being extra careful...there's always a little power game. There's a great deal beneath what one appears to be as a parent, a couple, a son. The effort to conceal that is disturbing.'

Viggo Mortensen
The Other Mortensen
By Mariana Enriquez - translated for V-W by Margarita
Página 12,
20 November 2005

In the end, do you think that this is ultimately a hopeful movie ?

Maria Bello: I think it's whatever anyone thinks it is. But for me, that day...we'd spent three months together and it did feel like a family. David said, 'I don't know what this scene is going to be. You guys have been in these characters for three months; you figure it out. When he walks in the door you'll know.' And it's true. As soon as we heard the door slam, Ashton (Holmes), Heidi (Hayes) and I kind of jumped and just immediately like welled up, all of us. And to look up and see his sweet face, this man who we've loved for three months, as Viggo and as this character, to be so unsure and to still love this person, yes I think there is a hopefulness in that.

Maria Bello on working with Viggo, by Thomas Luepp
27 September 2005

'Viggo Mortensen probably gave the best performance I have seen in a motion picture in as long as I can remember in A History of Violence .... Bill Hurt got a nomination for a rather bizarre, overly done performance in that film, but Viggo Mortensen is probably the premier actor in the business.'

Dale Olson, publicist
Oscar, You Insensitive Lout
by Sara Vilkomerson, New York Observer,
February 2006

"I dunno, maybe I'm channeling some barbaric ancestor or something."

Viggo Mortensen on his convincing performance
E online
22 Sept 2005

You will find all previous Quotables here.

© Viggo-Works/Iolanthe. Images © New Line Productions, Inc.

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Iolanthe's Quotable Viggo

Found By: Iolanthe

I caught A History of Violence on TV a few of nights ago and even though it was already halfway through I just couldn't turn over. Viggo is mesmerizing as Tom/Joey and both Viggo and the film garnered such high praise from critics that I couldn't resist a HOV review quotable. It finishes with my favourite review quote of all time from Mark Kermode. And so say all of us.

...Viggo Mortensen plays a small-town American paterfamilias, equal parts Marlboro Man and Terminator...

A Nice Place to Film, but Heavens, Not to Live
Manohla Dargis
New York Times
11Sept 2005

... Mortensen's collaboration with Cronenberg is a wonder - it's difficult for me to imagine many actors who would be receptive to such a singular idea, let alone be able to put it into such vivid relief.

Kent Jones
Cinema Scope Magazine
Summer 2005

A History of Violence is right up there with The Shawshank Redemption for me; I've watched parts or all of it close to a dozen times on cable, never failing to marvel at the eight-minute showdown between Mortensen's character of Tom Stall and his loopy bro' Richie (William Hurt).

Validation for Viggo
Richard Horgan
22 January 2008

If you see this film twice, you'll see two different performances from Viggo, and that's the real genius of the movie. The first time through, you're watching him the same way his family is, accepting him as Tom Stall, loving family man, quiet and kind and nearly invisible. But when you see it a second time, you'll see Joey Cusack lurking behind those eyes, pushing through even in the moments before the thugs bring violence back into his life.

Ain't it Cool News
29 September 2005

Mortensen's power comes directly from his eyes. They speak much more than any line he delivers in the film and offer an astounding glimpse into the psyche of his character.

Christopher Childs
31 May 2005

If anyone has ever been more perfectly cast than he is here as Tom Stall, I haven't seen the film. His performance is the tricky switch on which the entire History flips. His star turn is a master class in minimalism and exactly what the movie needs at every juncture.

Nathaniel Rogers
Film Experience
September 2005

Viggo Mortensen is transfixing as a heroic diner owner who may not be all that he seems........ in splendid brooding, bomb-ticking form.

Tom Long
Detroit News
23 September 2005

Even before Tom proves himself a capable man when danger lurks, there's something about Mortensen -- or is it something he does as an actor? -- that makes the audience think, "No. There has to be more to this guy."

Mick LaSalle
San Francisco Chronicle
23 September 2005

His features themselves seem to evolve, soft at first and then growing hard, progressing (regressing) from cherubic choirboy to flinty-eyed thug and back again.

