Is Viggo Our Only Hope?
9 September 2008
New York Observer
"Viggo!" "We want Viggo!" In contrast to the prancing egos on display at the TIFF, the undisputed hero this year has been charismatic, versatile and totally charming Viggo Mortensen, who's enthralled in two distinctively contrasting performances. In the revisionist western Appaloosa, directed by Ed Harris, he is a leathery deputy marshal in a lawless stretch of New Mexico in 1888. But in the electrifying German-British co-production Good, my favorite film of the festival, even this mesmerizing chameleon, who has proved he can play anything, surprised the hell out of audiences, who emerged stunned. Set in the dusky shadows of 1938 Berlin, he plays a shy, nerdy professor of literature who writes a novel about euthanasia that attracts the rat-eyed attention of Himmler, Goebbels, and Hitler himself, all of them hungry to recruit talented intellectuals with admirable reputations to give a veneer of false respectability to the social reforms of the Reich. Flattered, the innocent and apolitical professor finds himself slowly seduced into a political machine he neither understands nor has any interest in, until his best friend, a Jewish psychiatrist (also played against type by the terrific Jason Isaacs, who usually plays villains), shows him firsthand the cruelties his fellow privileged Germans are capable of. "I don't even go to the office," protests this "good German," but by the time he is shaken from his complacency by a visit to the "camps," the movie has left him--and everyone who sees it--wrenched. Fabulous movie, haunting performance, and Viggo was everywhere doing PR chores to give it the promotion it deserves--shaking hands, helping one fan repair his camera for the best angle, smiling widely at all and sundry, and charming a jaded festival out of its socks.
Renowned for idiotic questions, the press conferences are always worth avoiding, but the one with Viggo earned applause, as he was a good sport and demonstrated his rarely seen sense of humor. One jerk, referring to his roles as cowboys and as the full-frontal-nude Russian spy in the brutal sauna scene in last year's Eastern Promises, asked, "Which is harder--appearing stark naked or carrying a six-gun?" Viggo's trademark sex smolder faded, and bursting into a shit-kicking grin and without missing a beat, he shot back: "I would say appearing stark naked while wearing a six-gun."
I'll have what he's having.
Last edited: 24 November 2008 04:50:41