Viggo Mortensen Talks About Fame, Violence and Cronenberg
Uncut DVD: David Cronenberg said he had to seduce you into signing up for A History Of Violence.
Viggo: To me, it was a script that 99 per cent of directors would have made a bad movie out of. Looking at it, it would have been real easy to make it as a mediocre exploitation movie. If you had a good cameraman, you could do some interesting violence. You could do some obvious emotional moments and that's it. But it was David Cronenberg. So I thought I'd ask him why he was making this movie. I wanted to know how he'd imagine starting it and what were his intentions, expecting to get a good answer. And I did.
Uncut DVD: What do you like about Cronenberg's work?
Viggo: I think he's gifted as a storyteller in that he doesn't insist you see things any particular way. Most of his movies start like this one, with you going: 'What's happening? Nothing's happening. Is this a bad movie? Well, it's David Cronenberg, it must be OK. But it doesn't seem like a very good movie.' You're asking yourself these questions and then, after a few minutes, you forget them, because you're in it, you're there, you're watching, you're part of it. And suddenly you're uncomfortable. I think it's like, instead of opening a door and pushing you inside a room, he opens the door and then he walks in and you have a look and say, 'What's he doing in there?' He invites you to ask yourself questions, sometimes complicated ones. And in the end, he doesn't give you any answers.
Uncut DVD: Did you read the original graphic novel?
Viggo: I eventually did. It's OK but it doesn't bear much relation to this. I mean, it's a slasher exploitation horror thing.
Uncut DVD: The film has been interpreted as a critique of American gun culture...
Viggo: That's too simple. It's obviously a lot more universal than that: it's about human behaviour. All people have secrets, big and small secrets, and sometimes something unexpected happens that forces you to be more honest than is comfortable - and that's instantly an interesting psychological situation. This is a movie that could have been made by Ingmar Bergman in a small town in Sweden. It's not about America. It's not even about violence.
Uncut DVD: So what is it about?
Viggo: I think it's interesting to see how authority, primarily masculine authority, affects people. Why is a person who killed somebody in his diner applauded? This isn't a particularly American thing: it's part of the general human condition. The first reaction is to say: 'Yeah, good, he killed those bad guys!' People see someone act forcefully and they applaud it. It's easier than thinking for yourself.
Uncut DVD: Your character turns out to have a past that nobody knew about. Do you think he was effectively living a lie?
Viggo: That's part of the fun of it. But the reality is more complicated I think, or it seemed to me to be. Because he does have two children. They are his children. He does love them. He did meet this woman. He did fall in love with her. He does have this house. He does have this horse. He does have those bills to pay. He does have a diner and he does treat the people who work for him kindly and he does care for them and he does help the community - it's all true. So you can't say that's all lies. It's much more complicated, just like ourselves in any relationship we have.
Uncut DVD: The end of A History Of Violence is very open. What's your take on it?
Viggo: I have some...wishful thinking about what will happen. I like the fact that there's obviously a choice, that it's possible to say no to a certain way of behaving. There's no guarantee that this will work, just as there isn't if you're in a relationship where there's trouble and you decide to commit to it all the same. That doesn't mean the other person is going to commit to you. It doesn't mean it's going to work out. But it is, at least, a sincere gesture.
Uncut DVD: Playing Aragorn in the Lord Of The Rings trilogy turned you into a star practically overnight. How has that changed your life?
Viggo: After working 22 years without thinking about it, all of a sudden it's different. You walk down the street and people want to take a picture, something for their nephew or their sister. I never had to deal with it before. I find it strange. I'm flattered on the one hand, but on the other hand, I'd like to be able to go into a pub and have a drink. Sometimes I get annoyed. But, hey, it'll probably be over in a few years.
Last edited: 2 May 2006 13:28:27