Creating Freud

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Doctor Freud is a man who doesn't stop talking and he uses words instead of gestures as a way of defending himself or protecting himself or attacking or avoiding or lying, hiding things, manipulating, controlling situations. He does it with language, he can do it sitting quite still, you know, which is an interesting challenge - Viggo Mortensen

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Creating Freud

'In a lot of ways, it was the biggest stretch I've had as an actor in movies.'

Viggo Mortensen
Viggo Mortensen: 'A Dangerous Method' Taught Me How to Talk in a Movie
By Michael Hogan
Moviefone
23 November 2011




"No, I didn't feel the need to undergo analysis to prepare for this film. For me, Freud was as much an artist as a scientist - he thought so himself - so I tried to capture the complexity of the artist."

Viggo Mortensen
A Most Beautiful Mind
L'Uomo Vogue
September 2011




"I think any time you play a character that is a historical figure, people that people think they know as well as they do, personalities like Freud and Jung, if you get too weighed down with the idea that you are doing something important, that you are playing someone of significance, your probably not gonna do a good job of it - you're certainly not going to have much fun."

Viggo at the Venice Film Festival Press Conference
Flicks and Bits
4 September 2011




You underwent sort of a physical transformation to play the father of modern psychoanalysis.

Once we started talking about it, I thought with the help of a great makeup person--David's longtime makeup collaborator Stephan Dupuis who was nominated for an Oscar for "The Fly,"--it could work. He altered my nose. And one thing that's mentioned a lot by his contemporaries is that Freud had a particular type of penetrating brown-eyed gaze. I said "Montgomery Clift did it with his clear eyes in John Huston's movie," [the 1962 film, "Freud: The Secret Passion"] but I don't think if we're trying to be accurate that it would be right. So he started playing around with lenses that looked right but also didn't take away my own eyes' expressiveness.

How Viggo Mortensen Got Inside Sigmund Freud's Head
By Rachel Dodes
The Wall Street Journal: Speakeasy
18 November 2011




"Freud had dressed in the same way for decades, in the style of the 19th century. He wrote in German in the way that it would have been written in the 18th and 19th centuries, and he never changed it. The way he wrote and presented himself was characterized by great formality. In his letters to Jung, you always found a very high intellectual standard in his discourse. However, in personal conversation, he was very witty and approachable. All of that is a lot of fun for an actor. Jung was a very, very smart man but completely different from Freud."

Viggo Mortensen
Movieworlds.com
August 2011



How did being able to smoke those cigars help inform the character, though? I gather they were the ones that Freud would have smoked?

Viggo Mortensen: Yeah, they're basically the same Cuban cigars. They're good cigars. It took a little getting used to smoking that many. I had smoked a cigar before, and my grandfather smoked a lot of them, but it took a while to not get kind of dizzy smoking that many during the day. You don't think of it... you're doing take to take and you light a new one, light a new one, light a new one. But once I got used to it, it was a good prop. It helped me with the character. It helped me when imitating photographs and based on descriptions of Freud to recreate the way he probably spoke and certainly the way he held a cigar and smoked them.

A Dangerous Method - Viggo Mortensen interview
By Rob Carnevale
Orange
7 February 2012




'There's only one scene in the movie where I am not smoking a cigar, I think, and that's when Jung comes over for dinner. David and I wrote 20-30 emails just about cigars, finding the kind that was exactly Freud's type.'

Viggo Mortensen
How Viggo Mortensen Got Inside Sigmund Freud's Head
By Rachel Dodes
The Wall Street Journal: Speakeasy
18 November 2011




...this is a thing I knew about Viggo -- once he commits, he's committed. He's incredibly loyal to the project, to the character, to the movie. Once he committed there was never any going back; it was full on, "Let's do research of the Viggo kind" -- which is very deep, to say the least. He'd send 25 emails of Freud's cigars, you know, with pictures going back and forth: "What kind were they?" "How many did he smoke a day?" "What shape were they?" "What strength?" "Would he have ever varied the kind during the course of the day, or did he always smoke the same kind?" "Could he afford them?" "Were they expensive?" You know, it went on and on and on.

David Cronenberg Discusses His Dangerous Method
by Luke Goodsell
Rotten Tomatoes
23 November 2011




"I don't usually play characters that have as much to say, verbally. Or they'd say as much, I play characters who have a lot to say but they don't say it or they choose not to express them, they express themselves with physical gestures rather than through language. In this case, Doctor Freud is a man who doesn't stop talking and he uses words instead of gestures as a way of defending himself or protecting himself or attacking or avoiding or lying, hiding things, manipulating, controlling situations. He does it with language, he can do it sitting quite still, you know, which is an interesting challenge."

Viggo Mortensen
Venice Film Fesitval Interview
Scanpix.com
4 September 2011




"The way Freud speaks and that he speaks so much compared to most of the characters I've played ... he was a gifted wordsmith, a great conversationalist. Able to speak for two or three hours at a clip without a single mistake. Often infusing his speeches or conversations with wry humor you either get or don't get; he just plows ahead anyway without cracking a smile," says Mortensen. "To some degree, an intimidating role to take on if you're not used to it."

A light touch with 'A Dangerous Method'
by Michael Ordoña
Los Angeles Times
3 January 2012




"Once I figured out how I could get some irony into his speech, his tone, the way he listened, the way he watched people when he spoke to see how they reacted: That was a way in."

