Viggo Mortensen Journeys Through Hell In 'The Road'
By Constance Droganes
26 November 2009
Image Macall Polay.
© 2929/Dimension Films/MGM.
Hollywood's greatest movies all have a staying power that is hard to shake. The Road is one of those rare, lingering gems.
"Judging by the reactions this film got in Venice and Toronto, audiences seemed to go to the places we wanted them to go," Viggo Mortensen told CTV.ca.
"This is a tough movie to watch and a very moving love story between a father and son," says the soft-spoken American actor. "When you work that hard on a film and see it connect so deeply with many people it's wonderful. It's what every actor hopes for."
An Oscar wouldn't hurt either, although Mortensen would never say so. He is too worried at the moment about the journalists lined up outside his hotel suite covering the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival.
"We're running late," Mortensen's publicists tell him.
"There's plenty of time," the 51-year-old superstar replies calmly. "Everyone's been nice enough to come out. We're making time for everyone."
Who says good guys don't exist in Hollywood?
Good outlasts Armageddon
Human goodness and its triumph over fear certainly drive Mortensen's performance in John Hillcoat's harrowing adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's novel, The Road.
True to McCarthy's Pulitzer Prize-winning book, a mysterious holocaust levels all of civilization at the start of this sci-fi-ish morality tale.
Thick gray ash obscures the sun's rays. No plants grow. No birds fly. Nothing, not even humanity itself, seems to have survived this terrible calamity.
Yet, two lone, gaunt figures emerge from out of the brutal, sterile landscape created by Hillcoat and Spanish cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe.
Pushing a shopping cart filled with their meager belongings, "The Man" (Mortensen) and "The Boy" (played with heart-wrenching innocence by 13-year-old Kodi Smit-McPhee) journey across this blasted terrain towards the sea.
Cannibals lurk on the road. Unlucky survivors are chained in pits and have their limbs sawed off to feed "the strong." Yet real strength, as The Road so eloquently proves, comes down to human goodness and the unshakeable power of a father's love.
Mortensen portrays that strength with a stripped-down precision that is both beautiful and touching in a terrible, awful way.
"The evolution of the relationship between Viggo and Kodi was incredible to watch," says Australian-born Hillcoat.
Shooting portions of the film on Mount St. Helens in Washington and in parts of New Orleans ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, Hillcoat set up the perfect setting of desolation for his stars to bond in.
In one scene shot by a creek, Smit-McPhee (Romulus, My Father) cried real, silent tears because of the brutal weather conditions.
"Kodi never complained. After the scene was done, Viggo kept holding him the way a father would his own son," says Hillcoat.
"This growing bond between them affected us all. The simplicity in it also made me realize that this is no sci-fi tale. This is the world of the homeless. That gave more poignancy to this film for me, as did this beautiful father-son relationship."
Mortensen and Smit-McPhee make a powerful connection
"Kodi and I had to get through this together, particularly in those really emotional scenes that John just couldn't help us with," says Mortensen.
"It brought us a lot closer. It also made Kodi more resilient as an actor. Tougher. More human," says Mortensen.
The wide-eyed Aussie newcomer also gained a deeper understanding of what it is to be a good guy in a world gone to hell, says Mortensen.
"There is nothing more important than carrying that fire inside you and being a good person, certainly not in Cormac's story or to my mind," says Mortensen.
The film's tearful, bowled-over audiences could not agree more.
"Seeing people come up to me and say 'I just had to call my father or brother or mother' after watching this movie says it all,' says Mortensen.
"This film makes you appreciate life, no matter how bad it gets. I know people have troubles, ailments, economic problems and worse. But, life is short."
Mortensen's sky-blue eyes twinkle. "I wouldn't trade this life, or this world, for any other."
Last edited: 6 June 2010 13:14:45