Chile Alatriste Interview 3.26.07.
How are you Viggo? Thank you so much for having us here.
Thanks for coming here. I wanted to go to the radio station, but since we are on a pretty tight schedule with interviews and going here and there, it was not possible, but thank you for coming. It's very kind of you.
Viggo, I'm surprised how kind, simple, unassuming you are, considering that you are a great star in the international movie industry. What helps you to keep focused and remain authentic, just who you are, instead of it going to your head?
I don't know. I can get tired or get angry just like anybody else, but I like to take care of my things and know who is doing what. I don't want to have other people doing lots of stuff for me. I prefer to be involved in what happens everyday, not that I need to have everything under my control, but...I don't know... I prefer to take care of my things by myself. Maybe that is what seems different for you. For me, it is quite normal. All my friends do the same.
But we've seen others who have more of a diva attitude. Could it be because you've had to deal with more difficult situations in life, do different types of jobs, and so you don't have trouble with that...you've had a different experience?
Maybe. I've done different kinds of jobs like working in factories and other places, but also, if we talk about the movie industry alone, it took me about 20 years to learn how to make a decent living, and be fortunate enough to be able to do it; and maybe there are young actors and actresses that are lucky right away, they make a lot of money, and they see how others behave... that they make a lot of money... that they have a big entourage... they behave more like divas, and so maybe they think that they have to imitate them because they don't know how other people do it. Well, I think it's their business. I have nothing against that, if they want to have a circus around them, as long as they are on time to work and they do it well, it's the same for me whatever they do with their private lives.
Do you have friends in the "star system"?
In the movie industry, I mostly know the people I have worked with, and apart from that, every now and then, I get to meet people that I didn't know before, but not too many, because I don't do those social "tours" like going to parties and awards. If I am nominated for an award and I am invited to it, I go and I put up with it, but if you are not invited, why go? I know that a lot of people go because they can get more attention, and they think that they can get a job that way, and maybe they are right, but I don't feel comfortable, and so if you don't feel comfortable, why go? Life is short.
So, in a certain way, Viggo Mortensen is also an anti-hero, somewhat similar to Alatriste...
I don't know. I am lazy. Lazy because I feel embarrassed about leaving my house too much, about getting to know new people. Maybe it's just because I'm lazy and somewhat embarrassed.
And in going around the world (because of your work), South America and especially Argentina still have a special appeal for you?
Yes, all South America and especially Argentina logically, and it is because I grew up in Buenos Aires until I was 11, and so like, at least everybody in Argentina knows I spent my childhood there, and so I feel home when I'm there, and especially when I speak Spanish, whether in Spain or here in Chile with you, it's a part of me that does not go away, that I can't forget. I feel comfortable.
Apart from mate and soccer, in what other aspects did your childhood in Argentina leave an impression on you?
I learned horse riding, the language, the culture and history, food, tango... I like it a lot. I can't dance tango... I'd like to learn, but I like to sing tangos every now and then, in private... I don't want to bother other people; I bother them enough with my movies. In general, everything that has to do with Argentine culture and also, to a certain extent, with the Spanish heritage; that's why when doing Alatriste, and reading the script, (Alatriste) and his friends, the so called 17th century or Golden Age "bravos", they reminded me a lot of the gauchos, the things I read as a child in Argentina : Martin Fierro, Don Segundo Sombra, and all the stories one has read about the "guapos" and the people of the 1900's... I don't know. Also the cowboys in the USA, they come from Mexico, and before Mexico, from the Spanish Golden age, so even though I had to speak with a very different accent in Alatriste, the guy, his behavior, the way he looks at life and at challenges in the story, reminded me a lot of that type of person who I've met in the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, that old-fashioned, anarchist frame of mind, conservative to a certain extent, a guy that only exists in the bullfight ring in Spain these days. It's all very interesting, because I've always been interested in finding connections, finding out what we have... or what I have in common with other people, other times, other historical periods, because there is always something, if you try to find it. Now, if you are trying to find the differences, to go against things, you can also find them, if you make that negative effort. A lot of the problems in the world stem from there... wars, foolish misunderstandings between different people, in Iraq, between Argentineans and Chileans... I've heard some things today in Chile, kindly said, but that still surprised me.
That kind of generalization, which I can understand, because some people behave like that, but not only Argentineans... that they are all arrogant and what not... I don't know... I don't know.
