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Iolanthe's Quotable Viggo

Found By: Iolanthe

With The Reflecting Skin being released on Blu-ray and DVD in the US soon, it’s time to look back over the two films Viggo made with Philip Ridley, Reflecting Skin and The Passion of Darkly Noon. From the start Viggo and Ridley found they were kindred spirits – creative and highly imaginative – the perfect partnership for Ridley’s complex ‘adult fairy-tales’. Ridley knew he was looking at a superstar before anyone else did and felt he’d found an actor who understood his unique work perfectly. And where else can you find a review that eulogises Viggo’s butt?

The Reflecting Skin

His voice is such a growl that you find yourself leaning toward the screen to catch the words. His features are well defined but suggest a curious amalgam of Kirk Douglas' and Burt Lancaster's. His credits include Swing Shift, The Purple Rose of Cairo and Young Guns II, but his onscreen time is so limited that you still may not know who Viggo Mortensen is. In his latest film, The Reflecting Skin, British writer-director Philip Ridley's disturbing tale of repression and decay in the American heartland, Mortensen doesn't appear until an hour has passed - but when he does he immediately marks himself as one of those actors who doesn't need fancy lighting to be incandescent. Cast as a young man returning from the Pacific (where he dropped bombs on sleepy atolls), he displays surly, distant passion that's at odds, yet perfectly in step, with a small town that is seething beneath its bucolic veneer. Word is that he fires up the screen in Sean Penn's directorial debut, The Indian Runner, a film about a good brother and a bad brother that is due for release in September. It's not hard to figure out which brother Mortensen plays.

Viggo Mortensen Interview
by Martha Frankel
June 1991

The Reflecting Skin is one of Viggo Mortensen’s first films. Talk about casting and working with him.

“My memory of this is probably wrong, but the way that I remember it is I’d known [casting director] Vicky Thomas for a while so she knew what I was after. Viggo came in initially as someone that I should meet: ‘He’s an interesting actor, he’s your kind of actor. You should meet him.’

“We sent him some of the scenes, and my memory of it was ‘this guy is fantastic.’ I knew we were going to get on because I do other things – write poetry and take photographs - and Viggo does the same thing. I was staying in a hotel in Los Angeles, and Viggo came around to see me. And we got on like a house on fire from the moment he walked in the door. We couldn’t stop talking, we had so much in common. Luckily that’s happened to me three or four times: someone has walked through my door and I know I’m looking at a superstar. It hasn’t happened for them yet, but you know they’ve got something very, very special. The star charisma was just overwhelming. By the time we finished talking, he had to play Cameron.”

Philip Ridley talks to Reflecting Skin director Philip Ridley
10 March 2016

Viggo shows up well into the film, and we see an early example of his willingness to be both vulnerable and venomous. Naturally, too, we see his buttocks, surely at least part of the appeal for some audience members. It's a beautifully realized scene of vulnerability (echoing perhaps the famous photo of Lennon/Ono by Leibovitz) and it's one of the film's most striking moments.

Jason Gorber
23 July 2015

Mortensen also gets to shine in a smaller than expected role but one which is typically interesting of the actor. This is an early role for the actor but one which really begins to show the brilliant talent that would emerge post Lord of the Rings.

David Bishop
Suite 101
16 June 2010

For some, the early lead performance by Viggo Mortensen (who also shows up in Darkly Noon) will be a draw; the then-31-year-old weighs in with a cloaked, edgy turn later elaborated on in Sean Penn’s essential The Indian Runner.

Mortensen fits right into the curdled nostalgia of the piece.

Rob Gonsalves
E Film
27 July 2019

The Passion of Darkly Noon

....his reputation for dwelling deep within his characters was established long before Rings. For his role as a mute in 1995's The Passion of Darkly Noon, Mortensen remained silent throughout filming. "I only heard him speak after the shoot was over, and then only to say, 'Thanks everybody, so long.' He'd make clicking noises in the back of his throat to communicate," recalls costar Brendan Fraser. Mortensen refused to break character even to settle his hotel bill. "The concierge probably didn't speak English, and here's Viggo gesturing with his hands and pointing, scribbling on a pad. And I think Viggo eventually got 50% off the bill. If you know Viggo, it makes perfect sense. In a way, he transcends the acting."

Viggo Trip
by Liane Bonin
Flaunt magazine #39

“We were on location in what used to be East Germany, on the Czech border. I was there on my own, I didn’t have anybody that I needed to talk to on the phone, so I thought I’d try to warm up because I didn’t have a rehearsal period. I literally worked the day after I got there. When I stepped off the plane I decided not to say anything. I thought ’I’ll just do this today’ and then I just kept doing it. I did it the whole month I was there, which was really interesting because I did hear more what was being said, and I did watch people’s reactions more closely.”

Viggo's Box
By Craig Clevenger
Fond Affexxions #5
Winter Thaw 1995

'Viggo is one of the few people I've worked with who, I feel, is a true kindred spirit. From the moment we first met - when I was casting The Reflecting Skin in Los Angeles - it was as if we'd known each other all our lives. He understands my work totally. By the time we were doing Darkly Noon I hardly had to give him a word of direction. He knew instinctively what I wanted. Just as well really. Because Viggo - being Viggo - decided that, as he was playing a mute, he wouldn't speak at all for the duration of making the film.'

Philip Ridley at the Tokyo International Film Festival
From "The American Dreams: Two Screenplays by Philip Ridley'
Methuen 1997

…Fraser isn’t the only person who shines here. Mortensen is quite the revelation as well. Although he has no dialogue throughout as Clay is a mute, his silent actions are evidence that this actor is not one who doesn’t need lines to act the role of his career. To a lesser-talented actor, this restriction might have resulted in a poor performance but does not.

"The Passion of Darkly Noon" Review
By Russell Hill

…Mortensen does his usual fine work here, getting across the depth and intensity of his feelings without the use of speech.

Issue 295
September 2010

'Many actors tend to think of their work in terms of career - this strange sort of concept that acting is like climbing up a mountain, that they get bigger with each job - and art doesn't move like that. Viggo knows that instinctively.'

Philip Ridley
Super Natural
by Anna David
Daily Telegraph 2002

What has caused him to race down from his suite, probably giving several PR assistants heart attacks in the process, is the urge to impress upon me that one director has inspired him more than any other he has worked with - Philip Ridley, the British film-maker who cast Mortensen in his Lynchian adult fairy-tales, The Reflecting Skin (1990) and The Passion of Darkly Noon (1995).

"That man will never sell out," he enthuses, "because his vision is unique."

Viggo Mortensen: A Method Actor in Middle-Earth
by Ryan Gilbey

You will find all previous Quotables here.

© Viggo-Works/Iolanthe. Images © Miramax/Zenith.