Reluctant, sad, melancholic, but always brave and ready if the King calls. He is a mercenary. But he kills using his brains. So, he can also choose not to kill, to turn aside, to look for another fate. Maybe Alatriste is not born to be a soldier, but he becomes one in the Spain of the 17th Century, and we meet him at this point in Flanders, then in Madrid, where the empire is dying, then at the court of King Philip IV, then on the trail of two unknown men he has to kill.
© 20th Century Fox Espana/Estudios Picasso/Origen ….
He is Viggo Mortensen, not worried that some people still see him as Aragorn, the King from Lord of the Rings, and nothing more:
"If someone wants to bind me to that character, he can just do it. But I enjoy so much changing age, changing dress and language, because I believe that being eclectic is important for an actor. I think that the best actors are the ones who want to change, who are always prepared to put themselves to the test, who are willing to learn, while an actor becomes boring when he stops taking risks and being interested in life".
So speaks the 48-year-old Viggo Mortensen, who has just finished filming Eastern Promises, the new movie by David Cronenberg, who he has worked with again after A History of Violence.
He is in Rome to promote the movie by Agustìn Dìaz Yanes, Alatriste (already seen at the last Rome Film Festival.) The movie, which will be released on 22nd June as The Destiny Of A Warrior, distributed by Medusa, is based on the novels of Arturo Pérez-Reverte and it's full of references to the Velazquez paintings (it won the Goya awards for set design, costumes and artistic direction.)
Viggo Mortensen certainly doesn't get bored at all, he is so busy acting, painting, writing, making music; between one take and another he reads, takes notes, takes pictures, writes books and poems, records music (nine CDs until now, and as many photography and poetry books) and he is also responsible for his publishing house, Perceval Press, because he is sure that "all the art forms are part of the same tree, they are all interesting; unfortunately life is too short to find out and really know them all, and this makes me very sad."
But, beyond the Art with a capital A and life in general, what Alatriste has given you?
"I made him soft, giving him my own weaknesses. I gave him my friendship and he gave me his own."
And Enrico Lo Verso, the other mercenary, his enemy, the one who wants to bring his mission of death to an end: "For us actors, making a movie is a sort of journey with unknown people who become friends and brothers, while the movies at the end turn into scrapbooks and pieces of the heart. I think that the director already has in his mind a character different from the one described by the scriptwriters and, in turn, the actor understands what the director wants but he puts in his own personal style, and what appears on the screen is a compromise between what has been written, what has been proposed and played.
For this reason, each character depends on whoever brings it to the screen. I would have been a different Alatriste, but, in the end, the only rule is not to judge your character."
But what is different inside a big movie like this?
"It's even more extraordinary than in a small movie, because in a big movie there are more layers: other than the battles which appeal to everyone, there is so much more to find out and this is the challenge. The work of the actor is even more important, because he too is responsible for making the viewers go beyond the first layers," says Lo Verso.
And Mortensen: "Big movies and small movies are not so different, provided that all the things work. If they don't work, it all becomes hard anyway, although there are hard moments on every set. This was definitely a challenging project, especially for a Spanish movie. It's a big movie, but it is also a deep movie, full of questions, something very precious, which, I believe, will become a model in the future."
But isn't this war on a set and war in reality is another thing? " It's the usual insanity, the usual foolish thing," says Lo Verso.
"The war, both now and then, involves people who, like Alatriste, live with war, live on the battlefields, then come back home, then perhaps go back onto the battlefield, but not for the flag, because the war is really a huge madness, but only for pride, not to forsake his fellow companions. The country is an idea and nothing more: people, with their interpersonal relationships, build up a country, and they are the people who concern me," adds Mortensen.