"La Ventana" with Viggo and Carme
23 November 2011
Viggo Mortensen and Carme Elías were guests on the "La Ventana" radio programme broadcast by Cadena SER. This is a transcript of the broadcast.
Viggo at the Cadena SER studios for the radio …
Image David Martos.
© Cadena SER.
Gemma Nierga: Well then, on La Ventana we have prepared an hour for you that I think you are going to like. To start off, my greetings for Jaume Figueras, good afternoon [JF greets her back] and to María Guerra: good afternoon, María [MG greets her]. María, you´ll be the one who´ll have the great privilege of sitting close to our next two guests. A great actor and a great actress who, every evening, in Madrid, wear themselves to the bone with a play that the listeners shouldn´t miss, of course: Purgatorio, in the Matadero´s naves of Teatro Español.
María, are people on the radio nervous because of Viggo Mortensen´s arrival?
María Guerra: They are! The studio, the control room in the main studio, is full of co-workers who have come to have a look. Then, also, since the interview is being streamed, there are the co-workers from the web and, well, Carme Elías and Viggo Mortensen have already arrived. And Viggo Mortensen, with a plastic bag, has given me his books and CDs as a gift. It´s a habit he has, because he has already done it on other occasions in interviews.
Gemma: Books and CDs! Very good! We are going to hear the CD in a moment. Let me do a little publicity. María Guerra has reminded you: you´ll be able to see this interview in live streaming, at cadenaser.com. So, some messages and we'll be right back.
Gemma: Well, the soundtrack of the interview is by Viggo Mortensen himself. Because the piano you are hearing in the background, intertwining with the guitar, is played by him in his latest CD which we'll be talking about later on. The CD is called Reunion and here with us is Viggo Mortensen. Good afternoon, Viggo!
Viggo: Good afternoon! I´m here with my theatre partner, Carme Elías.
Gemma: Carme Elías, good afternoon!
Carme Elías: Hello, good afternoon!
Jaume Figueres: Hello, Carme! Greetings from Barcelona.
Carme: Hello, Jaume!
Gemma: How elegant of Viggo introducing Carme Elías for me. [laughter from Viggo] How are you, Carme?
Carme: Very well. In very good company, as well! [Laughs]
Gemma: In very good company, but we are not as well as the last time that we saw each other, right, Carme?
Carme: Well, no, because there we were together, right?
Gemma: In a swimming pool! [Laughter]
Carme: In Jaume's swimming pool. [They laugh]
Gemma: Viggo, you don't know about this.
Viggo: In a swimming pool?
Gemma: This summer, in a swimming pool...
Carme: We found ourselves almost naked there...
Gemma: ...Surrounded by mountains, in the Pyrenees, Jaume Figueras, Carme and I in bathing suits. Super-cute! Those two especially... (laughs)
Carme: With a gorgeous landscape. Almost on vacation...
Gemma: So, I'm telling you, Carme. Now I was saying to Jaume, "Wow, the last time we were with Carme Elias, we felt so great in that pool!"
Carme: Imagine! What a meeting! Bumping into each other like that! [Laughter]
Gemma: OK, let's talk about Purgatorio. I saw you last night. I want to congratulate you. It moved me, really. I think it's a profound, disturbing play that makes you think a lot. How was last night's performance, Carme, Viggo? I always like to ask the actors about the performance that I saw live. How was last night's?
Carme: Strange, odd. Every night is like a kind of vertigo, because since there are only two of us and it's a fairly peculiar play, where there isn't a plot that you can follow with, shall we say, any continuity, and so the audience has to do their part as well, and then, well, we keep it going too, along with the script, and well, yesterday... Now we were telling about it with... You tell it, Viggo, tell it.
Gemma: Tell us, Viggo, tell us! [Laughter from Carme]
Viggo: Well, it was like this... It's kind of a fiendish script. So OK, there are a lot of repetitions that aren't exact and sometimes we get lost for just a moment. But sometimes strange things happen, too, like last night, what Carme is referring to, where, I don't know why, I had a fit of laughter. It wasn't bad that it happened just there...
