Viggo Mortensen, most famous as Aragorn in Lord of the Rings by Peter Jackson, rides again, this time in Spain, in the movie by Agustín Díaz Yanes, based on the novels about Captain Alatriste, by Arturo Perez Reverte. Mortensen plays Alatriste, a brave soldier in Spain during a time of crisis in the 17th Century. His destiny is set from when he refuses to bring a mission to its conclusion and his fellow mercenary Malatesta (Enrico Lo Verso) becomes his bitter enemy.
What things from yourself did you put into this character from the past?
I made him soft, giving him my own weaknesses. Maybe what happened is what generally occurs with those characters that you put all of yourself into. We knew each other. I gave him my friendship and he gave me his own. It was a mutual exchange.
The Destiny of a Warrior immediately makes us think about Hidalgo or Lord of the Rings, where we find action, fighting and war.
It's not right, actually. When I read the script for the first time, I found some unclear elements, that I understood after seeing the movie. Many people could think it's only an action movie, but it isn't. There are complex relationships between the characters. The main character is not a hero. I've spoken with several people who have judged the movie in a negative way in the beginning, then, seeing it twice, have changed their minds because it includes more kinds of interpretation. Sure it is a challenging project for Spain, but it has an authorial root as well. This is its strength, it represents a turning point in the Spanish cinema, which they will see in ten, twenty years.
The matter of war, between past and present, between reality and fiction is presented on a silver platter.
The war existed then and exists today, so to keep telling it is quite normal. People like Captain Alatriste or like the ones we listen to every day in the interviews, the only purpose they work to accomplish is their duty towards their fellow companions. The flag, the homeland, the country don't matter. The individual aspect is capital, the interpersonal relationships build a country.
You have been on very different kinds of set, from the smallest to the biggest ones. How does it change for an actor?
Popularity aside, to do this job on sets of a different size, for a movie with the biggest cast or a small one, with shooting which lasts two weeks or two years, is the same. If the things work, to play a character is the simpliest and funniest thing in the world, if they don't work, it's an awful one. Everything perturbs you.
On which set were you perturbed the most?
I'm answering democratically. In all sets there are good days and bad days, even in the movie by Yanes. Sometimes I didn't find the way to get through to the other people and I felt uncomfortable. It was my own problem though.
You are also a painter, a musician, a writer and a photographer. In 2002 you founded a publishing house. How can you match these passions with acting?
While shooting I take pictures, read or write, it's the nice thing about our job, being always challenged. While shooting Alatriste, I read Spanish history, which I probably wouldn't have done under other conditions. While shooting the new movie with David Cronenberg, Eastern Promises, I read Russian poems. All the art forms are branches of the same tree. I don't fear death, at least not very much, I know that life is short so I try to travel and learn as much as possible.
For many people you will always be King Aragorn. Have you tried to get rid of this label in some way?
I don't feel any resentment towards that character. On the contrary, without that success I would never have made The Destiny of a Warrior or A History of Violence with Cronenberg, and now I wouldn't be on the set in Hungary shooting Good with Vicente Amorim. In the twenty years before Peter Jackson's trilogy, I was never offered similar roles. I don't start by thinking: "I won't accept this role because my character wields a sword, so it's Aragorn-like". If people want to see me as always bound to that role, I don't care. I go my way.