Filming 'A History of Violence'

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The challenge in preparing and playing Tom Stall was to be thoroughly honest and specific with behaviour, to lie as truthfully as possible. - Viggo Mortensen

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Filming 'A History of Violence'

'It felt good to shed my hero's costume'

The Anti-Hero, by Renaud Baronian, Metro 18 May 2005



'Tom is an anti-hero more than anything else. He's calm and composed from the outside, almost holding back. It allowed me to explore different realms than what I'm being offered right now.'

The Anti-Hero, by Renaud Baronian, Metro 18 May 2005



"I don't think I've ever felt more like I was on the same wavelength with a director as I am with David. I like his way of telling a story. He not only shows a wholly original knack for entertaining audiences with a good psychological drama, but he also allows an audience to ask itself difficult questions about the nature of violence and confusion of identity."

Viggo Mortensen
Cannes Film Festival 2005 Press Kit




"They're [the films] uncomfortable to watch because people in reality are not neat and tidy and orderly and always predictable and always the same. He's a great observer of human nature and on that level, you know, I do feel like we're kindred spirits."

Viggo Mortensen on Cronenberg
Rebecca Murray
About.com
26 September 2005




"When I heard [Cronenberg] was doing it and wanted to meet me, I thought that would be interesting to see what he thinks. The way the script was then and it became leaner and leaner as we approached shooting, there were things in the back of my mind, questions about it. But anything I asked him, any doubt or reservation I had, he also had the same ones. That's what I mean by being in step with him. We right away were in agreement and we were like real partners."

Viggo Mortensen on Cronenberg
Rebecca Murray
About.com
26 September 2005




'You hear these things all the time and they sound cliché: "Wow, what a great experience,'' says Mortensen. 'But it was remarkable to collaborate with David because so much of it was unspoken. I felt I had a very clear, uncluttered and extremely satisfying line of communication with him all the time. We didn't waste many words, and there was a lot of humour along the way.'

Interview: Viggo Mortensen, By Ingrid Randoja
Famous, September 2005




"David doesn't tell you what to think,'' muses Viggo Mortensen. "He opens a door, you walk into a room, but he doesn't answer questions. It's easier when a filmmaker tells [an audience] what to think, but it's more rewarding when you think for yourself.''

David Gritten
TheDaily Telegraph
September 24, 2005




"The challenge in preparing and playing Tom Stall was to be thoroughly honest and specific with behaviour, to lie as truthfully as possible. But that's what actors are always ideally trying to do anyway."

Viggo Mortensen
V-Life magazine, Jan 2006




'If I'd gotten this role some years back, I probably couldn't have done it,' says Viggo Mortensen. Perhaps if he'd been less mature, the 46-year-old New York native would have overplayed the quiet part of small-town diner manager Tom Stall in David Cronenberg's A History of Violence. Instead, Mortensen played two parts at once-a simple family man with a set of barely tamped-down killer instincts and urges. In maintaining that balance, Mortensen says he tried 'to give a very detailed performance.' You see it most in his placid poise behind the diner's counter, during the still seconds before he lashes out. 'A lot of people don't trust those details to come through, but I've always believed that the camera and the audience can see a lot more than a lot of directors-and even actors-give them credit for.'

New Yorkers of the Year
New York Magazine
19 Dec 2005




Viggo Mortensen on finding the inspiration for his character:

'Well, like any character, whatever I could find in myself. I think that we all have the capability to feel anything. And if you can feel it, if you can imagine good and bad things, you can do good and bad things. You can act on those impulses. So it's a question of finding it.

In principle I think an actor, whether he looks right or would convince someone, should be capable of playing any character. In other words, I think all people have all feelings and have all ingredients, and it depends on circumstances, upbringing, stress, physical, mental state, how those ingredients combine to present what you think is your personality.'

Viggo Mortensen
Rebecca Murray
About.com
26 September 2005




'Viggo,' [Cronenberg] says, 'does things in this movie that you will not have seen him do.'

Graphic depictions, by Denis Seguin
Times online, May 12, 2005




Mortensen's commitment translated to a collection of artifacts he purchased in the Midwest on his travels, which included ducks and a bank in the shape of a fish head that says 'fishin' money' on it and is set on the diner's cash register, posters of Birds of North America, some landscapes, a small ceramic eagle and other animal sculptures for his daughter's room which he thought Tom's character would have in his home."

"Viggo has been very active in helping to create the surroundings that his character will emerge from. That is unique," says Cronenberg.

Cannes Film Festival 2005 Press Kit



"Ed connected with Viggo in an intense way and was also very serious about the details of everything from the scar, to the eye, to the clothes, to the body language, to the hair to make this character come alive and be real onscreen. So his style just fitted in completely perfectly with what had been developed up to that point on the set with Viggo and Maria,"

David Cronenberg, Director
Cannes Film Festival 2005 Press Kit




Hurt also longed to work with Mortensen, who met him when Hurt first arrived in town to discuss the characters. "When we got together, it became a six hour cup of coffee. Bill has a very unique mind and a lot of things to offer," says Mortensen. "My impression is that he had a lot of fun."

