Interviews 1987-2000

Nice And Sensitive Movie-Star

Source: Berlingske Tidende

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© Warner Brothers.
He is simply one of the sexiest actors alive, US Today wrote in their review. But when he hears that, he just laughs shyly and says almost embarrassed: "This is how they sell things in the USA. And of course it's not bad. But it's not helpful for your work."

Thirty-eight-year-old Viggo Mortensen is not one of those movie stars that grow on trees, wherever their roots may be. Sexy or not, he is no less than a very nice movie star, who even apologies no less than four times, during half an hour on the phone, because he is forty-five minutes late. And this is in spite of the fact that Viggo has reached the star level where a delay of three quarters of an hour can be expected! Because after spending several years in Hollywood as an up-and-coming actor, one of those where the breakthrough always lies just around the corner, he has now reached the other side of the corner and is in his second big-budget, star-packed production in a leading role.

The last time we saw him was about a year ago when a sadistic Viggo Mortensen ill-treated Demi Moore in G.I. Jane. Now it's another side of his talent he uses in A Perfect Murder - a re-make of the Hitchcock-thriller Dial M for Murder - although this time he once again has psychopathic tendencies. But he is also seductive. Which he does "extremely authentically," as the producer says.

The subject of the seduction is no less than Gwyneth Paltrow. She plays his stylish and rich lover in the movie whereas Viggo is a shabby but talented painter who is hired by her husband to kill her.

"Normally I think it's an extreme lack of ideas to make re-makes," Viggo Mortensen says, "but on the other side - when you can make "Hamlet" over and over again why not Hitchcock?"

This is not the only Hitchcock-remake Viggo is in. He has just finished Psycho which - unlike this one - is a picture by picture re-make of the classic thriller.

"It was a lot of fun to try that - a test. And you get at least as scared as in the original," Viggo says in good Jutlandic.

Where the Jutlandic accent comes from he doesn't know exactly. But maybe, he explains, it comes from a girlfriend he had when he was young - and a part of his family that also lives there. But his Danish roots are planted in Middle-Zealand, more closely described as the Borup-area where he is part of a farming family. When he was a baby the family emigrated - Danish father and American mother - to the big Promised Land, and then his visits to Denmark were only during the holidays until he had graduated in the States.

After that he spent four years in Denmark doing any odd jobs such as dock worker and lorry driver. And after that he went back to the USA. First to New York, but after that to Los Angeles where the acting took shape. And today he has reached the point where the reviewers love him.

Reviews and status as a sex symbol are not something Viggo cares about much. In every way he is outside the Hollywood mainstream. And he doesn't think of himself as a star. For instance both Paltrow and Michael Douglas have their respective assistants with them during the making of the movie. But not Viggo. You can almost hear on the phone how he shrugs his shoulders when he says: "I don't need that. Whereas someone as Gwyneth who is very busy, and by the way is both good and cute, needs one. And I have nothing against that the others have hired help. It's just not me. I don't even like to get my house cleaned - let a stranger intervene in the dirt."

Privately Viggo Mortensen lives alone outside the "real" Hollywood, in Venice Beach. Every other week he gets together with his 10-year-old son from a former marriage. When he doesn't make movies he writes poems, take photos and paints. And he spends as little as possible together with his acting colleagues, although Dennis Hopper is an exception.

But when he makes movies he goes into the part 100 per cent.

"Viggo's ability to go into his part is very special. And his demands on himself are unique. For instance, he lived for a long time in his character's shabby apartment in Brooklyn to identify himself with the character," says the producer Arnold Kopelson, who also was very impressed about one of the sex scenes between Viggo and Gwyneth Paltrow, a scene which was obviously too strong and authentic for the studio bosses and was, therefore, cut out of the movie. "The talk runs in Los Angeles Viggo will be big. Soon everybody will want him," Kopelson says.

In addition to living in the apartment in Brooklyn, which Viggo says was cosy; he also painted the paintings that are used in the movie. And there's also some other personal belongings in the movie because, as he says, "my movies are a kind of photo album for me. When I look at them some years from now, they'll reflect my feelings and where I was at that time. The pants I wear are some I found in Denmark. Other belongings are some things I got from my aunt in Jystrup. They're just some small things which make me feel at home and more relaxed," Viggo says.

He was pretty surprised he was allowed to make the paintings for the movie. "It's pretty unusual. But the director had seen one of my photo exhibitions and thought my style fitted the movie. So I was allowed to try. And it was crazy because I ended up making fifty paintings for the movie and continued afterwards, so now I'm on about a hundred. And just now I'm looking at them in the house. Everything else is cleared away, I've had to put the furniture outside to make room," Viggo laughs. "And it has started so much. I paint and paint - and my son also paints. It's really funny. I think I've learned so much from it and it has given me such experience."

And actually it will end next month when Viggo Mortensen's "movie-paintings" are going to be exhibited in Los Angeles. From November 1st until Christmas they can be experienced at the Track 16 Gallery - if you're planning to go there!

All in all, all these aspects of Viggo Mortensen's life seem to be a big part of his life. And he takes it just as - if not more - serious than his movie career.

"Well," he concludes, "if I had to choose, there's not that big a difference between paintings, poems and movies as a way of expressing feelings. Although there is the difference that it is the movies that put food on table."
Last edited: 11 June 2011 14:41:29
© Berlingske Tidende.