Encounters - Direct Response from Viggo Mortensen

Source: El Mundo

He is known for his roles in Eastern Promises, Captain Alatriste and The Lord of the Rings, Mortensen is also a musician, poet and photographer. Now he participates in the FiSahara Film Festival, to be held from April 28 to May 3 in the Sahrawi refugee camps of Dakhla (Algeria). He will be presenting the film Far from Men.

Online webchat at the offices of El Mundo - 21 April 2015
Online webchat at the offices of El Mundo - 21 ….
© El Mundo.
I haven't seen you in a movie for a long time. Have you got any new projects? Greetings.
The next film that will be released in Spain is Far from Men, a French film where I speak French and Arabic. Based on a short story by Albert Camus.

Hello Viggo. The best play my wife and I have seen by far has been Purgatorio at Matadero Madrid: a wonder of script and acting. When will you make us the gift of another one of your performances on stage? Thanks for your work.
Thank you very much. I would love to do more theatre. In Spanish or English, but I don't have anything planned at the moment.

Hello, before anything let me tell you that I love your work, congratulations for everything. What would you like people to see in your new film and how would you explain it in a simple way? A hug and thank you.
First of all I would like the film to be seen. Luckily, Jauja had very good reviews and there was a good reaction from the audience. I hope that Far From Men has similar luck.

Good morning Mr. Viggo, with what Spanish director would you like to work? You are a special actor.
I always look at the story first and the cast and director later. I try to find, or hope to be found by stories that would end up being movies I'd go to watch in the cinema.

I have to ask you about Alatriste one more time... You were the best Captain Alatriste possible with the worst cast and director possible. Would you repeat this film again in a less... embarrassing way? Thank you.
I don't know what you mean by "embarrassing." In no way was it that for me. I think that Agustín Díaz Yanes did a great job, as a scriptwriter and director. I think that with time this film will be more and more appreciated.

Have you ever read the complete trilogy of The Lord of the Rings? Thank you.

It's unusual to see an international star at the FiSahara Film Festival. How did you find out about it? Do you support the struggle of the Sahrawi people?
I'm going to present Far from Men, as I've done with other members of the cast in Morocco, Algeria, France and other places. The situation in the western Sahara seems quite unjust to me and I'm aware that this injustice has a lot to do with the bad faith of many politicians, including the governments of the United States, France, and Spain (among others).

Have you ever been in the Sahara? What do you expect to find there?
Yes, in Algeria and Morocco. I expect to find a lot of sand. That's the only sure thing.

Viggo, would you like to direct plays?
I hadn't thought about it. You never know. I like plays and I like actors, so it could happen that some day I'll have the good fortune to try it.

The conflict in the Sahara has been stalled for nearly 40 years. Do you believe a solution is possible? Do you see a possible reconciliation between the Polisario Front and Morocco, as has happened with Cuba and the United States?
I'll quote Albert Camus as a reply, "The realization that life is absurd cannot be an end, but only a beginning." [translation from Wikiquotes]

Esteemed Viggo: I don't have a question. I just want to tell you that I saw Far from Men in Luxembourg several months ago and was left shaken: magnificent film and magnificent acting by you (and your fellow cast members). I am grateful for your work, which I've followed for many years. I also admire your vitality - which you express in many fields - and your engagement with righteous causes. The world needs many artists - with a capital A - like you. A hug.
Thank you, it makes me happy to know that you liked the film. I consider it one of the best films and among the best filming experiences of my career.

I'm a passionate admirer of your Cronenberg trilogy: A History of Violence, Eastern Promises, and A Dangerous Method. I hope that he counts on you again in the near future, because since he decided to change his 'fetish' actor (right now it appears to be Robert Pattinson), his career has lost a lot of steam. Could you choose a [favorite] of the Canadian master's films?
I can't complain about how things are going for me with or without Cronenberg. I'm pleased to know that you like my work with him.

