by Arun Starkey
Throughout his acting career, Viggo Mortensen has performed for some of the most lauded filmmakers of the contemporary era. Famously, he worked with Peter Jackson on The Lord of the Rings trilogy and has collaborated with David Cronenberg on numerous occasions, including the lauded project A History of Violence. Elsewhere, he’s lent his talent to titles by the likes of Peter Weir, Ridley and Tony Scott and Brian De Palma. One of the most adroit character actors of his generation, there’s no surprise that Mortensen has such a glittering list of credits to his name.
Despite boasting a wealth of experience picked up by working with the best operators from behind the camera, one director has continually eluded the Danish-American star: Quentin Tarantino. The creative mastermind of pop culture staples such as Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and True Romance, Tarantino is one of Hollywood’s most highly influential auteurs.
It transpires that Mortensen could have worked with Tarantino on two occasions. The first would have been on 1992’s Reservoir Dogs, and the second – which Mortensen expresses much regret about – is 2015’s western mystery, The Hateful Eight.
When speaking to Grantland in 2015, Mortensen responded to the rumour that he was in line to appear in The Hateful Eight alongside the likes of Samuel L. Jackson and Jennifer Jason Leigh. Asked if there was any truth to the rumour, The Lord of the Rings star responded: “Yeah, we did meet. And that was an example of what I was talking about with small movies. All of last fall, I travelled nonstop. I was on a plane every two days to promote Jauja and Far From Men. I knew as a producer and an actor that I needed to do that for those movies to have a chance to be seen.”
He continued: “[Tarantino] wanted to start shooting at the end of the year and do rehearsals before that, and I just couldn’t do that schedule-wise. That’s the only reason [I passed]. It would have been really, really fun to work with him. I think he’s really smart and funny. I’d never sat down and talked to him that much, although I did audition for Reservoir Dogs, which he remembered.”
Probed on which part he auditioned for in Reservoir Dogs, Mortensen maintained that he couldn’t remember, although he did read lines with Harvey Keitel. He then swiftly moved on and admitted that he wished The Hateful Eight would have “worked out”. However, his other movie commitments meant it was impossible.
He said: “Mister … I don’t know which one it was. It was one of them. I might have auditioned for two. I had fun. I did one take where I made the character Hispanic. I remember it was in this tiny office on the Fox lot, I think, and I read with Harvey Keitel. I wish [The Hateful Eight] would have worked out, but that’s what I’m talking about: You either see these films through to the end, or you don’t.”