Interview With Viggo Mortensen

Source: Cinema Voice

So, are you enjoying staying here?

Am I enjoying being here in Japan? Yes, I wish we had more time to travel around the city and around the country, but I'll have another chance, I'm sure.

What did you do yesterday?

Um, we did some interviews but I also just went walking around. I like being outside. It's a nice time of year. It's kind of warm for winter. It doesn't seem very bad this time. I remember last year we were here at the same time and it was snowing and cold.

I saw you yesterday and you were carrying a big shopping bag.

Oh, you saw me there? Um, I have...for my son and for some other friends...I got a lot of toys, Japanese toys, and some pens and paper. They make such good stationery here. Also, some old movie posters. My son is a big fan of Bruce Lee so I found some old Bruce Lee original posters.

I saw all the special footage on the DVD and it really struck me that you are a leader. And the people involved in the movie said that you're the type they'd be willing to follow into war. What motivated you to such great involvement?

Well, I hope I wouldn't disappoint them in real life outside of this movie because I'm not as brave as Aragorn always is, and I'm not as patient as Aragorn always is, but I do my best. I think that all of us learn things not only from leaders like Aragorn in this story but also Galadriel and Elrond, Gandalf, you know. The idea that a person can be a strong leader, even a stronger leader if they admit they have certain weaknesses, that they're not perfect, that part of doing your best is being honest and admitting that you don't have the answer. Um...that's something I admire about the character of Aragorn and I admire about the way Tolkien wrote these characters. I'm flattered that my cast mates would say that. I really feel a loyalty to them and an extraordinary level of friendship, which I think we have as a result of going through this experience together. I think we all supported each other in the ways that we could. And I wish all movies were like this, but almost never are they this complete in that sense where people on a daily basis, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year (even), put the good of the group effort first, and the individual needs second. This is really the way this story was told, and it's what the story is about. So it was a very unique experience.

Is this about the tattoo?

Who really started it and how?

I don't remember the first conversation but I know that I remember talking to Dominic about it, initially, and then we all talked about it. And I went into Wellington and I found a man who would be willing to do it; not only do it for all of us but do it on a Sunday, because we didn't really have any days off. So we had to do it on a Sunday morning. And normally, he was closed first, he said he wasn't sure but then the man said, "okay." And then I went to Alan Lee and asked if he could make a drawing of the word for "nine," not the number but the word "nine," which is the Fellowship. And we all decided how it should be and each individual decided where they wanted it, and if they wanted it. It was a voluntary thing. No one was forced to do it but everybody wanted to do it. So you know, it's an outward symbol. In a way, we didn't really need to do that because what's important is what we have inside and in our head as far as the memory of doing it and the feeling that we have of each other now as a result of going through the experience together in a good way. Just as the gifts that we got from Peter Jackson at the end of the shoot. For example, I was given a sword that I used in the beginning that had lots of marks on it. It was well used and has a lot of memories and when I hold it or touch it, it reminds me of things. But in the end, it's only a thing. And a tattoo is only a thing. The most valuable gift is in here and in here.

Where did you get your tattoo?

On my shoulder.

I was really touched by that scene where you're helping the horse but was that the horse you bought?

The horse that picks me up in the second movie? Yeah. I mean one of the reasons I had such a strong connection with the horse beyond the fact that in the story Aragorn has a connection with this horse, which you see fully developed in the origin of his connection in the extended version of the second movie - that's where you see the scene that was missing - where we meet. But the way that particular horse came to this production was similar to the way I came to it: at the very last minute and without much preparation. This horse replaced another horse that looked like it but unfortunately the people who owned this horse had left New Zealand and took the horse with them. And so just a couple of days before we had to shoot his first scene, which was a battle scene at Helm's Deep, we got a new horse. I didn't know him and he didn't know me and he had never been on a movie set before. And all of a sudden he's faced with cameras and lights and people with swords and shields and lots of shouting, and it was very unpleasant for him. He became very angry and was kicking and had a very bad day. I mean, we got what we needed in the scene but I felt bad for him, and it was frustrating for me, too, you know, you always want to do your best and I felt bad that I couldn't and that the horse couldn't. I mean, we did (okay) in the end but it was very difficult. And so it was like for another couple of days and then slowly, by just being patient with him, and him in the end being patient with us, he got comfortable. And by the end, he was really good at it and he had a good feeling, I sensed, for the camera and was flexible and tried things. And so when it came time to do the scene where he comes and lies down, you know, it's a big animal, it can be very dangerous in a very closed set that was no bigger than this area here. And he came in, laid down with crew all around, let me get on him without getting scared, got up and rode away. It looked simple but it's a complicated thing for a horse to do. And it showed how far he had come. So I felt that we went through this journey together, starting in more or less the same place, and learning on the job. This is one of the reasons I had such a strong connection.