I have to tell you...what an awful combination it is to have a US passport and a Buenos Aires accent when you arrive at the Chile airport. A pretty long delay... my friends that had Spanish passports had already gone through (customs), and they were waiting... and the guy kept checking, very kindly, but he wasn't letting me go anywhere, and he talks to me in a pretty tortured English, and so I tell him: "I speak Spanish, you can talk to me in Spanish". And so he gave me a long look, and then I realized I had fucked up, really, because the combination of the accent and the passport... I was going straight to jail, or so it looked. And so another customs officer comes and says, "No, no, he is the Lord of the Rings", and so..."Welcome to Chile" and (pam, pam - sound of passport getting stamped) "Here you go...go ahead". That kind of prejudice comes from believing that from what once happened, then everybody else is exactly the same; that Argentineans are this way, or all Chileans are this other way, instead of looking for what you have in common with other people, or making that effort to see what you have in common.
Here we are on Una Nueva Manana on Cooperativa, and we have just heard the first part of our conversation with Viggo Mortensen, and here is the second part.
Is Viggo Mortensen too thin? Nooooo. He is good looking, very kind, and he prepares delicious mates. Let's listen to the conversation with Viggo Mortensen, the star of Alatriste, which opens this Thursday in Chile.
I thought it was interesting that you look for connections between something that happened a long time ago like the story of Alatriste and current world events, and as a matter of fact, you participated in a demonstration against the Iraq war a few days ago on the 4th anniversary of the start of the war, and so at that moment, when you are marching, expressing your disagreement with the war, do you also make a parallelism with the character, with the story that you played? Do you think that mankind never learns, that we always repeat the same mistakes?
Are you talking about Alatriste? Yes, there are some things that never change. Unfortunately, there will always be wars, and disagreement, and prejudice, I suppose, but things can always be improved. To say that someone will always fight in some part of the world, and so then it doesn't make sense to go after peace, or friendship, or better understanding among people, I don't think that makes any sense either. You can be grumpy, and stay home angry all day, and hate everybody if you want, nobody will stop you, but you can also enjoy getting to know something new. It's harder as we get older, we have less tolerance, but I think that one of the beautiful things about being an actor, or an artist in general, but more as an actor, is that constantly I have to try, as part of my job - that's the challenge, isn't it - to see the world from someone else's point of view, points of view that are not necessarily mine, or that do not have too much in common with mine. Because anybody can be an artist; I think that if you are having a conversation with someone, and you are really listening to that person, you are thinking about what they are telling you, it's an artistic way of living that moment, or when you are in a park, and you look at things in a certain way. Also, if you are having a bad day, and instead of getting angry you find it funny because you look at it in the context of your whole life, that it is just a day, a moment, then it is an artistic way of looking at it. Being an artist does not mean that you have to take pictures, or draw, or sing...
It's an attitude...
Yes, it's a way of being.
Viggo, looking back, when you accepted the role of Aragorn in Lord of the Rings, did you ever think of the impact it would have and how popular it would be? At least here in Chile, the movie is very popular and your character was very popular.
I think it happened all around the world. I was not surprised to see that Tolkien fans, of which there were already plenty even before the first movie came out... we knew there would be a certain number of people... but not that many. I think nobody expected that, but on the other hand, when it started doing well... and it was released a bit later... for example in Japan it was released in January or February after opening worldwide in December 2001, somebody told me... one of the producers told me, "Well, I don't know if this is going to work in Japan, because they haven't read Tolkien's books", and I told him, "I'm sure it's going to work well; first, the elves are like Samurai, and it is also a story that has universal values, so I don't think there will be any problems". And that's what happened; it was a great success in Asia too. And I think it is somehow similar to Alatriste... It's weird, when it opened in Madrid, and I think that initially it had to do with the success of Lord of the Rings, a lot of Japanese people came to Madrid, and they didn't speak either English or Spanish... it was really strange. And they followed us... from Madrid to Barcelona to León; and then they liked Alatriste so much that it had nothing to do with Aragorn any more, they brought books already translated into Japanese immediately, with very nice illustrations made by a Japanese artist; and they have already translated the first three books, I think. And then they followed us to Toronto, Miami; in Mexico, I think there were a couple of Japanese. And that is very nice... those are the connections that you can never tell (when they are going to happen). I spoke with a Japanese lady, in León I think, and I told her... she showed me the books... I was surprised; and well, these drawings are as good or maybe better than the ones we have in our books here in Spain... just as good... and I told them, "Well, but this story is very typical of Spain, a very Castilian guy from here; what connection do you find?" And they told me, "It's a Samurai story, absolutely", in the values: pride, loyalty...