Rick Groen
The Globe and Mail
23 September 2005

He is an ordinary man, and vengeful gangsters have turned up in his home town, claiming to recognize him from the bad old days. He claims they are mistaken. And it is to Mortensen's credit that, despite the movie's giveaway title, we still can't be certain until he reaches breaking point. The scene which confirms the truth is a masterclass in understatement - it's a shot rather than a scene, the merest flicker on Mortensen's face, but you couldn't say it wasn't dynamite. The actor nailed it on his first stab; Cronenberg knew instantly that there was no need for take two.

On Viggo Mortensen
By Ryan Gilbey
4 December 2007

Viggo Mortensen succeeds in presenting this human schizophrenic with those innocent blue eyes that can equally hide infinite cruelty.

Cronenberg's Violence
GLZonline Cannes Review, by Gidi Orsher, translated by Natica
May 2005

Sex and violence, allure and repulsion, the rifle-toting homesteader and the killer - they all nestle somewhere to varying degrees in human nature, just as they do in Mortensen's haunting performance.

Jim Ridley
Nashville Scene
29 September 2005

Hands down, this is the best performance that Viggo Mortensen has given in a film yet. He is just breath-taking in the film…

Ain't it Cool News
28 September 2005

One of the great strengths of this movie is the performances. Viggo's got a lot of his plate here, playing a character almost constantly at war with himself, and he nails it. There's no stupid tricks, where he changes his hairstyle or something when he goes back to being Joey. It's all done with the set of his shoulders, and his walk, and the look in his eyes, and it's chilling.

Anton Sirius
Ain't it Cool News
15 September 2005

There's something he's doing with his voice in this movie that gets to the character in such a subtle yet important way, little mannerisms that reveal secrets - or hide them. For all of Cronenberg's precise direction, for all the right notes hit by Harris, Holmes, and William Hurt in a brilliant late-arrival role, for the bravery of Olsen's screenplay not to work itself out in such expectedly simple ways, it's Mortensen's performance that slaps us the hardest in this movie. With the smallest of moves, the most understated of plays, he connects us to Tom in ways few actors could. And it's this connection that allows 'Violence' to run so very deep, to shake us to the bone, to wake us up and get us asking questions.

David Cornelius
1 October 2005

Fantastic performance from Viggo Mortensen.....he is absolutely a brilliant actor, he is the Robert de Niro of his generation, the Marlon Brando of his generation, the man is a genius.

Mark Kermode
BBC Radio Five Live
30 September 2005

You will find all previous Quotables

© Viggo-Works/Iolanthe. Images © New Line Productions, inc.

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News that American Cinematheque will be screening Captain Fantastic and A History of Violence at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica on 12 January with a Viggo discussion in between films.

Source: Aero Theatre.
Found By: Chrissie

Thanks to Chrissie for the heads up.


CAPTAIN FANTASTIC / A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE Discussion between films with actor Viggo Mortensen, moderated by Jim Hemphill.

© Bleecker Street.
2016, Bleecker Street Media, 118 min, USA, Dir: Matt Ross

Director Matt Ross picked up the Un Certain Regard prize at Cannes for this insightful look at a family living off the grid. Ben Cash (Viggo Mortensen) has raised his six kids in the forests of the Pacific Northwest, homeschooling them with an exacting and exhilarating curriculum. But the death of his wife forces him into the outside world, where his idea of what it means to be a good parent comes under fire. "Viggo Mortensen is at the top of his game in this family dramedy, shot through with humor and heart." - Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

2005, New Line Cinema, 95 min, USA/Germany/Canada, Dir: David Cronenberg

This thriller from director David Cronenberg stars Viggo Mortensen as a pillar of a small town community who runs a diner and lives a happy and quiet life with his wife (Maria Bello) and two children. But their lives are forever changed when Mortensen thwarts an attempted robbery and is lauded as a hero by the media, attracting the attention of two brutal mobsters (William Hurt and Ed Harris) who believe he is someone else. "A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE shifts its tone faster and better than any film I can think of … from the deeply serious to the deeply unnerving to the outright parodic with breathtaking speed and effect." – Manohla Dargis, New York Times.

© Aero Theatre. Images © Bleecker Street.

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Top 6 Viggo Mortensen Movies


Nice article by Helen Earnshaw at

Image Eric Simkins.
© Bleecker Street.
Viggo Mortensen is an actor who has enjoyed a career that has spanned over thirty years and seen him star in one of cinema's biggest franchises.