Carme: No, it was a good moment for it to happen, but...
Viggo: Luckily! But it didn't have to last as long as it did. [Laughs]
Gemma: So that laugh, that moment, that peal of laughter that seemed so brutal, believable, splendid... [laughter]
Viggo: [laughing] Ah, so you remember it!
Gemma: Of course! So, it was a little more exaggerated than in other performances?
Carme: No, it just wasn't there at all! [Viggo laughs]
Gemma: But Carme, put it in! Don't take it out of the performance. It fits really well!
Viggo: Well, we'll see what happens... It might happen another time.
Carme: Well, I don't know. We're not going to force anything.
Gemma: OK, but why that fit of laughter yesterday? So what happened?
Viggo: I don't know, the way she said it to me... It's a moment where the man is talking about the possibility of being reincarnated as a boy, I think, and she says, "Or a girl." And I laughed, and then I kept on laughing. And I laughed and laughed and I couldn't talk and then I had to say the little speech laughing and she responded to me, laughing. Completely absurd...
Carme: Of course, I couldn't control myself.
Viggo: So then we got into the next moment which was much sadder, right? It was an interesting contrast.
Gemma: How funny! But I loved that moment. I really mean it, Viggo. The contrast.
Carme: Was it a relief for you?
Gemma: Yes! Because it seemed to me you were laughing in a very natural way. Of course, now I understand it! [laughter]
Viggo: Well, there's always a little laughter, or a moment of shame that the man is like...He hadn't imagined the possibility of being a girl in his next life. Of course he has to think about it because of what they are going to give him as a challenge...But that moment seemed rather funny to me. I don't know why. We'll see what happens tonight. As Carme says, it's an adventure. Every evening is a different journey. That's the way it should be, right?
Carme: Yes. It's us, the audience, the script, and, well, that's always how it is in theatre, but with this production, really, every day is a surprise.
Gemma: And besides, it's an adventure! Carme, Viggo, I want to tell you something because I don't know if there are things that you're aware of. Well, I'm sure you get that already there are no tickets left, that it's completely sold out. Last night I went with a friend who had two tickets left over and there was a line, next to the box office, of people who were waiting to see if there were any tickets left so they could buy them. That's, well...!
Jaume: You see that in London, in New York...
Gemma: That's what I was going to say. I've seen that in London and on Broadway but...there was a line of people waiting, to see if some tickets were left because, truly, there's nothing left.
Viggo: I didn't know that. The Matadero, raining...
Gemma: The Matadero, raining, a Tuesday...and a soccer day! My friend was happy because he could sell his tickets.
Viggo: They must have been Barça supporters or from Atlético de Madrid.
Viggo and Carme at the Cadena SER studios for the ….
© Cadena SER.
Gemma:Well, let's tell [our listeners] that this is a project that's been in the works for a while that's finally come to pass, right, Viggo? Tell me what about this play pursued you so that you persisted, so you didn't abandon the project.
Viggo: Well, there's a phrase that Carme's character has that more or less scolds or corrects the character I play and it goes, "Always in such a hurry!" and that's a little bit what happened with this play. For the author and those of us who wanted to put it on for the first time in Spanish, we realized during those almost two years since we started that, well, trying to present it at the Teatro Español in Madrid, that it lacked something. Because it changed quite a bit, even in the last week of rehearsals with Carme. Things. Little structural things, but polishing more than anything else. The script was polished quite a bit, even in the final week, with Ariel Dorfman's help, and there were things that, if it had opened a year or two ago, wouldn't have been as good, I think, as now. Sometimes you have to be patient and not be in such a hurry. So, it was interesting. And as many people know I was going to play in this...presenting this play in Madrid almost two years ago. A year and a half, I don´t know, and it couldn´t be because of reasons...Well, a sickness in my family, and I had to leave the rehearsals. That had never happened to me. So I was feeling a certain...a certain debt. We hadn´t finished our story; the circle hadn´t been closed.