...the type of tragic suffering in a life lived to the fullest... pride... I don't know. Relationships in the movie look similar to their (Japanese) stories. That's interesting, and I think... I hope that with the foundation, like Bambino Veira says: "The foundations are here" (laughing). With the Latin foundation, I hope it will be a success here in Chile too, that people will like it at least as much as we liked making it. Alatriste is a beautiful movie, a nice story.
And going on to a more superficial topic...how do you handle the admiration you cause in women? "Ahhh, Viggo Mortensen... you are going to interview him?...I'll go with you... he is so handsome..."
Sometimes it's a bit scary, because... what do you do?... what do you say?... Is it something that is just temporary? ... When you have worked in movies that have been very successful, then the movies attract attention and also the actors that are in those movies... I understand that perfectly well, and I have had the chance to talk with some of the Alatriste fans, and it is nice to have that connection. I like women, I have nothing against them...but I don't know what to tell you...
This is...Tano, Do you want to say hi?... We are finishing the last one...do you want to say hi here?... Come, come. This is Agustin Díaz Yanes, the director of Alatriste.
Hi, how are you?
ADY: Very well, and you? Well, you are with Viggo?
Yes. How did you manage to do an Alatriste that speaks Argentinean?
ADY: He speaks Spanish but with a León accent and you think that he has an Argentinean accent, but it is the accent from León.
(to Viggo again)
Are you doing something now?
When I get back to the USA, I have like two days to finish a new recording with Buckethead... I've done several with him. It's instrumental music... nice, I think... I hope... I think it's going to be the best one so far, the most solid one, the most accomplished one.
And poetry? What place does it have in your life?
Well, I write when I can. And we are publishing a new book, not only mine, but several books by other artists, and one that is mine with new poetry and new pictures that I haven't published before this coming fall, well, your spring.
Poems in English?
Poems in English, and there will be something in Spanish. The last two books had some things in Spanish too.
Who do you admire among the Spanish poets? Borges?
Well, it's difficult. If I choose...it's difficult because you leave others behind... you forget others. Of course, Borges... I've always liked Benedetti. But there are many. There are many new poets, some Argentine poets that I like a lot, and Perceval Press will be publishing a book of new Argentine poetry at some point... at the end of the year, I think.
And after Alatriste, is there another project? Because I understand you've been given several scripts for Latin American movies, but you haven't made up your mind about them.
I am busy with movies and promotion until half of next year so... Now I'm saying that I have to stop because otherwise I won't be able to plan my life. I have a lot going on this year, and it's going to be pretty tough to do everything but I'll do what I can. And of course if there is a nice opportunity to do something...and I've said it before...and people think that it is something that I keep saying but I never do it... it is to work in Argentina, which would be natural for me; I want to do it, but I have to find the right time, to fit it in.
A movie with David Cronenberg is coming up, isn't it?
Yes, we finished it a month ago, and it will be released at the Toronto Festival and in the USA in September, and I don't know about here, if it is at the end of September or beginning of October.
When we think of Viggo Mortensen and Argentina, it is impossible not to relate you to San Lorenzo? You have two red and blue bracelets, the colors of San Lorenzo; one of them says "I carry you in my heart" (te llevo en el corazón), and we have to remember that the coach that won the championship with San Lorenzo some years ago was Chilean, Manuel Pellegrini. Do you remember that?
I don't know him. I missed many years. The times I remember best are the times of the "Matadores" when I was a child, I also remember between 1968 and 1974, when I was a little boy... with the "Carasucias" of Bambino Veira, and I have met some of the Matadores like Buticce, the goalkeeper, and people like that, also Beto Acosta I got to know him pretty well. A few days ago, I had the opportunity to talk on a radio show that Bambino Veira now has about movies, and I was able to ask him a few questions. He was a very good player with San Lorenzo. He once scored 4 goals against Boca in 1967 (laughs).
And he was our coach when we won in 1995, very good, over there, in Rosario. He will come, and most of the team will come to the premiere in Buenos Aires. It will be nice.
Do you play soccer?
Every now and then, every now and then.
In what position?
Wherever they allow me to...
But where do you play best?
I like to play center forward but...
Well, if I get lucky.
We hope you score many goals with Alatriste. Thanks for having us here at the hotel for Una Nueva Manana on Cooperativa. Good luck and very good mate!
You are welcome. Thanks again for coming, and to your listeners, if they have the opportunity to see Alatriste, it's worth it. And I hope they like it. I think they are going to like it. It will give them something to talk about.
Thanks, Viggo. See you.
Thanks for coming. It's very nice of you.