He returns to the big screen this week with new indie film Captain Fantastic, which sees him team up with filmmaker Matt Ross for the first time.

To celebrate the release of the film, we take a look at some of the actors best movies and roles

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-2003)

© New Line Productions Inc.
Mortensen may have been acting since 1984, but it was his role as Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings that made his a global star - it will be the role that will forever be synonymous with.

You can't really imagine another actor in the role of Aragorn, but Mortensen was actually a very late replacement for Stuart Townsend and was pushed to take on the role by his young son.

But the actor made the role his own as the swashbuckling and heroic Aragorn, who sets out on a quest to protect a Hobbit that puts him on a path to face his own destiny.

The Fellowship of the Ring hit the big screen in 2001 and was followed by The Two Towers and Return of the King in 2002 and 2003. Each film surpassed the one before it and became the big movie event of the year.

Met with critical acclaim and huge box office success, The Lord of the Rings trilogy is one of the most successful film series of all time; grossing over $2.9 billion at the global box office.

The Return of the King was the most successful film in the series and the only film in the trilogy to gross over $1 billion worldwide. The film also went on to scoop eleven Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director for Peter Jackson.

Some believed that J. R. R. Tolkien's trilogy was unfilmable but Jackson and co made it one of the biggest movie events of all time. These movies remain some of my best cinema experiences.

A History of Violence (2005)

Courtesy of Sachie
Courtesy of Sachie.
© New Line Productions Inc.
Mortensen teamed up with director David Cronenberg for the first time in 2005 as he starred in crime thriller A History of Violence.

A History of Violence was based on the 1997 graphic novel of the same name by John Wagner and Vince Locke and was adapted for the big screen by Josh Olson. This was the first film for Cronenberg since Spider in 2002 and kicked off a partnership between the director and actor.

Mortensen takes on the role of Tom Stall, a mild-mannered man who becomes a local hero through an act of violence, which sets off repercussions that will shake his family to its very core as secrets and his past catch up with him.

A History of Violence is an engrossing film from start to finish as Cronenberg notches up the tension and the suspense frame by frame and moment by moment. This is a wonderful study of violence, heroism, and trying to leave your past behind.

Mortensen gives one of the best performances of his career as he showed off a gritty and dark side to himself as an actor. Together, Mortensen and Cronenberg crafted a wonderfully layered and complex character that you never feel you know or trust.

The movie was met with acclaim upon release with performances from Mortensen and William Hurt receiving widespread praise.

A History of Violence grossed $60.7 million at the box office - easily making back its $32 million budget. The film went on to pick up two Oscar nominations; Best Adapted Screenplay for Olson and Best Supporting Actor for Hurt.

Eastern Promises (2007)

© Focus Features.
Two years later, Mortensen reunited with Cronenberg for Eastern Promises, which was written by screenwriter Steven Knight.

For me, Eastern Promises sees Mortensen deliver and even better performance than in History of Violence, as the actor and director explored the violent world of the Russian Mafia in London.

The mysterious yet ruthless Nikolai (Mortensen) is a driver for one of London's most notorious organised crime families. The family itself is part of the Vory V Zakone criminal brotherhood. Headed by Semyon (Armin Mueller-Stahl). The family owns a restaurant to hide their brutal core. But their fortune is being pushed to the limit by Semyon's violent son Kirill (Vincent Cassel).

His carefully maintained existence is put in jeopardy when he meets midwife Anna (Naomi Watts) who is searching for the identity and family of a young girl who died during childbirth on Christmas Eve, by using a diary that survives her. By delving into the diary she unleashes the full fury of the Vory. Her search leads her to an underground sex trafficking business run by London's Russian crime community.

Once again, the movie sees Mortensen take on a role of a man who is not all that he seems. Anna and the audience make assumptions about Nikolai when we first meet him - only for Mortensen and Cronenberg to turn that on its head.

It is a powerful performance from Mortensen and he dominates every scene that he is in - even if he is just stood saying nothing. He is both a captivating and intimidating presence and you just cannot take your eyes off him.

Eastern Promises is a dark, gritty, and violent movie that shares a lot of very similar themes and ideas with A History of Violence.

Eastern Promises was an even bigger critical hit and Mortensen went on to receive his first Best Actor Oscar nomination for his performance - losing out to Daniel Day-Lewis for There Will Be Blood.

