Web Chat with Viggo Mortensen

Source: 20 Minutos

The following web chat took place while Viggo was promoting Todos Tenemos Un Plan in Spain.

Viggo's answers are in bold print.

© 20 Minutos.
Hi, Viggo. I'm a great admirer of yours. My question is do you still have the horse from Oceans of Fire [tr. note: the Spanish title for Hidalgo] that you bought after the shoot? A hug.

Yes, he's actually at a friend's house. He's adopted him. He has young daughters and they have learned to ride with that horse. Since I now live in Spain, I don't have him here. He's in the United States.

Which character, of those you've played in your whole extensive professional career, do you most identify with and why? For which do you have a special affection and why? And the last one, which is your favorite character and why? Greetings and don't ever leave the world of acting.

I've never done a character that I haven't liked. I think it's my duty as an actor to try to understand the characters that I embody and when you get to know people, you always find something good in them. That's my opinion. There are films that I know are better than others but I like all the characters equally.

When I was a teenager, as a humble fan from León, Spain, I sent you a letter at your agency in the USA, and I was really surprised when, weeks later, I received a card with your autograph. Are you still that Viggo Mortensen from 13 years ago, so kind with your fans? Do you answer your fans' emails now? Thank you very much.

Now, since so many arrive, it´s impossible for me. I found that I was going to bed at 4 in the morning after opening and answering all the mail I got and it was no longer practical. You need to rest and there are only 24 hours in a day. Some years ago, I posted on the internet the information that if someone approaches me on the street, of course I´ll sign anything for them if there´s time, but I'll no longer answer mail from unknown people, no matter how kind they are.

Can you be Aragorn again for a few days and bash the Spanish politicians like the orcs that they are?

I think that among the Spanish citizenry there already are a whole lot of Aragorns.

You've played many different, complicated roles, but how do you see yourself in that of being a father? What does fatherhood mean to you?

A more important role than all of those I've done in films.

Hello Viggo, a pleasure being able to talk to you. As the well-known Real Madrid fan that you are (and I am), what do you think about Cristiano Ronaldo´s amazing statement? A pleasure and much luck with the film. The trailer looks spectacular! Greetings.

Thank you, I hope you like the film. I´ve read somewhere that Rayo Vallecano [tr. note: a soccer team from Madrid] are saying they can find him a little place to work out his sadness. They seem to love him very much, and not only the Merengues [trans. note: Real Madrid.]

Have you ever been told you are named like a Spanish city? I imagine you have. If you haven´t visited it yet, we are waiting for you here with open arms. I think you are an excellent actor and I wish you the best in this new project.

Yes, I have visited it. I like the area very much.

Hi, good day, Viggo! I have three questions for you. The first one: Every time you study and play the role of a character either on film or in the theatre, does something from them stick with you? What method do you use to be able to play your characters so well? The second one: After having visited so many countries, which food do you like the most? Mate doesn't count as food.... And the last one: What country or countries of those you've visited for work reasons or simply for leisure have you liked the most? By the way, my wife and I both loved your performance in Purgatorio and in The Road. Our hats off to you! Greetings from Mallorca.
I hope that someday you'll get to know the island and eat some ensaimadas [tr. note: sweet cakes made of coiled pastry.]

They stick with me just enough and I like that; that way, I'm learning about points of view different from my own. The more countries I visit, the more places I find that could be my home. Travel, if you're lucky, is very healthy and leads to peace and understanding. Food...I'm not very fussy. Where food is concerned, I adapt to what's offered. Thanks a lot.

Do you prefer working in Hollywood or in Spanish-speaking films?

I don´t have any preference. It depends on the script and the crew.

What do you think about the impediments the government is imposing when you want to go and see a show, whether it´s cinema or theatre? The price they set is a shame!

I guess you mean the rise in the VAT [tr. note: taxes]. It will surely be a little to the detriment of those of us who work in movies or the theatre, but I think that people will always be interested in going to the cinema or the theatre. What is truly sad is that the cuts are so uneven, that so much punishment is inflicted on the cultural sphere and so many rewards given to bankers and others whose fingerprints are all over this crisis.

Hello Viggo, I´m a 31 year old Spaniard. I live in Upper Darby, PA, very close to Philadelphia. I´ve been considering pursuing a career in films (as an actor) for a while. What would you recommend as my first steps? I want to tell you that I admire you deeply and I´d like to be an actor as big as you someday. Greetings.

