Viggo Does "Good"
By Tina Chadha
9 January 2009
Metro (New York)
Image Larry Horricks.
© Good Films.
Think Viggo Mortensen, and scary comes to mind. It's no coincidence -- he plays the dangerous badass well. There's the tattooed, knife-wielding Russian gangster in Eastern Promises that earned him an Oscar nomination, and the instinctual killer in A History of Violence. Even his heroic Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings is a brooding beefcake.
But from the second the floppy-haired actor walks over to shake hands, it's his bohemian side that shines. For one, Mortensen's not wearing any shoes.
The 50-year-old notes that his latest character in Good -- John Halder, a literature professor in 1930s Germany -- is different from the string of tough guys we're accustomed to seeing him play. But, stresses Mortensen, "he's dangerous in his passivity." Halder finds it easier to go along with the politics of the time, until he eventually realizes he's part of the Nazi machine.
An avid political activist, Mortensen draws parallels between the herd mentality of Nazi-era Germany to what's been happening recently in this country.
"Well, a lot of things happen when you're at war," he says. "Look at us. People went along with a certain amount of giving up their civil liberties. And even if you didn't agree with everything, while we're at war, you gotta be patriotic," he says.
When he's not fighting for environmental protection, Native American rights, or wowing us with his acting (it was his idea to stub cigarettes out on his tongue in Eastern Promises), Mortensen is an accomplished painter, photographer, musician and poet. He even has his own publishing house.
Despite juggling these various hats, Mortensen who grew up in New York, South America and Denmark, still finds the time to follow his favorite soccer team, Argentina's San Lorenzo. When asked why he always sports their gear during interviews (today it's a pullover with their logos) he jokes, "mind control." He then in a completely impulsive move he takes a blue-and-red friendship-style bracelet off his arm and hands it over.
"You can have this," he says. "It'll be a good look for you."
Mortensen then goes on to say that despite all his interests, he primarily sticks to acting because it lets him explore "various points of view."
"Kids do it naturally," he explains. "If they want to pretend they're the Lone Ranger or a princess, they just do it. And it's interesting. [Acting] allows me not to get set in my ways and look at things differently."
Last edited: 18 January 2009 09:14:53