Your passion for The Holy Innocents, to the point of defending the movie on a television program (Versión Original), was interesting to me. Now I've been surprised to read that you're going to film or have filmed with Neil Marshall, the director of the most hard-hitting episodes of Game of Thrones. Are you a fan of the series? Everyone prefers Tyrion; what character is your favorite? Good luck with this new project; I'm sure it will be bloody.
I don't have any commitment with Game of Thrones; I don't know where that news came from. I think it's one of the most interesting programs on TV right now.

Is there a date for the Spanish release of Far from Men?
I think it will be shown in a French film festival in June and later it will come out in Spanish cinemas either during the summer or at the beginning of autumn.

Hello Viggo, which has been your favorite role in the films you've worked on? Thanks, greetings!
It's like choosing a child. Or a brother. Or more accurately, a favorite foot or hand. The truth is that all the roles I've played have taught me something.

Hello Viggo, I'm a Spaniard living in Copenhagen for the last ten years. Every time I speak to Danish people about who are the most famous Danish personalities in the world, they mention you, even though you were not born in Denmark. Do you consider yourself Danish in any way? Where do you think you are from? Which one do you feel is your land?
I have a Danish passport and I have lived in Denmark; I also have a lot of family in that country. It's true I wasn't born there but I have important ties with the country, its culture and its people. My land is the round earth we live on.

Esteemed Mr. Mortensen, you are always perceived as a valiant person with character. What are you afraid of? A hug, and a greeting from my three-year-old daughter Luna who is a great fan of yours.
Of the things that everyone is surely afraid of. Death, our loved ones suffering, violence, injustice and all kinds of calamities outside of our control. But tell Luna that fears pass very quickly.

Why do you always seem sad?
I'm happy to read that it seems that way to you, that I'm sad. I would have been much more worried if you had conclusive evidence. By the way, I'm quite happy at this moment, answering your question.

Who are your favorite authors?
There are too many to mention in the time that we have for everyone's questions. But I can say that Albert Camus is one of my favorites. Both as a writer and as a humanist.

Esteemed Viggo: What was left inside you after playing Alatriste that has been of use to you in later roles? Thank you.
I learned many things that I didn't know about the history of Spain and some of the landscapes of Spain. I also learned things about my colleagues in the film, an expert cast of actors who are among the best there are in this country.

Have you worked with Woody Allen since The Purple Rose of Cairo? What was the experience of filming with Woody Allen like? I also liked your role from that time as a prison inmate in that Renny Harlin thriller. Did you film it in a real prison or was it a set? Because if it was in a studio, it was very impressive!
I've never worked with Woody Allen again, though I'd like to. Yes, it was a real prison, an abandoned one in Wyoming. Butch Cassidy and the so-called Sundance Kid were supposedly there, among other famous nineteenth-century criminals.

Hello, I see you now and then on the Gran Via [tr. note: a famous street in Madrid]. I liked your acting in Brian de Palma's Carlito's Way very much, also your acting in Prison. Do you consider them to be among your best work?
I liked the role of Lalin in Carlito's Way a great deal. I don't have much screen time in the movie, but during the preparation of my character I listened to thousands of hours of salsa music from the early seventies. And I also learned to do everything from a wheelchair, including cooking and washing the dishes afterwards.

Will you do a play in Madrid again?

Do you think that one day the courage of men may fail ?
It happens every day.
[tr. note: question and answer in English]

How much sport did you have to practice to play that unforgettable Russian mobster in Eastern Promises?
I did a lot of training in martial arts, as they are taught by the Russian military. And I also insisted on learning how to avoid knives.

Do you think that the media is currently trivializing violence? Do they need that violence in order to sell more? Could it be it is we, the audience, who demand it? I want to tell you that I'm actually asking you this because in some of your highly violent films I've had contradictory feelings, I mean, can some films like The Road, A History of Violence or Eastern Promises be made without it seeming that violence as such is a strategy? In the case of those films, I must say yes. Nowadays, this is something quite extraordinary. Greetings.
There are different ways to show violence in films. For example, I prefer what Cronenberg does, which is not only showing the act of violence in the most realistic way possible, without embellishing it by slowing it down or making violence a joke, but also the consequences of violence, both physical and psychological.