You have to study and you have to be lucky. Many have luck but aren´t ready to take advantage of it when the moment arrives to work, to do something. You never know when your chance will come, and the best you can do is to watch films, theatre and practice acting wherever you can.

When you live in Madrid, what do you usually watch on TV? Thank you.

I loved to watch "Los desayunos" (Breakfast) with Ana Pastor and a lot of programmes on La2. Also films on La Sexta and a lot of soccer.

Hello, Viggo. What did you like most about Cádiz when you were here filming Alatriste?

The people. They seemed very warm and they knew how to have fun.

Hi. Even though it didn't receive any big awards, I loved Alatriste. Do you plan to make another movie in our country? It would delight many of us. Greetings.

Yes, I'd like to. We'll see if I'm lucky enough to find a director and a story as good as Agustín Díaz Yáñes and Alatriste.

What book do you have on your night table right now?

I have several, but the most recent one, that I read before last night's premiere of Todos tenemos un plan, was a story by Julio Cortázar.

Is the lack of creativity in film because Hollywood makes movies for sixteen-year-olds, or is there a talent crisis?

As always, the fear of losing money or, to put it better, the fear of not making a killing is and will continue to be the problem with regards to the artistic quality of the stories that come out of the big studios, whether they're North American or not.

A pleasure talking to you. Before anything else: the play Purgatorio? Wonderful! You must repeat the experience. Now, a doubt, being "half Argentinian" and for San Lorenzo, why are you for Real Madrid? It doesn´t suit you at all. It´s the only flaw I see in you, Viggo. I think you´d be a wonderful follower of Atlético de Madrid. But with Mou as 10 [tr. note: a player´s number ]!!

I don´t know why it doesn´t suit me to be a Real Madrid fan. Real Madrid is one of the greatest teams in the world and has a noble tradition institutionally and sports-wise. I like the fighters, those who have guts and know how to win and lose with dignity. This is also part of Real Madrid although some of them might forget that from time to time.

How did you prepare to play the Russian mobster Nikolai in Eastern Promises? Carry on like this. A hug.

I learned to speak my lines in Russian and spent some time in Russia.

What´s the first thing you do when you wake up? What attracts you most in a woman?

The first thing I really do is remember I´m going to die and that there are things to do. All women are different and I don´t like to generalize.

Hi Viggo, I´d like to ask you about a film project based on The Dark Tower, the book series written by Stephen King, and I´d like to know if you´ve heard about said project and whether you´d like to play the main character. Greetings and much luck to you.

Yes, at one point that production showed some interest in the possibility of me taking part in it. I even met with Ron Howard to talk about the project. At that time, I think they decided that the protagonist would be Javier Bardem. Now, what I don't know is whether Javier would like to do it or not. The truth is, I don´t know what´s happened with The Dark Tower.

As a Cuervo and an Argentinian, just this question: how is Argentina doing, really? Thanks Cuervo, a hug.

I guess the question comes from someone who, like me, doesn´t live in Argentina. Last week I was in Buenos Aires for a few days to promote Todos tenemos un plan. That is not enough to tell you how Argentina is doing. I can only tell you that, as usual, I was very happy to be in Argentina those days.

I´m a Leonese, from the Riaño mountains, an area that I know you love. Thank you. And I´m a great admirer of your work but also of the way you are that can be intuited from the interviews I´ve read. Is it difficult for you to be part of that world of the big stars that appears to be so superficial? Does it require an additional effort to protect yourself from the vanity that involves so much media recognition, so much money, etc.?

I do my job, which includes the promotion of films I participate in, and the plays I´ve been in, but beyond that, I´m not very well-informed or interested in the showbiz world, so it doesn´t worry me. I have as much vanity as anyone, but I try not to bother other people with my insecurities.

Given that Peter Jackson has included characters which don't appear in J R R Tolkien's original work in The Hobbit, in order to keep it parallel with The Lord of the Rings, would you have liked to have been included in the cast of Jackson's new project?

If Jackson and his team had felt like including me, of course I would have liked to participate.

Good morning, Mr Mortensen. You've worked in Hollywood movies, in Spanish films, Argentinian films... Where have you felt the most creative freedom? Is there hope for the Spanish film [industry]? Or might I perhaps have to try my luck as a writer in sunny California?