Gemma: Besides, Viggo, these kinds of projects are not done for money. How many Hollywood productions have you had to give up, or your agent has, so that we could see you these weeks in Madrid?
Viggo: Well, I think that we both have, just as back then...Probably, for example, Emma Suarez had to change what she was doing in order to do the play. And I know that Carme and I, we both had to think "Alright, we are going to do this. If we do this we have to leave other things behind." It happened...I don't know. I think Carme has worked as much in theatre as in films. It's something that's gone to and fro continuously in her career. I began doing theatre and then, for many years, 23, 24 years, I left it for films...So for me it was...Well, it scared me a lot, but it's a very interesting adventure. I´ve enjoyed very much what I have learned doing this. So, to me, it has been worth it. I don't have a doubt, no regrets for having done this.
Jaume: Does Carme tell you a little about what the Spanish theatre audience is like? Because you've never had that face-to-face with the audience in Spain until now. So does she tell you if people respond as she expects or as you expect?
Carme: No, no. To me, this is always a surprise. I always tell Viggo that everything seems very strange to me, this whole theatre thing, because no matter how much you work and work on it the [only] thing you know is that there's someone ready to see and hear what you are doing and saying. And what's evident is that Viggo and I , and anyone who gets on a stage, even you when you have some public engagement, you can feel whether the audience is attentive or not. But...And you feel whether they are following you or not. But from that to being able to characterize the audience, I don´t know. You end a performance and say: today the audience was better than yesterday, or much better, or it looks like they were reacting to this and not to that; today there was a sense of humour that some other days they don't "get." Well, you can comment, but always afterwards. The audience is a surprise; you never know what's going to happen.
Maria: And you, Carme, when they told you that you were going to work with Viggo Mortensen, what did you think?
Carme: It seemed amazing to me. Amazing for several reasons...
Gemma: You didn't know him personally?
Carme: No, no, not at all. Of course, I'd admired him lots of times in films...I think, well, ...he seems to me like an actor with a collection of really solid films and ones that really interest me, you know? And that he always brings something to his characters that is unexpected; I don't know, he's always surprising. So that's why, that's why I'm a fan...or was a fan, because now I don't know...
Gemma: Not now?
Carme: No, no. It seemed amazing to me for several reasons. I wondered why someone who comes, shall we say, from Hollywood, in quotes, with those super offers that he gets, with such a career...he decided suddenly to do this generous act, this act of, of...I don't know, it seemed generous to me...to come here to do this kind of theatre in a small format, and, I thought, a theatre, shall we say, that demands...this same script that makes certain demands on the audience, right? Amazing from that point of view, amazing that I got the part. The script came to me from the hand of Mestres and of course, well, I'm grateful to have this opportunity.
Jaume: I think that generosity is the key word, because, Viggo, aside from being generous in bringing books and bringing CD's to the station, I remember, some months ago, at Lleida's Iberoamericano film festival, Viggo arrived in his own car, from Madrid, alone; he didn't want any special treatment. He did an endless press conference [Viggo laughs] , because people were asking a lot and he answered a lot, and very well. He let himself be photographed with a girl dressed as someone from The Lord of the Rings, which is something that's always a bit of a drag and then...
Viggo: An elf.
Jaume: You remember, Viggo? And he made a nice gesture to the audience at Lleida, to whom he dedicated a long paragraph spoken in Catalán, without [needing to] read it. And the people appreciated that so much that they said this man, aside from being a good actor, is brutally generous.
Gemma: We like this man a lot, right, Viggo? We like Viggo Mortensen a lot.
Jaume: He's got good vibes.
Viggo: OK, I have to say... I really appreciate what you said, Carme, but for me, you - besides onstage, where you're very generous - I think we listen to each other well, and if we experience an odd moment in a performance, we solve it together. We don't each go our own way. We don't cast blame, we solve it, on the fly. And for me the experience of doing theatre, after so many years, and doing it with such a complicated script, well, during rehearsals I thought... [laughing]
Carme: [laughing] That you were heading home?
Gemma: What did you think, what were you thinking?