Are you more for [Real] Madrid than San Lorenzo??
No. I love them almost the same. "Almost." The only team I wouldn't mind seeing defeat Real Madrid would be San Lorenzo. But I don't want anyone defeating San Lorenzo.

Which one is your favorite Albert Camus book?
Although I guess it's not the best written of all, I choose the emotional power of The First Man. It was adapted for the screen, a film made by an Italian director. Unfortunately it wasn't very good.

Hello Mr. Mortensen!! I only wanted to deeply thank you for your role as "Captain Alatriste." I´m an ardent follower of the literary series and I think you embodied the character in an INCREDIBLE way. Thank you for having worked on your role so much, in this way allowing us to see the Captain in the flesh!! Long live first-rate actors like yourself!!!!! By the way, what do you think of the master Clint Eastwood? Greetings!!
Like almost all the renowned actors or directors, Clint Eastwood has made good and mediocre work. I like his presence and economy as an actor, and I like his sense of pace and his efficiency as a director.

Hello, Viggo, Remember your stay in Madrid as a student of St. Lawrence University? You lived in my house, with my family, on Alcalá street. And do you remember the little dog you found in the Retiro [park] and we adopted? I keep a very nice photograph from that time. I wish you the best, a big hug.
How lovely to know about you. I don´t remember what you called the little dog. I wonder where all of you are now. A big hug for everybody and, again, thank you for your hospitality.

Thank you for your commitment to the Arab world and to freedom. The invasion of Iraq that you so bravely opposed, and the campaign in Libya are, in my opinion, the cause of the tragedies that are happening now, including the boat people in the Mediterranean. I hope that Far from Men contributes to the meetings. What message should be sent to the hearts of our world? Yours sincerely.
Another Camus quote."Totalitarian tyranny is not based on the virtues of the totalitarians. It is based on the mistakes of the liberals."

I've read that you refused to take part in Reservoir Dogs. Why? Did you regret it afterwards?
I didn't refuse to work on that film. Tarantino just didn't choose me.

Mr. Mortensen, is it true that the preparation and shooting of the film The Road took a physical and emotional toll on you such as you had never experienced until that moment in your work as an actor? It´s the fourth time I've seen it, and it still moves me. It´s my favourite of all your films.
It's a very good film. A good job by John Hillcoat adapting McCarthy's novel. It was not easy for him to do it, and it was not an easy film to shoot either. The photography, by the Spaniard Javier Aguirresarobe, is excellent. The actor who played my son, Kodi Smit-Mcphee, continues to work a lot and well. Now he´s an adult and quite a bit taller than me. He´s also a good poet.

Good afternoon, Viggo. Congratulations for continuing with your commitment to causes you believe in. I would like to know what your opinion is about people from the film industry and the world of culture in general, according to whom popularity should not be used to denounce injustice.
It seems to me that any citizen, any man, woman or child, has the right to say what they want about what they want. For example, the mere fact of being a movie actor or a cab driver shouldn't be an impediment to free speech.

Hello, Viggo, it looks like fame hasn't gone to your head. You look like a calm man, with your head on your shoulders. It´s NOT easy to be like that after being so famous... any advice?
As in any job, it´s a question of doing the best collective work possible and respecting the others. Rather simple, after all.

Do you feel like a Renaissance man?
No, because at 500 years old, I wouldn't be able to get anything right.

Hello, Viggo, as López Vázquez said in Atraco a las tres [tr. note: Hold-up at Three O´Clock, an old Spanish movie,] "an admirer, a slave, a friend, a serf." My question is what is it about Los Santos Inocentes [tr. note: The Holy Innocents] that makes it one of the favourite films of many, many people (including you and I)? Greetings.
Great script, great actors, excellent director.