There's always hope for film; there will always be people who want to create it and want to see it. As for writing, well, that's a personal choice, but I don't know why you can't write in Spain; there's a lot of sun here, too. I wish you luck wherever you choose to go.

I'd like to know about the origin of the name Viggo; do you know anything about that? Thank you for all the good moments you've given me with your work, and much success with your future [endeavors].

It's a name that's been in all the generations of my family, in the Danish part of my family. Like all names, it comes and goes. Right now, it's relatively common but when I was born, it was seen as an odd name, an old-fashioned one. Viggo is a name that can be found in Norse sagas; it's a very old name.

Mr Mortensen. I would like to know what kind of photography you do, what kind do you like and if you know and could recommend some special photographer. Affectionate greetings.

Recently, I'm doing digital photography almost exclusively. I have old cameras, two from 1903 which I sometimes also continue using. There are many good photographers. One of the classic North American photographers I've always liked is Walker Evans. Another from the beginning of the 20th century was a Dane named Jacob Riis. Through his photography, he uncovered for the world the terrible conditions in which many citizens of New York lived. That helped change things.

I'll tell you that, among the other talents with which you're endowed, I love your poetic side, but you lavish little [on us] or it doesn't reach us. When is your next book? Thanks for supporting new creative people with Perceval Press. We love you.

I'm always writing, but since I'm doing promotion and now a new shoot, you'll have to wait until winter.

After being the main character in the play Purgatorio, would you like to participate in more theatrical plays?


Hi, Viggo! We've found out that you've had a proposal to play Henry Clemens as a counterpart to a Dracula played by Jude Law. The information says that you are negotiating your inclusion in The Last Voyage of the Demeter, a vampire film directed by Neil Marshall. However, you're about to film The Two Faces of January based on Patricia Highsmith's book and for next year, a film about Albert Camus, that you'd film in French. But we'd like another in Argentina...Has anything been planned with Ricardo Darín? Thanks again for your generosity. A greeting from an Argentinian in Madrid.

The thing about the Dracula film, that's not true; I don't know anything about that. The Two Faces of January, yes, I'm going to film that. The French one is for the end of next year and it's not about Albert Camus, but rather an adaptation of a story by that author. As for Darín, I met him for the first time last week. He seems like a very nice guy, apart from being a great actor; I would love to work with him sometime.

You give the impression of being a centered and coherent man with your feet on the ground. What do you think of all those Hollywood adolescents who do abnormal and scandalous things when they are growing up with fame? Did fame maybe not affect you because it came to you when you were already an adult?

I believe that all the adolescents of the world, throughout history, have done things that seem abnormal and scandalous to adults, whether they are famous or not. That's life.

Having lived in so many countries during your childhood, do you think that's been a privilege or on the other hand, has it given you a certain rootlessness? How is your life now in Spain?

Both things. In general, I think that it's something very positive, that I've been lucky in having traveled so much. That's helped me as person and in my profession, since it's something that gives you the opportunity to understand that there are many points of view in the world.

I read a comment of yours in which you said that Mourinho never put his finger in Simeone's eye because "he could kick his ass 'til it breaks, without middlemen or pauses." I am a Atlético supporter and a fan of yours and I'd like to know if those are really your words. A huge greeting!

Yes, I said it, in that crude way. Perhaps I should think a little about how I express my opinions at times, but I don't regret having said that at all.

Don't you see yourself as a little strange - and at the same time handsome - in that role? A thousand kisses, mwah! mwah! After seeing you in movies like The Road or Eastern Promises, which in my opinion you did brilliantly, I think that the part of the sex symbol Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings has nothing in common with you.

All the characters I do, including the twin brothers Agustín and Pedro in Todos tenemos un plan, have something of myself in them. As much as I 'dress myself' as someone else, it's always going to be my body and my voice that I use as tools. I saw the Lord of the Rings trilogy recently with some kids who hadn't seen it, and the truth is that it was very enjoyable to see the story through their eyes. I have a lot of affection for all the characters I've done. Especially the brothers in Todos tenemos un plan, because of it being a more recent experience and because it's my first time working in a movie from Argentina, the country of my childhood.

Many thanks for all the interesting questions. I see that even though our time is up, there are many more. I'm sorry I can't respond to all of them. Thank you for your interest in Todos tenemos un plan and in my work. I hope all of you have a great day. Thank you.

Viggo Mortensen

Last edited: 23 October 2012 19:53:16
© 20 Minutos.