Building the character

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© Estudios Picasso / Origen Producciones.

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Building the character

The most fascinating thing about talking to Mortensen is listening to the voice and thoughts of a noble and intelligent person that doesn't think he's a star and breaks any pre-established idea that one can have of him. With sense of humour and a great dose of patience he suggests me to emphasize that to come to these lands was his own decision.

"I have always thought--he points out-- that the character of Alatriste, though a fictional one, needed to have a place of origin where to link his personality, so I decided that that place could be the highlands of El Curueño, those lands where the cold hardens one's character and people are succinct in manner, like Alatriste, but they are noble and natural when you can get to know them slowly. Pérez-Reverte told me that the Captain of Los Tercios de Flandes, as he had conceived him, was similar in character to the Northern people, and after studying the character carefully, I firmly believe I could place him in any of the Curueño lands.'

Viggo Mortensen finds Alatriste in Curueño
By Miguel Ángel Nepomuceno, Diario de León, 20 March 2005
translated by Paddy




'I think this is the best way of getting into in the role (under the character's skin), knowing his roots, his environment, how the places where he grew are, how their houses are, what they eat, how the people live and speak. Without these premises you can never bring a character to life with credibility".

Viggo Mortensen
Viggo Mortensen finds Alatriste in Curueño
By Miguel Ángel Nepomuceno, Diario de León, 20 March 2005
translated by Paddy




León is one of those places which he has identified with and where he has felt more comfortable: "It doesn't matter your roots are in other place" he said, "the important thing is that when you arrive some unknown place, that place capture you and you begin to be part of its idiosyncrasy". That's why, under the impertinent question from a journalist on a press conference in Sevilla, about why an American has the role of such an authentic (spanish) character as Diego Alatriste, you just have to get offended, as it indeed happened. Only someone who doesn't know how the actor gets into the characters he chooses can ask him such a trick question. Because, at this stage, nobody can reproach Viggo for not being one of us Spaniards.

One of León called Viggo
By Miguel Ángel Nepomuceno, Diario de León, April 29, 2005
translated by Paddy




"What Viggo has done when playing Alatriste is to adapt himself as far as possible; so at first they wanted him to have a beard, and I said, "no, Alatriste has a moustache; I couldn't care less, he's a Spanish soldier of the Tercios and he has a moustache". And we had to adjust Viggo's look to the Alatriste look; and there's truly a fusion, because in the movie Viggo, being Viggo all the time, is fairer than the dark-haired Alatriste in the books; so there's a superimposition of both images and Joan Mundet himself is influenced by that. In the course of time there will be an approach of both images, Viggo-cinema and Alatriste-illustration, there will be a perfectly compatible fusion."

Arturo Pérez-Reverte
Talk About Alatriste
By Luthien 66 (transcription) - translation for V-W by Paddy
4 April 2006




I went to the Prado Museum, which I had visited many times, but now I saw the paintings in a different light, searching for the character, so I'd call Tano (the director) at 2 am and tell him, "listen, I found this painting by Góngora". Viggo makes a face and changes his voice to imitate Díaz Yanes: 'Okay, let me explain it to you. You're an idiot.' But nothing. I saw the characters in those painting."

Viggo Mortensen
The Lord of Simplicity
By Ernesto Garratt Vines - translated by Margarita
Wikén - El Mercurio
30 March 2007




"And there's something very interesting; Agustín Diaz Yanes is the son of a bullfighter, and he told Viggo that the attitude of the bullfighter is the attitude Alatriste has, in the contact with death, the steel as a companion, and he was with bullfighters. And there are scenes in the film in which Viggo is composing his gestures, his attitudes before the enemy like a bullfighter..."

Arturo Pérez-Reverte
Talk About Alatriste
By Luthien 66 (transcription) - translation for V-W by Paddy
4 April 2006




"I think that, in a way, what is left of the bravos of the Golden Century lies in bullfighters, more than anything because of their attitude towards death and towards weapons. I thought there was something there, and Tano encouraged me to follow that intuition.'

Viggo Mortensen
The filming of Alatriste, by Jesús Martin
Acción Magazine July, 2006
Translated by Paddy for V-W




"As any single man of certain age, I think that people get used to do things their way. He's a man who hardly ever is at home, let's say, he's always at war; that's why he shows the characteristics of any soldier who has a long professional life. It's a bit difficult for him to open up to feelings and he's vulnerable, and he finds in María de Castro the perfect partner, because she also has a hard life and it's difficult for her to be more communicative."

Viggo Mortensen
The filming of Alatriste, by Jesús Martin
Acción Magazine July, 2006
Translated by Paddy for V-W




"I know that my character is bitter and upset. He has good things within him, but it is difficult to find them."

Viggo Mortensen
The Soul of Viggo (El Alama de Viggo)
By Miguel Juan Payan, Accion magazine, April 2005
translated by Chrissie




'I was behind the cameras, a privileged spectator watching hundreds of riders charge again and again against the loyal Spanish infantry and Viggo in the front line, his head uncovered and sword in hand, defending his life and that of his comrades. "He truly believes he is Diego Alatriste," Agustin Diaz-Yanes (the director) told me between takes. "Actors are all a strange breed," he added, "but this one [Viggo] is a special case." I completely believe him. He has has immersed himself so far inside the character that he seems more Spanish than anyone else. Just look at that desperation and that foul mood. Even on the days when he is not filming, he dresses [for the role] and stays away, with his sword in his hands, thinking. And that's how he is, the bastard. Immense.'

Arturo Pérez Reverte
El Semanal, July 2005-08-04
Translated by Elessars Queen




'I was terrified that my accent would be a problem for Alatriste. I would have to live for the rest of my days hearing, "The movie was good, but that accent of Mortensen's..."'

I wouldn't look the Alatristes of today in the eye
By Oskar L. Belategui, translated for V-W bu Margarita
Hoy Sociedad
3 September 2006




'Many people have said that I wasn't able to master the rhythm of Spanish speech but what I was looking for was a specific manner of speaking: the pace and the rhythm, as they would have been spoken by a terse Northern Spaniard. I found that way of speaking, a little slow, very cautious, without revealing too much, because that's how they speak in the mountains of Leon in the north of Spain, near Asturias.'

Viggo Mortensen
An Old-Fashioned Hero
Cinemania (Mexico), By Daniel Ritz - translated by Margarita April 2007
Last edited: 15 February 2010 13:20:00