Hard Road To TIFF For Viggo Mortensen And Kid Co-star
14 September 2009
Image Macall Polay.
© 2929/Dimension Films/MGM.
Tears, joy, standing ovations... TIFF audiences didn't hold back the love after watching The Road, John Hillcoat's moving adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's epic, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.
Headlined by Academy Award nominee Viggo Mortensen and Aussie newcomer Kodi Smit-McPhee, The Road serves up no mega-machines of death and destruction.
There are no story-crippling special effects or meaningless, throw-away frames. Instead, Hillcoat and company deliver powerful, old-school storytelling about a father and son who struggle to survive in a cruel, lifeless world.
Thanks to a mysterious cataclysm, ash-gray skies melt in to endless miles of burned-out forests. A crippling cold oozes over the Earth, rendering any chance of sustaining life virtually impossible. No colours. No animals. No humanity. There's nothing to live for. So why go on?
Yet that's exactly what The Man (Mortensen) and The Boy (Smit-McPhee) do, shuffling all they own in a rickety shopping cart across a rotting, cannibal-infested landscape.
"I think this is one of those movies that will have an impact now and in years to come. You can watch it 25 years from now and still get something out of it," Mortensen told CTV.ca during his TIFF promo-stop for The Road.
There's no denying it. McCarthy's vision of the future is bleak. It's frightening. But what moved audiences most at the TIFF gala screening was watching hope triumph at the end.
"There are moments when people cried at the screening last night. But the end is uplifting," says Mortensen. "They were smiling and crying because the story itself is so moving."
Director Hillcoat couldn't agree more.
"Somehow I wanted to translate that initial, powerful, incredible reaction that I had to McCarthy's work," says Hillcoat. "But I soon realized that this story didn't feel like science fiction to me. It's a love story between a father and a son. That what makes it feel real and familiar."
The evolution of these stars' friendship on set cemented that feeling.
"They were in a world all their own because of the rich material they had to work with. It really was amazing to watch," says Hillcoat.
For example, Smit-McPhee began to cry while shooting one scene because the weather was so biting and cold.
"He didn't say anything. He's such a professional," says Hillcoat. "He just kept saying the words. Viggo kept going. When I called 'cut' and looked at what we got on film it was amazing. Viggo just kept holding Kodi as he stood their crying. That moment captured an incredible bond between these two people."
"Some of the things we went through we could only figure out together," says Mortensen. "In some of these really emotional scenes we just had to find the way to get through it and support one another."
Even as they sat through TIFF's press conference on Sunday for The Road, Mortensen and Smit-McPhee quietly amused themselves by switching the name cards positioned before their chairs. Whose nerves were calmed by the playful exchange isn't clear. But that small act suggested an emotional shorthand between the two actors that could not be missed.
"Doing this film definitely brought us closer together. But I think it made Kodi more resilient as an actor. You know, tougher. More human," says Mortensen.
"Now he got a really deep understanding of what it is to be a good guy. That's what the story tells you. That's the most important thing in life," says Mortensen.
Like the TIFF audiences who watched The Road, Mortensen also puts his faith in this story's hopeful end.
"This film really makes you appreciate life," says Mortensen. "Sure you can have a bad day. You can have physical ailments and problems in life. But I wouldn't trade this life or this world for any other. Life is short, you know? You've got to pay attention to that."
Last edited: 16 September 2009 15:17:03