Mortensen's Intensity Matched By Plot, Co-star

Source: Arizona Republic

Image Macall Polay.
© 2929/Dimension Films.
Viggo Mortensen is an intense actor, which makes him perfect for The Road.

The film, which opens Wednesday, is based on Cormac McCarthy's novel about a man and his son (played by Kodi Smit-McPhee) trying to survive in a near-future world that's been devastated by . . . what, we're never exactly sure.

Mortensen spoke recently about the experience of making a movie that depicts a wasteland, his 13-year-old co-star and that signature intensity.

It's a good movie, but it's rough stuff at times. Will people come to it?

You always wonder if people are going to come to it. To some degree you have to be lucky. But you have to be lucky in life. You have to be lucky in when the movie is put out, how it's distributed, how it's presented. I guess how this interview goes, what you write, all those little things. . . . Because it does work, in my opinion; I think the movie does have a chance to be seen.

The scenery (the film was shot in Pennsylvania) is certainly rugged. And it looked like it was freezing.

We were very lucky with the weather. It was terrible. . . . It really fed us as actors.

Was it physically hard?

Yeah, but I've been in other movies where the elements have been challenging - just typical work that you have to do. That just went with the territory. It didn't seem like such a big deal. Although I was concerned sometimes for Kodi, because he wasn't used to that kind of cold weather, being from Melbourne, Australia. I don't think he'd ever seen snow. Suddenly, he was working every day in freezing-cold conditions. . . . He was mature enough as a performer, unusually so for his age, that he knew that was useful. . . . The hardest thing about this was the emotional trip that the characters had to take.

Had you read the book?

No. And I'd read everything he'd written. I knew it was a best-seller, I knew Oprah had recommended it. Everybody I knew said, "Oh you've gotta read it; you haven't read it?" I said, "Oh, I'll get around to it." I was just being stubborn. I read the script, and I immediately got the book and read it.

Was there humor on the set?

Yeah, and I think it's a human reaction, too. You hear stories about people in wartime making jokes, gallows humor. It's just an instinct to survive. If you don't find a way to look at the absurdity of a terrible situation once in a while, you'll just lose your mind. And it would be reflected in the movie. If we had just been grim the whole way, the movie wouldn't have the colors that it does. There's a lot of variation as far as the emotions that are expressed and you feel watching it. That's because all kind of things were felt while we were shooting it.

Like what?

We had Kodi. He kept us laughing all the time. We played pranks on each other. Mostly, we played pranks on other people.

You're known for choosing intense roles. Is that by design?

It's up to you as an actor. You can go as far as you want. You can keep learning as you're going along, all the way, trying different things, pushing yourself. Not just for your own good, but because it's good for the story to do that. I pushed Kodi, and he pushed me back. Sometimes he initiated the pushing. He did things because he was working with me, maybe, that he might not have done on his own. I definitely did things and was able to get to places emotionally that I wouldn't have gotten to without him pushing me.
Last edited: 24 November 2009 15:02:51