In Brief 2008

Viggo Is One Straight Shooter

Source: Toronto Sun

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© New Line Cinema/Warner Brothers.
Like the laconic lawman he plays in Appaloosa, Viggo Mortensen doesn't mince words.

Case in point: His opinion of the majority of Hollywood dusters.

"Most westerns are pretty terrible as far as acting goes and just as art," the 49-year-old told journalists yesterday at a downtown news conference. "But this one was really well-written ... The ones that are good are really good. High Noon's an interesting one ... Man of the West - that's an interesting movie with Gary Cooper when he's older. There are also newer ones like The Missouri Breaks. One-Eyed Jacks is very entertaining. Even very recently there's one that turned out very good and had some nice things about it. And like this one, at the heart of it, there's a relationship between two men ... and that's what Kevin Costner and Robert Duvall played in Open Range. And like our movie, as far as the gun-fighting and shooting, they handled that pretty well too in that it was kind of messy and direct a quick. It wasn't glamourizing the violence. It was just - this is what happens. Either we'll live or we won't, that's how it goes. I liked it."

Based on the book by Robert B. Parker, Appaloosa stars Ed Harris and Mortensen as Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch, two gunmen-for-hire enlisted by the titular town's residents to rid them of a corrupt rancher (Jeremy Irons) who lurks menacingly above the law. Renee Zellweger rounds out the cast - and thickens the plot - as Allie, the woman who wriggles herself between all these grizzled alpha males.

The western marks Harris's first directorial effort since 2000's Oscar-winning Pollock. In searching for an actor to portray his right-hand man, he said Mortensen was always his first choice.

"We'd worked together on A History of Violence and I really enjoyed working with him. Not only do I have a great respect for him as an actor but as a human being. He's a really decent guy. He's great on the set, treats everybody really respectfully. I just thought he'd be perfect. These were two guys who had to communicate a lot about being who they were and the knowledge of each other without really talking about it ... If Viggo couldn't have done it, I don't know if I would've made the movie. I got the script written, I showed it to him and said, 'Will you commit to do this?' and he said, 'Yes, I will.' And I said, 'Yeah?' and he goes, 'Yeah.' Basically, he gave me his word. He was extremely busy. He was doing other films, he's got a publishing company. We had to push back the filming to try and squeeze the time in. It would have been a lot easier for him in his life for him not to do the film. But he said he'd do it and he did."

For Mortensen, Appaloosa marks the latest in a string of projects removed from the contemporary world: whether it be the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Hidalgo or his forthcoming post-apocalyptic drama The Road based on the Cormac McCarthy novel. "It's a business. People have seen me in these movies and they've done well ... (But) I do enjoy period pieces, and do think that storytelling-wise or food-for-thought, philosophy, whatever it is, a lot of times, if you say something in the past or another place other than the place you're living in now, you can learn about yourself in a way that you don't if somebody just throws it in your face - 'This is your life, this is cinema verite.' ... But (these films) are also fun. I like being outdoors. We had a lot of fun riding horses ... You get to get out of your clothes with a whole other world to live in."
Last edited: 9 September 2008 06:28:43
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