Viggo: [laughing]... I was pretty stupid because... why hadn't I chosen a simpler play, a role... a guy who's there smoking a pipe in a corner and who, now and then, says something. [general laughter]
Maria: But, isn't there ever a moment in which there's a lull, where you can both relax? Nothing like that?
Viggo: No, no. So then, well, having someone with whom you have an understanding and a friendship ever since the rehearsals, is very valuable. But Carme, as well as Josep María Mestres, and, well, Mario Gas and the Teatro Español who made it possible for this to be...For me, it´s a gift. That is, I never considered it as if I were doing someone a favour. On the contrary! During rehearsals [giggles] I thought: I´m not doing them any favour... Remember how I lost it? "This is impossible! It can´t be done! This text is a ..." Well, words you can´t say on the radio...but...
Carme: It´s been a struggle, a hard struggle.
Gemma: This script?
Viggo: Yes...but it´s interesting. The most difficult things..., with the most complicated obstacles, the things that you or I might have said at some point during rehearsals: "Well, this paragraph has to be removed straight away because it´s...it´s shit!" You can´t say that! No actor in the world can...!" I suppose that rehearsals are like that for all theatre people, right? But in this case, we said that a lot and, in the end, frequently those are the phrases or the paragraphs that we now like the most.
Carme: Yes, of course. Because we really had to make an effort!
Viggo: Yes. Making friends with the obstacles, with...
Carme: With the letters, with everything.
Viggo: Yes, yes...but...
Gemma: Carme, Viggo. And for all the people who are listening now and haven't been able to see the play and are wondering, "Well, but what exactly is it all about?" Because they're talking a lot... We're talking about complexity. Purgatorio brings two characters face to face, talking about their most evil acts... But in reality, what is the play about? It talks about blame, it talks about forgiveness. But it also talks about the couple's relationship. About love, about infidelity...
Viggo: Men, women...
Gemma: It's a very complicated script...
Viggo: Carme always explains it very well...
Carme: No, no, Viggo! You explain it very well... [Viggo laughs]
Gemma: Carme, it´s your turn. Tell it. [general laughter]
Carme: I´m only going to say that...what seems more interesting to me...No, not more interesting...What I define as the basic story line in the script, because there are also many story lines surrounding it, is that it begins with the story of a man and a woman, right? Who, you know, have experienced an extreme situation, and which throughout the performance ends by referring to something that is almost a myth, right? The myth of Medea, and so...you realise that you open the paper every day or watch TV and they appear...you see there...in the pages... "the accidents and crime reports"...What´s more, a similar incident happened while doing the play, right, Viggo? We were astonished. But, those kinds of incidents, the kind that the man and woman are living through, are happening every day there, and, therefore, any human being, in this case, a couple, could feel themselves reflected there, right? So that then refers to the myth. In other words, there is like a story that follows all of these acts that we are trying to clarify in that script, through Ariel Dorfman and the wisdom of Mestres, to clarify...
Viggo: No, no. It's true! And to make it something natural, so that it seems like it is what it is. It's a couple, arguing, but speaking in a natural way, trying to get to an agreement - which it seems that they're never going to get to. To a truce, at least. And there are moments in which that seems like it's going to happen and it turns out that he is lying or she is lying. Or they're not doing the in-depth work time after time. But since the script is...In general, this script is complicated because it's not how people speak. I think that it's just as complicated to seem natural, conversational in a script by Lope de Vega, by Shakespeare. It's complicated! And when you find it, you find the humour in a phrase or in the circumstances, in the moment...Then, yes. Then it begins to be more fun and you begin to understand. During rehearsals, even in some performances, there are moments in which we say, "Ah, that phrase also means this or it could..." Or, last night, we had quite a laugh there. Also, it's also possible...Or, at times, you cry at one point and during another performance, you don't. I don't know, because the thing is alive. In movies, too. People that like to see what happens from one take to the next. It's assumed that we're prepared, that we know the script and then let's see what happens. They say "action!" and when they say "action," it doesn't mean that you have to do anything, for example. Or you do. It's a little like that in theatre, too. Yes, we're going to follow this script or we are going to tell that story, but we are going to do it as if it were the first time it's been told. That's the idea, and to do that, it's necessary to be very alive, to pay attention to the other person above all.
