'It doesn't always have to be the American going in and showing people how to do things,' says Mortensen. 'The stereotyping of the American cowboy has made it so that around the world those images have negative connotations.' He feels the characteristic that most defines true cowboys is curiosity. 'That's the first step toward learning something you didn't know.'
The actor immediately dismisses claims that the story is an outright fiction, feeling that such charges merely serve to undermine a film whose ultimate message is that 'people are people.' 'How much more enmity is necessary between East and West?' he asks. 'Especially over something that is well-intended?'
'The story of Frank Hopkins, Hidalgo, and the Arabian Race has been written about for 72 years in equestrian history,' says John Fusco. 'Perhaps there are aspects of legend to the story of this long-ago race, but it has been proven beyond a doubt that Frank Hopkins was an experienced and gifted long distance horseman, that his philosophy on natural horsemanship training was fifty years ahead of its time, and that he was one of the earliest proponents of saving the Mustang horse from slaughter.'
'It's not a documentary,' says Mortensen simply. 'It's a story.'
Reflecting on Hidalgo
and its place in an increasingly tumultuous world, director Joe Johnston is thoughtful. 'I am not in agreement with the current administration's policies in the Middle East...or anywhere else on the planet, for that matter. I think understanding is the key, on both sides. The problem is that information and truth are withheld when they don't promote the goals of those in power. There is a lot of ignorance in this country about the people of the Middle East and probably vice versa. My own experience was one of friendship and caring, and a desire to work together.'
It is clear that for Viggo Mortensen, his experience in the Middle East while filming Hidalgo
holds a special place in his heart. 'There's so much violence happening in the world right now, it's harder for people to reach out and understand...I personally think common ground exists between all of us all the time. It's there.' The actor pauses, 'You're not obligated to find out what you have in common with others, but it's worth it!'
This article was written for Q-News Magazine and is reproduced here by permission of the author, Zaki Hasan