Cannes Film Festival 2005 Press Kit



"There is an ease and a relaxed atmosphere on the set with David. He knows that that is a good atmosphere to have. It's good to have someone who is an ally. If a director shows that he too is puzzling his way through it, that helps you feel like a collaborator, like an ally."

Viggo Mortensen
Cannes Film Festival 2005 Press Kit




David Cronenberg: We didn't use stunt doubles. One of the things that these [self-defence] videos said was this: "You might think that if there is somebody there with a gun that you want to back away and be as far from the person as possible. But that's a mistake. You want to get close, really close to this person. From there you can do a lot of damage."

Viggo Mortensen: And he wanted to do that with the camera.

David Cronenberg:
And I wanted to do that with the camera to do a lot of damage.

Noah Cowan: Did you get hit, Viggo?

Viggo Mortensen: Repeatedly.

David Cronenberg: I would do that even when we weren't shooting.

Viggo Mortensen: It happens in all the movies we do, he hits me with the camera. Even when I'm having a cup of coffee…

Viggo and Cronenberg talking about the dangers of filming the fight scenes
Listening in: David Cronenberg and Viggo Mortenson introduce AHOV at Tiff
Next Projection.com
14 January 2014




Viggo Mortensen: We went through a lot of actors.
David Cronenberg: This is not the original Viggo.

Viggo and Cronenberg talking about the dangers of filming the fight scenes
Listening in: David Cronenberg and Viggo Mortenson introduce AHOV at Tiff
Next Projection.com
14 January 2014




William Hurt killed me. He's so into what he is doing that it's extreme. He'd say, "Viggo! You're laughing again!"

'I was trying so hard to be in the shadows. I wasn't laughing, but he could see that there were tears in my eyes.'

Viggo Mortensen
Viggo and Cronenberg talking about the dangers of filming the fight scenes
Listening in: David Cronenberg and Viggo Mortenson introduce AHOV at Tiff
Next Projection.com
14 January 2014



"I want to say it was an intense shoot. It was some days. I had some of the hardest scenes in my life, Viggo and I had to do. I'm not a very nervous actor. I find that if I work from a very joyful, a playful place, it's easy and it's fun. But I had some days when I came to set literally just shaking, thinking, 'I can not possibly do this scene.' I was just terrified because it was quite, quite intense. But we just sure had fun. David Cronenberg was an incredible leader/father figure."

Maria Bello
RomanticMovies.com
January 2005




Perhaps even more intense than the killing is the sex, particularly in a violent, though consensual, scene between husband and wife. The scene, set on a stairway, took two days and was actually shot on two separate sets (one on the stairs, one looking down from the storey above). "It was terrible," said Bello. "I just remember walking around in a daze. This was so brutal and more psychological and emotional and spiritual than it was physical. And we got very brutal. I had bruises all over my body and scabs on my back. Viggo had a bite on the inside of his mouth. At the same time, it also was extremely technical, so we'd stop to look at the monitor: You know, move-your-leg-here kind of thing." A woman reporter actually asked her what it was like kissing Mortensen, and Bello answered: "In my case, painful."

American Brutality, by Liam Lacey
The Globe and Mail Cannes Review
May 17, 2005




'......even though emotionally there was a lot of difficult days on the set, you know, uncomfortable. There was always a lot of joking going on. It was a lot of fun making this movie. He has a very good sense of humour, maybe a very dark sense of humour, [laughs] but a good one.'

Viggo Mortensen
Viggo Mortensen - Cannes Interview
ARTE TV, by Lionel Julien, transcription by Chrissie
16 May 2005




In the end, do you think that this is ultimately a hopeful movie ?

I think it's whatever anyone thinks it is. But for me, that day...we'd spent three months together and it did feel like a family. David said, 'I don't know what this scene is going to be. You guys have been in these characters for three months; you figure it out. When he walks in the door you'll know.' And it's true. As soon as we heard the door slam, Ashton (Holmes), Heidi (Hayes) and I kind of jumped and just immediately like welled up, all of us. And to look up and see his sweet face, this man who we've loved for three months, as Viggo and as this character, to be so unsure and to still love this person, yes I think there is a hopefulness in that.

Maria Bello on working with Viggo
JoBlo.com, by Thomas Luepp
27 September 2005




In the film, Viggo Mortensen stars as an owner of a small-town diner who attracts the attention of mobsters (William Hurt and Ed Harris) when he prevents a robery. If the idea of Aragorn playing lord of the onion rings seems an outrage, Mortensen didn't think so. After the shoot, he gave Cronenberg an autographed 3-D LOTR character card. It read "Thank you for the best moviemaking experience of my life." Peter Jackson, eat your heart out - but not literally.

Premier Magazine, by Denis Seguin, July/August 2005.
Last edited: 28 June 2014 11:01:23