© Le Journal de Montreal.
In the film Eastern Promises, by David Cronenberg, Viggo Mortensen incarnates the character of a Russian criminal who mystifies as much as he terrifies.
At the end of the telephone, the polyglot actor who speaks French, appears, on the contrary, a gracious and generous man.
Since the beginning of his cinematographic career in the film Witness (1985), by Peter Weir, Viggo Mortensen has played in about thirty films, including the the Lord of the Rings trilogy, in the role of Aragom. David Cronenberg has directed him once already in the film A History of Violence (2005).
Viggo Mortensen was not surprised when David Cronenberg contacted him and proposed to him the role of Nikolai in Eastern Promises, only a short time after they had finished A History of Violence.
"David and me became friends during the filming of History of Violence. He had said to me, at the end of the filming, that he was already thinking of me for one of his next projects. The first of these which he could conceive was in this, Eastern Promises", he says.
"I was more than happy to work with him again. I've never had such a beautiful experience," he states.
Viggo Mortensen considers that David Cronenberg is a fine observer of human behaviour.
"For me, it doesn't matter the type of scene which I play, that it is light or very emotionally charged, there are always the small details, on the level of the dialogue or the play between two actors, that are important. And David really has a concern for the detail. It's important the subtleties which an actor can bring, if that touch is not realized, then you will have lost those elements. That is not the case with David since he is as sensitive as the actors on the best way to tell the story," he stresses.
Viggo Mortensen declares that Steve Knight is a good plot writer and that he liked his plot for Eastern Promises, from the very beginning. "The setting may be elsewhere but it remains the same, Steve is not Russian and I felt, instinctively, that we had a lot to learn on the subject of Russia, of Russians and, especially, the subject of organised Russian crime, and how they conduct their activities in London, where our story unfolds," he says.
A few weeks before filming, the actor went to Russia where he met, in the small villages of the Ural, people who, he says, resembled his character very much.
"My journey made the production a little nervous, but I returned with information and feelings which served the story well, including the other actors such as Naomi Watts and Vincent Cassel. Having been in Russia, I knew a little better the people that our characters were modelled on."
Viggo Mortensen considers that few films with Russian characters, like those one finds in Eastern Promises, have been produced in America or Europe.
"This is the reason why I couldn't find inspiring films to help me with the incarnation of my character. To go to the sources was still the best solution. In Russia, I found what I sought, thanks to the assistance of several people, but also by observing their ways of expressing themselves and of moving," he says.
Finally, Viggo Mortensen is recognised as being a partisan of the Montreal Canadiens. Why the Canadiens? Quite simply because he admired the Montreal team at the time of Guy Lafleur, Ken Dryden and Larry Robinson.
"It was undoubtedly the last beautiful hockey team. With the arrival of Flyers, the quality of the play changed, but I think that one returns there little by little," concludes the actor, who even had the audacity to carry the holy sign to Toronto.