Renaissance Man Mortensen Arrives With Good Advice
24 March 2009
Image Larry Horricks.
© Good Films.
Unlike many actors who essentially play themselves in every role, Viggo Mortensen is developing a reputation for diversity.
The US-born renaissance man has published nine volumes of poetry, is an avid photographer, and his abstract paintings have been hung in galleries worldwide. Then there's his discography - 15 or so albums, generally of ambient music, featuring spoken word and poetry.
While some artists with this much output may be driven by ego, there was no trace of it during Mortensen's visit to Sydney yesterday to promote his latest film, Good. "You open one door, then another, then another," he said.
"I would never have thought about being an actor as a kid - I wouldn't have dared. But there was a time in my 20s when I started looking at plays and movies in a different way.
"Not just 'Am I entertained or not?', but 'How is that done?'
"I'd always written stories and poems, but it wasn't until I read in public that I started to see how that act makes you experience it differently."
His acting diversity has seen him shift effortlessly from the old-fashioned heroics of Aragorn in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings to dark and complex characters such as Nikolai Luzhin, the Russian-born driver for one of London's most notorious East European organised crime families in Eastern Promises.
In Good, based on the play of the same name by C P Taylor, Mortensen creates another strikingly different character: John Halder, a slightly bumbling literary professor in the Germany of the 1930s, whose novel, based on his personal circumstances strongly advocating euthanasia, comes to the attention of the Fuhrer.
While the sets of the film are adorned with swastikas as the characters parade about in Nazi uniforms, Good nicely sidesteps the woeful convention of actors speaking English in unconvincing German accents. "They do it even in good movies, like Schindler's List or The Reader," Mortensen said. "I think it's better not to. After a few minutes, you are really paying attention to what's being said, not how it's being said.
"Good is a story about people making errors and living in denial. By not paying attention to what is really going on around them, the characters face terrible consequences.
"Political parties take advantage of these times - it's up to the individual to pay attention," he said. "In a sense this story is about what happens when you don't pay attention."
Last edited: 23 March 2009 15:57:20