Viggo Mortensen tells all about Rings: Two. Get ready - Aragorn's role is growing as the adventure through Middle-earth continues
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When Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers opens Dec. 18, women everywhere will swoon simultaneously as hunky Aragorn (otherwise known as Viggo Mortensen) swashbuckles his way through fields of Orcs and other Middle-earth baddies. EW.com talked to Mortensen, 44, about getting too committed to the role, supporting your local Hobbit, and why he's not the hottie we think he is.
How is The Two Towers different from The Fellowship of the Ring?
It's a harder story. The landscapes are still beautiful, but the odds are much higher. The enemy is closer. And Aragorn's role is changing as well.
He ends up taking on more responsibility. There's more pressure on him to lead by example and think on his feet, and he has to draw on his knowledge of different cultures to survive. More than any other character in the movie he's a bridge, culturally speaking. He's worked with all these different peoples, so that's made him uniquely qualified to lead at this stage.
Would you say this is Aragorn's movie, as Fellowship was Frodo Baggins'?
The truth is, there isn't any one hero in the whole story, and that's what I like about it. It's a group of people of different races who are flawed, or have their moments of doubt, and they have to overcome those problems individually in order to give themselves to the group. The idea is, Do what you can to be of service to society first and foremost, and that's what's great about it.
It's been reported that you went a little overboard getting into character, sleeping in the woods with your sword and never changing out of wardrobe. Very method of you.
The way it was written, it sounded like I was doing that all the time, which I wasn't. I wanted to take advantage of being in New Zealand, so sometimes I'd go hiking or fishing and would stay overnight in some places. And people thought I was always in my wardrobe just because I was filming all the time. Because I didn't have the rehearsal time everyone else did, I was immersed from the beginning, and I just kind of stayed that way.
Did you really buy the horse you rode in the movie? Most people just steal wardrobe.
Yeah, the one I rode and another one. I haven't brought them over here yet because they keep using them for reshoots. It ended up being a good thing I bought them, because they sold some of the other horses and then they weren't available when the filmmakers needed them. So it turned out to be a practical purchase, but I just really liked them. We went through a lot together.
Was the shoot as grueling as it seemed to be, with all the muddy, slimy battle scenes?
Someone might say, ''Oh, my life is tough, making movies.'' But that's bullshit. It's luxurious. Still, there were periods that would be difficult for anyone, crew or cast. It was a long haul, and if somebody was going to be really out of line and a spoiled brat, they wouldn't have lasted long. You'd get that attitude beaten out of you just by the circumstances of being there. I'm sure everyone had a down period at some point, where we were ill or tired or it just wasn't happening, but we all had each other's back.
You've mentioned that you debated taking the role of Aragorn after Stuart Townsend dropped out. What worried you?
There was no way of knowing the movies would be a hit. They weren't chock full of movie stars and the subject matter wasn't a proven seller, as far as movies go. But because of the timing, I had to make a decision on the spot, and I had never read the books. But this seemed to be something that, given what my son Henry said about the character and the story, that if I didn't try it I would regret not having gone through the experience. And I know now that that was true.
Henry visited you on the set. Did that make you the coolest dad in the world?
He was very interested in the weaponry and all that. He and two other boys were enlisted to fight in one of the battles, and he just loved it. He recently did some of the reshoots of that scene, so I guess he technically played another kid, because he had grown in the year and a half since the first shoot.
Did you show him your fancy sword-flinging moves?
I think there are certain moves he can do faster. He's constantly working on it. A few times he turned to me and said, ''Dad, I think you're getting a little rusty. Aragorn's quicker than that.''
You're currently working on Hidalgo, a period movie about Pony Express rider Frank T. Hopkins who competes in a dangerous horse race in Saudi Arabia. Why do another movie on horseback?
What I liked about this story is, even though it's this big studio movie, it's not about an American going overseas to tell people how to do things or kick some ass. This guy goes over to Arabia and his eyes are opened wide, like, ''Wow, what am I dealing with here? And what are these people and these horses and this way of doing things all about?'' He learns a lot about them, and consequently learns a lot about himself in the process. I think that's a healthy thing for Americans to see, especially right now.
You were recently named one of People magazine's 50 most beautiful people. Can we call you Lord of the Shwing?
Oh, it's all marketing. You could do the fifty most beautiful plumbers of Madison, Wisconsin, and you could make a case for that. But it's a celebrity driven culture. If it wasn't for The Lord of the Rings, I certainly wouldn't be in that magazine, and I'm well aware of that.