Although Viggo Mortensen actually made his big screen debut way back in 1985 opposite Harrison Ford in Witness, it took nearly two decades before the actor was given a chance to headline Hollywood movies. As Aragorn in Peter Jackson's epic Lord of the Rings trilogy, Mortensen won the hearts of fans and acclaim of critics, quickly catapulting him to the Hollywood A-List.
Thankfully, stardom hasn't changed Mortensen a bit, who remains as soft-spoken down to Earth as he's always been. Walking between screenings at the Cinevegas festival last week, I passed by Mortensen, dressed unassumingly in jeans and a t-shirt. He was just there as a fan, checking out some of the movies.
Cinevegas honored Mortensen with the Half Life award this year and ReelzChannel.com got the chance to chat with the busy actor, who has three projects hitting screens in 2008.
To start off our chat, I asked Mortensen if he had any fond memories of Las Vegas he could talk about. He responded with a whopper of a story: "A Vegas moment would be standing in line in 1999 with my son, who was then 11. He wanted to see Cher with Cyndi Lauper opening for her. There was a lady dressed in a silvery-white beautiful gown and a lot of jewelry - not like in a tacky way, [but] a quite beautiful get-up she had on. She put a hand on her chest and turned and very demurely threw up into one of those ash trays, into that white beautiful sand and I remember that going all over the rug. And then she sort of pulled a little handkerchief out of her purse and [wiped her mouth] and then went back in line. She was probably really hammered, I guess, but just determined to see Cher. And she went in as far as I know. That's my most vivid memory." (Laughs)
Perhaps the most anticipated upcoming project for Mortensen is an adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Road. After another McCarthy adaptation, No Country For Old Men, took home the best picture Academy Award this year, an extra level of focus has been placed on The Road, which is directed by John Hillcoat (The Proposition).
Mortensen admits that he hasn't yet seen a final cut for The Road, but is very confident that they did the story justice on film. "I know in doing it that we did it the right way. It's every bit as gritty and heart-breaking and thought-provoking as the book. Especially because, the character that really has to work, as it does in the book, is the boy because the boy is reacting. He's the one who is affected the most in the end, you know, and the audience kind of sees this world through his eyes in a way. The boy they cast, Kodi Smit-McPhee, a young Australian actor, is incredible."
The novel itself has very sparse dialogue, relying largely on McCarthy's descriptions to tell the story. I asked Mortensen whether the limited dialogue was difficult in the making of the film. "It works great for the movie because it's a visual medium. It's all about the emotion. It's a very good challenge for actors... A lot of times it's easier. You don't come across that many scripts that are well-written, so a lot of times it's better not to be talking."
A strange rumor has recently circulated the net that Viggo would portray Edgar Allen Poe in a biopic directed by Sylvester Stallone. Although the prospect seems a bit far-fetched, the story has been reported by a few respected outlets and is listed as "in production" on IMDb. I couldn't resist the temptation to get the skinny from the man himself.
"As far as I know it is [bogus]," says Mortensen. "I hadn't heard anything about it, other than being asked about it a few times because I guess people have heard it. I don't know anything about it. Even if they had asked, I wouldn't have been able to do it. I've got a whole year promoting these three movies that are coming out - The Road, Appaloosa and Good."
As most fans know, two Hobbit movies are on the horizon from director Guillermo del Toro. While Aragorn does not appear in Tolkien's original Hobbit novel, it is unclear whether he or other characters from the trilogy might appear in the second Hobbit movie that covers the 60-year period in-between The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring.
"I don't know directly from anybody," Mortensen admits. "I've heard the rumors that you've probably heard, which is that they'll make the first one like the book and then they'll make a connecting story. If that's true, I guess it's possible that they might ask me and some of the others to be part of it."
If it happens, Mortensen says he would indeed like to reprise his role. "Sure. I'd rather not have another actor play the part that I started out playing for Peter Jackson. And I had a lot of friends from that experience, so it would be nice to work with them again."
As Mortensen himself admits, there just aren't that many great scripts out there these days. With that in mind, I asked him how he manages to find such strong material. "I'm lucky. I am. And then you have to have some luck in choosing the right thing. With Cronenberg a couple times, with Agustin Diaz Yanes, the guy who directed Alatriste, which is being shown right now [at Cinevegas]. I've been really lucky. With The Road; with Ed Harris in Appaloosa; with Vicente Amorim in Good - those are all great casts, great projects. And then you just hope people get to see them... They have to release them properly and you hope that they get to an audience."