Mr Mortensen, so nice to greet you. I´d like to ask you, what, in your experience, is the greatest challenge an actor can face in the context of acting, and how can he find an emotional balance in his daily life once he has developed difficult complexities regarding the expression of certain emotions required for the role, and, in addition, needless to say, if a balanced self-awareness of the feelings the actor may develop as a result of the aforementioned work can take place. Thank you very much, Mr. Mortensen, and my sincere congratulations on your entire career.
I don't know if you are Argentinian. I ask because those of us who grew up in that beautiful country are famous for "enrollarnos bastante" [tr. note: going on and on], as they say here. I often extend myself a lot with my questions and answers. Although, here, I´ll try to be as brief as possible. For an actor, at least for me, there´s always the fear of failing. What is failure? For me, failure is not living up to the story and to those who team up to tell it. You have to go through fear, roll up your sleeves, and move on. It´s the same every time. Thank you for the question.

When will you continue with your project in Teatro Español that you had to cancel? Thank you.
We did it in Madrid's Matadero, a couple of years ago. Carme Elías and I, directed by Josep María Mestres.

Hello Viggo. As a well-known [Real] Madrid fan, how do you see Wednesday's match? Greetings Aragorn!
Very unpleasant. With the injured players Real Madrid has and the recent derby´s history, I think that Ancelotti´s team may suffer a lot, but I hope they'll move on to the semi-finals. What worries me most is that we'll have the house full of colchoneros [tr. note: Atlético de Madrid supporters] to watch the match and I'll have to take great care of my t-shirt with Raúl on it so they don't burn it.

What do you think is the future of movie theatres? Will they disappear or will they be converted offering new services?
I think there will always be some movie theatres, as there always will be someone who takes photos with film and who writes letters by hand, but as an actor and film producer, I fear it will be increasingly difficult to release good films in theatres. People are already quite used to watching them at home on their computers or television. For me, the experience of being in a cinema full of spectators I don't know, waiting to see something new, something different, to see ordinary people in extraordinary situations on screen, is unique. It would be a pity if that disappeared entirely.

Mr. Mortensen, the friends of the Sahrawi people are very grateful that you are taking part in our festival. How do you think the Spanish government should act regarding Western Sahara?
To begin with, doing everything possible to fulfil and demand that others fulfil the decisions and commands of the UN.

Hello Viggo. I´d like to understand in what sense you think having lived in Argentina as a child left a mark on you, and what that different childhood gave you and took from you that's different from a typical American child. Greetings from another Cuervo in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Are you going to watch tomorrow the match against Danubio? On your TV, I guess. I don't know how to compare; it's what I am. I don't know if there is "a typical American child" either. In the first place, I don't like to use the word "American" for the citizens of the United States. You, like me, are American. Secondly, in the USA, as in Argentina, there's a bit of everything. It's true that the multicultural upbringing I had helped me to be interested in people and cultures different from those of my childhood. I guess that up to a point, I'm still looking for different points of view, different landscapes, as an actor, as an artist, thanks to my Argentinian childhood.

What do you think of the Pope, a supporter like you of San Lorenzo de Almagro?
It seems to me that within the rather conservative bureaucratic maze that is the official institution of the Catholic Church, he is a man who is trying to break the mold regarding sexuality, racism, economic inequality, and in many other areas. Even though he cannot achieve huge changes, the way I see it, he has shown more courage and open-mindedness than all the other Popes I've known. That he is a diehard Ciclón supporter seems great to me, of course. I can understand that the supporters of Huracán or Boca Juniors, whom he has teased from time to time, don't think that the Pope's fondness for my club is that interesting.

Good morning! San Lorenzo is fifth in the League at three points from Boca. Do you think we have a line-up to fight for the League [Championship]? And in the Libertadores [Cup], will we move on even if it's to second place in the group? Hugs.
Until Sunday, we were first. In Mar del Plata, as in Marrakech last December, and in other places, the tactical plan of playing too much on the defensive and/or on the counterattack did not help the team. As a San Lorenzo supporter, I always prefer that the team die with their boots on, that they attack mercilessly, regardless of the opponent's level. That way one respects oneself and the opponent, something very Cuervo historically, very Samurai.