The Road (2009)

Image Macall Polay.
© 2929/Dimension Films/MGM.
In 2009, Mortensen teamed up with filmmaker John Hillcoat for the first time for The Road, which was a big screen adaptation of the novel of the same name by Cormac McCarthy.

The movie has been adapted by Joe Penhall and was the first film for Hillcoat since The Proposition back in 2005.

Starring Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee in the central roles, the movie follows an ailing father who defends his son as they travel through a post-apocalyptic world towards the sea.

The Road is a movie that could well be a little too bleak for some, but that does not stop it from being a truly haunting watch. It is set to such a desolate backdrop, it is hard to believe that this movie was set on location.

This is a powerful ad emotional movie and the images that Hillcoat create of this post-apocalyptic world and how far the human race has fallen, will stay with you long after the credits have rolled.

It is another memorable performance from Mortensen, who is trying to do all he can to ensure the survival of his young son. It is the central relationship between Mortensen and Smit-McPhee that really is the emotional core of the film and packs the greatest punch.

The Road was another critical success for Mortensen and, for many, the movie was one of the best to hit the big screen in 2009. Sadly, it was a film that did struggle to find an audience upon release.

The Two Faces of January (2014)

Image Jack English.
© StudioCanal.
Mortensen returned to the big screen in 2014 as he starred in The Two Face of January, which was an adaptation of the 1964 book of the same name by Patricia Highsmith.

The Two Faces of January marked the feature film directorial debut of Hossein Amini, who is best known for his work as a screenwriter on the likes of Drive. As well as being in the director's chair, Amini also penned the film's screenplay.

Intrigue begins at the Parthenon when wealthy American tourists Chester MacFarland (Mortensen) and his young wife Collete (Kirsten Dunst) meet American expat Rydal (Oscar Isaac), a scammer working as a tour guide. Instead of becoming his latest marks, the two befriend him, but a murder at the couple's hotel puts all three on the run together and creates a precarious bond between them as the trio's allegiance is put to the test.

The Two Faces of January is an assured directorial debut from Amini who delivers secrets, lies, and intrigue with every twist and turn - creating tension and atmosphere along the way.

Mortensen and Isaac deliver wonderful performances as the pair try to outmanoeuvre one another as the law starts to catch up with them. It becomes a wonderful game of cat and mouse as they struggle trusting one another.

From start to finish, The Two Faces of January is tense, gripping, and intriguing and was one of the best thrillers to hit the big screen in 2014. This remains Armini's only directorial effort to date but I hope we do see him in the director's chair again sooner rather than later.

Captain Fantastic (2016)

© Bleecker Street.
Mortensen is back this week with his latest film Captain Fantastic, which sees him return to an indie project.

The movie is directed and written by Matt Ross as he returns to the director's chair for his first movie since28 Hotel Rooms back in 2012. This is only the second feature film of his career.

Mortensen leads a terrific cast as George MacKay, Steve Zahn, Frank Langella, Missi Pyle, Samantha Isler, Annalise Basso, and Nicholas Hamilton are all on board.

Deep in the forests of the Pacific Northwest, isolated from society, a devoted father (Mortensen) dedicates his life to transforming his six young children into extraordinary adults.

But when a tragedy strikes the family, they are forced to leave this self created paradise and begin a journey into the outside world that challenges his idea of what it means to be a parent and brings into question everything he's taught them.

Captain Fantastic is a movie that has played well on the festival circuit this year - screening at Sundance and Cannes - and it is set to be a film not to miss this weekend.

Captain Fantastic is released on September 9 in the U.K.


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Iolanthe's Quotable Viggo

Sky Greats are advertising Eastern Promises and A History of Violence back-to-back as a Cronenberg/Mortensen February treat in the UK. So is this a Quotable about those two great collaborative efforts? Er... no. It's about A Dangerous Method. Maybe it wasn't such a spectacular success, but Viggo's performance astonished critics. I mean, Tom Stall, Nikolai and.... Freud? Who would ever have thought it? It also gives me the chance to put one of my most favourite ever quotes back into context. That credit-card busting on-screen maganetism? Yup – it was Freud.