So during filming, you put your philosophy on a mirror that said: "Adapt and overcome." And so how about your motto, your philosophy to live by?

Well, my philosophy to live by as an artist, I would borrow from - I mean one of the most important aspects I think - I would borrow from Miles Davis. He said in giving advice to, I think, a musician one time, he said, "Don't play what's there. Play what is not there." Don't, in art or in life, don't just take what the script tells you, or even what the director tells you, always ask what else is there? There must be something else. And even if you don't find it, at least looking for it is a good exercise. Don't accept what the newspaper tells you. Don't accept only what the TV tells you. Don't accept what the President or the "king" or your mother or your teacher or your friend tells you. Listen and think about it, but then ask yourself, "What else?"

I heard that you knew you would be an actor since you were young but what was it that made you feel that way?

I don't think I ever knew I was going to be an actor or said I was going to be an actor.

What interested you in the profession, then?

I think at some point, I'm not sure exactly when but, I made a transition from just watching movies and looking to be entertained or have a good time and then maybe after the movie when you're out with friends, you say, "Oh, that was a good movie," or "I didn't like it because of this," or "I like this," or "I like this character," then something else happened where I wondered how it was done, especially when it was smooth and it looked so simple and lifelike and natural, or was so moving. I thought, well, how do they do this? Obviously, it's not real. It's make-believe but it seemed so real. And I'd get feelings from it. How do the people do this, you know? I was curious about it. I suppose on a technical level I was curious to try it; to try to be part of telling stories in this way, and no matter how many frustrations or strange things that have happened over the years along the way, I am still curious about it.

About your Perceval Press, what kind of satisfaction do you derive from searching for artistic talent?

In Perceval Press to publish people? Well, the name "Perceval" is connected to a legend; the legend of Perceval. What happens to him and his legend that was made well-known in the 12th century in the Middle Ages in Europe but has universal appeal, I think. He and his companions come to a very thick, dark forest; they come to the edge of this forest and they decide to each go their separate ways, and to make sure they choose a place to enter into this forest where there is no path. Symbolically, I liked this idea. For artists, I wanted to provide a place where they could have...people who maybe would have a difficult time getting books published could get published, but more importantly than that, if they get published that the work would get published in the way that they saw it, you know? So that they could make their own way. And then if people like it, they like it - and if they don't, they don't - but at least the artist or the poet, the thinker, the musician, could try something the way they wanted to. And so far, we've been successful. I know that it's one of the benefits I have, as others do who are involved in Lord of the Rings, the popularity of this movie trilogy has made it so that people are interested in other things that I do, whether it's photography, painting, poetry or publishing books by other people, they're curious. So they come because of Lord of the Rings, maybe, but then they're looking at the work for it's own reason. So I think I've been fortunate to be able to use a little bit of that attention to bring attention to other people. That's satisfying.

Could you kindly look at the camera and say hello to WOWOW viewers? That's our station name. Something like, "Hello, this is Vig Mortensen. I hope you enjoy the last chapter of the Lord of the Rings, the Return of the King."

Hello WOWOW viewers. I hope you enjoy the Return of the King, the last part of the trilogy. Uh... we're proud of the job we did on it and I hope you will enjoy it. Peace.
Last edited: 10 May 2006 04:10:42
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