Viggo Mortensen could have died on a runaway horse making his new film Hidalgo, but wild horses won 't drag Gwyneth gossip from his lips.
Thanks to the global success of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Viggo Mortensen, who played the rugged hero Aragorn, is now one of Hollywood's biggest stars. But fame doesn't sit easily on the shoulders of the 45-year-old hunk.
A modest actor, he prefers to put his success down to good timing, rather than talent.
His big break was as Gwyneth Paltrow's lover in the 1998 Alfred Hitchcock-inspired movie, A Perfect Murder. Viggo reportedly described her as 'great to kiss', and she returned the compliment by praising him as a man of few words.
This month, the Danish actor can be seen in Hidalgo as Frank Hopkins, a former pony express rider who, in 1890, took part in an epic horse race across the Saudi Arabian desert.
Viggo lives in Los Angeles with 15-year-old Henry, his son from a 10-year marriage to punk singer Exene Cervenka. The couple divorced in 1997.
Here, he tells Hot Stars about his brush with death, being linked to Gwyneth Paltrow and Back to Reality star Josie D'Arby, and why actors are very much like horses...
The Lord of the Rings has made you absurdly famous. Is it hard to do normal things now, like popping to the shops?
It's a little weird, but it'll pass. Neither my ego nor my sense of worth is tied to all of that sort of stuff. So if it goes away, it's not going to be hugely depressing to me. But if a cousin from Denmark sends me a magazine showing me eating a doughnut or dropping my son off at school, then I just wonder where the photographer was when he took the picture.
Your face is on the side of an Air New Zealand plane - that must be pretty surreal.
I know, it's scary. I don't know if all this that's happening is about timing... I think it's luck, because I know people who are really talented, and, for some reason, they can't even make a living.
With your heightened profile, your love life has been a hot topic, so tell us about Gwyneth Paltrow and Josie D'Arby.
Well, I'm actually secretly married to Gwyneth Paltrow. She's so understanding. [Laughs].
So come on, tell us - was it any more than just a kiss?
We got on really well and, yes, she was nice to kiss but it never went any further than that. This story about the English woman [Josie] is a case in point, though I don't want to give her any more press than she's already got! I was introduced to her at the London premiere of The Lord of the Rings. She said she was going to France, which was our next stop, and I said, 'Oh well, maybe we'll see you there'. Next thing I know, my cousin sends me all this stuff. It's odd.
So there must be a positive side to your new-found fame?
Well, I got this part in Hidalgo and I wouldn't have got it otherwise. I got this because Fellowship of the Ring came out and was a success.
When you were filming Hidalgo in the Moroccan desert, why did you rough it by sleeping in your trailer instead of heading back to the luxury of your hotel?
Whenever we were far out in the desert, I tended to stay there. It was comfortable enough. It was an opportunity to relax after a long day. It was also done out of laziness. The others had to drive an hour and a half back to the hotel across the desert, and an hour and a half the next morning. So I didn't have to get up so early!
Is it true that you and your British co-star, Zuleikha Robinson, could have been killed while shooting Hidalgo?
That was scary! We were both riding this horse, and it just took off and headed for this really high wall. I knew that there were trucks and equipment on the other side, and two huge storage jars on top. I was sitting behind Zuleikha, just hanging on. Somehow we stayed on, but Zuleikha lost the reins and I jumped off and grabbed them, and miraculously no one - not even the horse - got hurt. We could easily have been killed. Zuleikha was giggling - I think the shock hit her later. It wasn't caught on camera, but it would have looked like a great special effect. It was unbelievable!
Didn't you buy one of the horses you rode in Hidalgo?
Yeah, he's called TJ. I keep him here in California. I ride him as much as possible. I must be a sucker for horses, I don't know why, because I also bought the two horses - Kenny and Uraeus - that I used in The Lord of the Rings. I like animals - I have a dog named Brigit. I've been lucky with both the horses and the people that I have worked with. The same thing applies to the people as to the horses: if you ask politely and earn their trust and respect, the job is a lot less strenuous and you get better results.