Viggo Mortensen
Viggo Mortensen Reveals How He Became Freud in 'A Dangerous Method'
by Thelma Adams
Yahoo Movies
16 December 2011




"He grew up in that atmosphere and also in a very repressive atmosphere generally, not just about sex, but free thinking. There were very strict censorship laws in the 19th century in Vienna and one of the roots of his wit -- that sort of ironic tone that he has in conversation -- is a self-defense mechanism, a way of getting around censorship and anti-Semitism."

Viggo Mortensen
Viggo Mortensen didn't shrink from Freud role in 'A Dangerous Method'
By Barbara Vancheri
The Republic
4 November 2011




"The first obstacle [to accepting the part] was that I thought of Freud as an old man, frail and thin because of his cancer. Instead, in the period portrayed in the film he was about 50, with an imposing physical presence and an extraordinary voice with which he expressed himself in superb German. As controversial and revolutionary as his thought was, he nevertheless had the ability to deeply engage others, to make them feel like an integral part of his vision. He was very seductive and charming, the kind of man who knew how to draw people in and persuade them to share his viewpoint."

Viggo Mortensen
A Most Beautiful Mind
L'Uomo Vogue
September 2011




"In the past I've worked in scenes with physical violence, intense but like a metaphor of what was happening in the mind of the characters I was playing", says Mortensen. "Instead, in this case, everything was happening in the mind of the protagonists. To work in order to bring into focus the world of Sigmund Freud has been like working through a filter through which I could explore"

Viggo Mortensen
Viggo Mortensen: Interpreting the soul of Freud
By Giovanna Grassi
Sette Magazine - translated by Ollie
September 2011




"I visited Pribor, his birthplace, which is now located in the Czech Republic, and spent a lot of time in Vienna walking around the places Freud must have frequented. I went to his house and scoured the bookshops, buying his books. It never worried me that it was a real character..."

Viggo Mortensen
"Freud was a great public relations person"
By Alex Vicente
Público.es - translated by Ollie, Rio and Zoe
4 September 2011




"Well, the thing that triggered my identification with Freud was the discovery of his fantastic sense of humour, very dry and cutting. Before shooting I went to Vienna to do some research on what Freud was reading, apart from academic material. And I found the first editions of the satirical texts that he read. The other interpretive key for me was the universality of the theme - every son who lies to his father is a problem. I also worked a lot with Stephan Dupuis, Cronenberg's trusted makeup artist, to find Freud's face, his walk, his way of occupying space with his body..."

Viggo Mortensen
A Most Beautiful Mind
L'Uomo Vogue
September 2011




"In studying Freud I found many parallels with Cronenberg. I don't know how David sees it, but I found myself using him as a model to create my Freud. Freud was constantly reinventing himself, his theories were scandalous, revolutionary and dangerous. But in everyday life he was an irreprehensible family man, a typical member of the middle class. The same applies to Cronenberg, who makes a lot of disturbing films, constantly studies impulses, desires, repressed aggression and sexuality, always obsessed with physicality. Yet if you talk to him he's calm as can be, innocent, with a great sense of humour."

Viggo Mortensen
A Most Beautiful Mind
L'Uomo Vogue
September 2011




...when he writes a letter on screen, the penmanship is Mortensen's, the actor having learnt to write in German in Freud's handwriting style.

Interview: Viggo Mortensen, actor
Scotsman.com
9 February 2012




He studied Freud's work, and -- because he wanted to know "what Freud read for pleasure" -- he researched the work of contemporary Austrian and German playwrights and humorists. (He can now talk authoritatively and at length about the oeuvres of Johann Nestroy and Wilhelm Busch.)

Viggo Talks and Talks
By Zoe Heller
T Magazine
2 December 2011




"Viggo will bring props to the set. I mean, he basically does his own set decoration. He'd come in with these rare books -- editions that Freud actually had in his own study -- and the production designer would say, 'Where did you find these?' "

David Cronenberg
Viggo Talks and Talks
By Zoe Heller
T Magazine
2 December 2011




How exactly does spending ages hunting down books Freud might have had in his library help his performance?

"It doesn't really help you act, but it helps you make believe. It's a more sophisticated way of doing what a child does when it says, 'I'm going to be a prince', or a milkman. A child doesn't have to be prompted - it has to be for real. As an actor, you have to find a way to believe it for yourself so that others can."

Viggo Mortensen
By Lucy Kellaway
Financial Times
10 February 2012




Do you think playing Freud was the biggest departure for you as an actor?

I eventually got used to the idea and I am really glad I got to play him. But it was a stretch for me, more so than playing the Russian character [in "Eastern Promises"]. Sometimes it's good to be put in a position where you're forced to try something that you didn't think you were capable of.

Viggo Mortensen
How Viggo Mortensen Got Inside Sigmund Freud's Head
By Rachel Dodes
The Wall Street Journal: Speakeasy
18 November 2011




"I come to like all the characters I play, but I really like him, I think he's funny and engaging."

Viggo Mortensen didn't shrink from Freud role in 'A Dangerous Method'
By Barbara Vancheri
The Republic
4 November 2011




I ask if he got to know Freud well enough to guess what the psychotherapist would have made of Mortensen. He cracks his knuckles and gives his first short answer.

"I have no idea."

Viggo Mortensen
By Lucy Kellaway
Financial Times
10 February 2012

Last edited: 19 July 2012 13:53:02