By Miguel Ángel Nepomuceno
There are many fans who have plans to travel to the city to closely follow the act and attend the world premiere of a movie that touches upon a crucial era in the history of Spain, when the ancient empire created by Carlos V was in the heat of its decline, and where the feared Tercios of Flanders played such a spectacular and dramatic role, as has been so well depicted in the popular books by journalist and novelist Arturo Pérez-Reverte.
From the first interview Viggo Mortensen granted this newspaper, the actor made it very clear that Alatriste hailed from the Curueño mountains. The plain-spoken manner of its people, their direct, cutting way of expressing themselves, the fact that they are hard men and at the same time loyal and open once one gets past their suspicion of strangers, resonated deeply with him.
'It hasn't been difficult for me to build my character after having spent time with the people of Valdeteja and its surroundings,' he told us, and it seems that he also felt very comfortable among them, since he has returned on several occasions even after finishing filming.
Thus, he could be seen in June of last year, accompanied by one of the film crew units, filming scenes in Valdeteja in a heavy downpour, cuts that won't be seen in the movie but very likely will be in the DVD extras.
A few days later, as evening fell, he returned to Valdeteja bringing with him an enormous bag of goodies for the town's kids who by now know that Viggo never arrives empty-handed. There, in Anabel's bar, he resembled Jesus among the children. Scores of kids cavorted around him, watching eagerly as Viggo pulled out shirts from his bag, then candies, chocolates and caramels that he distributed like Santa Claus to each child, all under the astonished and pleased gazes of the customers who by now consider the 'American friend' as one of their own.
Mortensen and La Robla
That night he said he would return within a few months. Time went by and the villagers thought that Alatriste had forgotten them. But Viggo's word is law. And on March 3, 2006, we saw his return to León. He returned as he usually does, preceded by news reports of all kinds, and with a wonderful present for Leoneses: his latest book, Linger .
'I hope you like it,' he had already said to us in Uclés, 'You'll see some interesting pictures of your country,' while he showed me a twilit countryside riddled with storks nests.
'Do you know the town where I saw the most storks?' To my surprise, he replied, 'It's near La Robla.'
'The Seca?' I asked.
'Yes, that's the place.'
When I had the edition of Linger in my hands, with the beautiful photograph of Cádiz on the cover, I confirmed that, along with many other shots taken in different places around the world, there was a special section dedicated to León, and among them that famous photograph with the storks. Once more I remembered his words of farewell at Uclés, where the biggest battle scenes were filmed:
'Flee from the highways! Always take the smaller roads, the ones that aren't on the maps. Get lost in the landscapes and people you meet. Retrásate (Linger). Don't be in such a hurry to arrive.'