Which do you think is worse, the political situation in Spain or in the US?
I don't see a great difference. Corrupt governments and those that steal in a big way remain unpunished and in many cases, rewarded, while the vast majority of the citizenry gets increasingly desperate.

Do you think that cinema could have a role in international relations as an instrument not only of entertainment but also as a medium for reconciliation and dialogue?
Yes, at times. For example, the film that I'm to present at the Sahara International Film Festival, Far from Men, speaks of crossing or ignoring the artificial borders and prejudices that separate men, people.

This year there were two clearly distinct groups, the defenders of Birdman and of Boyhood. I am without doubt for Boyhood. Which is it for you? Do you have some other favorite?
I liked Boyhood a lot. It's always difficult to compare films that are at a similar level. I was pleased to see Patricia Arquette win, since she is a friend and I think she did a great job in that film. And also I liked her speech, what she said about economic equality for women. She was criticized by the Right in the US and by all those who always claim that actors should be forbidden from talking about anything other than film.

What do think of the dubbing actor that they assigned to dub your films in Spanish. Do you like him? Have you considered dubbing yourself? Thanks.
]I don't like any dubbing in films. Not in mine, not in anybody's. It's a bad habit that continues to be used in countries such as Italy, Germany and Spain. In my opinion, Spanish children starting around 10 years old, more or less, should see non-Spanish speaking films in the original version. If they can't read or are blind, of course they have to listen to them dubbed.

Why have you decided to go to the Sahara film festival? For the screening of your film or out of a sense of duty. You're going to like it a lot. The Sahrawi people are lovely. Salutations and thanks.
They had invited me to the Sahara International Film Festival before and I wasn't able to go. It interests me to meet the Sahrawi people and I'm happy to be able to share Far from Men with them, a film that I believe they will understand and appreciate.

Good afternoon, Mr. Mortensen. Are you currently working on a book of poetry? I hope so!
Yes, I am gradually assembling a new collection for publication. The problem is that I've had more than a year of continuous work on promotion and filming. But I've progressed a little and recently gave a reading at the Teatro Romea in Barcelona, something that I've been unable to do for several years.

Mr. Mortensen, have you ever been to Vigo?
The first time I was in Vigo, I must have been about 11. My two brothers and I went with my father, a car trip from Portugal to Denmark. A lot of camping, a lot of heat. I've got a photograph taken by my father where I'm standing in front of the sign that says "Vigo" at the entrance to the city. He told me that the name is of Viking origin and that they had forgotten the second "g," but I think he was kidding me. When we were presenting Alatriste in Spain in 2006, a player from Celta de Vigo gave me a light blue t-shirt signed by him; it's very nice. But I can't wear it. It wouldn't be as serious as wearing [Atlético de] Madrid's red and white or Barcelona's azulgrana, but it wouldn't be right either. Once I made the mistake in Argentina of wearing the one from Tigre because I wanted Tigre to defeat Boca, to lend us a hand in the 2008 championship. There are still San Lorenzo supporters who reproach me for it.

What do you do to be happy?
I sleep.

What is your opinion of the fact that in Spain there are still patriots buried in ditches?

What´s your opinion of Podemos?
I think that the leaders of this political movement have been a little arrogant, but maybe they have time to rectify and explain with detail and intelligence what they would do to turn around the pitiful political landscape that currently exists in a large part of Spain. They started with a great advantage, the dissatisfaction, I should say desperation, of a great part of the Spanish people, and they didn't know how to take advantage of the moment very well. That's why Ciudadanos, for example, has been able to sneak in, giving the impression that they are a party of real social change, and it's not so. They are just a Catalan right-wing party. Podemos should never have allowed this to happen. As I say, I hope they can rectify it, that they are able to do what they are trying to do, which is to talk to the people as equals. Without fear of failing.

Thank you very much for having taken the time to ask the questions and read the answers. Go Madrid!
Last edited: 6 June 2015 13:17:24
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