Viggo Mortensen is the champ. Hands down. Of all the "say what?" performances some of us first heard about at last fall's Toronto International Film Festival — and which characterized 2011 as a hugely surprising year for film — none of them surprised me more than Mortensen playing Sigmund Freud in David Cronenberg's "A Dangerous Method."

Jeff Simon
Buffalo News
26 January 2012

This is Mortensen's third straight collaboration with Cronenberg following "A History of Violence" and "Eastern Promises," and the ease and rhythm from working together so often pay off in the effortless grace of Mortensen's portrayal. It is some of his finest film work ever.

Clint O'Connor
The Plain Dealer
25 January 2012

Almost serenading the audience with his Austrian accent, Mortensen is instantly Sigmund Freud without a shadow of a doubt.

Brad Brevet
Rope of Silicon
10 September 2011

...there is no denying that A Dangerous Method doesn't come alive until we get our asses some Viggo. Christoph Waltz was originally set to play Freud, but was forced to drop out. At which time Cronenberg turned to his current muse. I'm sure Waltz would've done some stellar things with the character, but hot damn, Viggo sizzles as Freud.... This is a Viggo you don't think of when you think of Viggo

Joshua Miller
21 October 2011

It was a stroke of inspiration to cast the virile, hyper-secure Mortensen as the godfather of neurosis. Puffing on a cigar, he makes Freud a charismatic control freak, a man all too eager to engage in dream analysis yet too much of a self-designed authority figure to put his own dreams up for dissection.

Owen Gleiberman
Enertainment Weekly
10 September 2011

It's possible that in lusting after Mortensen all these years, we've taken his talent for granted. Of course, we really didn't know how talented he was until he started working with Cronenberg. This is the best thing Mortensen's ever done. His slow, paunchy, hairy Freud has a cavalier authority and a capacity for drollery. He's also seductively wise in a way that makes both Fassbender and Knightley, as very good as they are, also seem uncharacteristically callow. I don't know where Mortensen found this physical and psychological heaviness, this expressive inexpressiveness, but now isn't the time to start a diet.

Wesley Morris
Boston Globe
23 December 2011

Mr. Mortensen again reveals his amazing skills of self-transformation...

Roderick Conway Morris
New York Times
6 September 2011

It is also marvelous to see Freud, that embattled colossus, restored to his human dimensions by Mr. Mortensen. His sly performance is so convincingly full of humor, warmth and vanity that it renders moot just about every other posthumous representation of the patriarch of psychoanalysis.

New York Times
22 November 2011

Even in a period film like this one — a picture that runs the heavy risk of being ponderous and stiff — he can slip himself into the scenery with a "Don't mind me, here in my Sigmund Freud getup" naturalness….

Stephanie Zacharek
2 September 2011

I was so taken with Mortensen's constantly alert and cunning eyes. He was always thinking, sometimes on a current that flows in opposite direction of his dialogue. It is a very effective performance, and Mortensen, one of the best actors working today, has shown us something new in his repertoire. It bodes well for his life as a middle-aged actor.

By Sheila OMalley
Capital New York
6 October 2011

Mortensen's buttoned-down and highly verbal Freud is something to behold — and also to listen to. The actor has been the quiet man of volcanic physical intensity in two previous Cronenberg films, A History of Violence and Eastern Promises. Here his tongue is more lethal than his fists, as when he tears into Jung for practising "second-rate mysticism and self-aggrandizing shamanism."

Peter Howell
Toronto Star
12 January 2012

Freud, played by the perpetual shape-shifter Viggo Mortensen, slinks around like a silent old Zen master.

by Matthew D'Abate
Your Beautiful New York
14 December 2011

Mortensen, in very much a supporting role, thrives superbly for his third Cronenberg running, summoning a peppery gravitas, and an eye-narrowing fearfulness, as the father of psychiatry might well, about patricidal impulses from his younger colleague.

Tim Robey
The Telegraph
9 February 2012

...the ever-flawless Viggo Mortensen.

Jesse Hawthorne Ficks
San Francisco Bay Guardian
26 September 2011

Viggo Mortensen has so much on-screen magnetism, he'll probably destroy the credit cards of anyone sitting in the first 10 rows.

Wallace Bain
Santa Cruz Sentinel
25 January 2012

You will find all previous Quotables here.

© Viggo-Works/Iolanthe. Images © Hanway/Lago.

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Last edited: 31 May 2023 15:42:13