Gemma: I want to remind the listeners that these days they have...they can have a double dose of Viggo Mortensen. They can go to the theatre, we´re talking about theatre; till the 18th of December, you can see him on the stage, along with Carme Elías. But, Viggo, from Friday on, in the cinema, A Dangerous Method, the new Cronenberg film where you play Freud.
Viggo: Another man who talks a lot. I've gotten two characters who never stop talking.
Gemma: But those are words that heal. Not just...
Carme: But Freud listened a lot, right?
Viggo: Yes, he listened, but in this movie, he talks a lot.
Gemma: He talks and smokes a lot...
Viggo: He smokes. He smoked 20 cigars a day.
Gemma: Freud smoked 20 cigars a day? His character in this marvellous movie never stops smoking, either. Are you a smoker, Viggo?
Viggo: Yes. I've quit many times, but I still smoke a little. But not cigars.
Maria: He couldn't have a smoke now because he´s been bombarded with photos on the balcony and it hasn´t been possible for him to light a smoke.
Viggo: Just as well. One fewer, healthier.
Viggo and Carme on the rooftop balcony of the ….
© Cadena SER.
Maria: But in this film, Freud... To me, it didn't seem much like a Cronenberg movie in the sense that there's no violence. That physical violence of his is an interior violence...
Viggo: Yes, it´s internal. There have been people who've said: well, he´s a disappointment; I liked his early movies where heads exploded. And I say, well, a lot of heads are exploding here too, but in a metaphorical way, or inside the brain, right? It´s very...To me, it has a lot to do with his films. When people say it´s not a Cronenberg film, I say, whose is it then? I was there; he shot it. [General chuckles] But a lot of the themes are themes that he has dealt with. His first film was a six or seven minute short that was called Transference, or something like that, and it dealt with this theme. And obviously, his concern with showing how things are, what the body's like, what happens to the body, problems of identity, of...I mean, they are Freud's themes, totally. A lot of his cinema has to do with the themes of this film, so it's not so surprising after all that he shot a film about Freud and Jung. Well, cinema in general was born when psychoanalysis was born and most of the themes in cinema as in other artist media have so much to do with psychoanalysis. We all think that in some way...even this Dorfman script,Purgatorio, how we think about men, women, couples, our childhoods. There's a lot of talk about children in Purgatorio. Parents, children...the damage that parents can do to their children, the effect of what happens to you..the consequences of what happened to you in your childhood, right?
Maria: And your Freud is very good-humoured also, because the character is not, let´s say, he´s not the stereotype, like, stuck-up.
Viggo: The stereotype I had too was that he was very rigid, very serious all the time, but when I started studying him, everything that those who knew him said during the time this film takes place was that he was a very funny guy, a conversationalist...witty, but also very amusing, very charismatic and with a great appetite for everything. A sociable guy, right? The cigars, wine, food, family, friends... conversations.
Gemma: Viggo, I wanted to ask you about something that happened on Sunday. María Guerra, you explained it on your blog, The Script. You told about a strange encounter that you, Viggo, had last Sunday with some hotheads, followers of the Partido Popular [People's Party] who were celebrating Rajoy's [the prime minister's] victory. What happened, Viggo?
Viggo: Nothing. The usual. I mentioned it because it seemed to me to be a thing...The party isn't important; I don't take sides in that. But the reaction was interesting. It could have been a car full of supporters of an "opposing," team, you might say, to my soccer team, or something like that. But it wasn't a question of "opposing" or anything. I was coming from a performance, returning home in the car and there were a lot of people in the Castellana because they had won and they were happy. It's ok with me, with the blue banners of the PP and Spanish flags, a lot of them. And they were waving them, and following along in the other lane for several lights. Waving and yelling, "Rubalcaba [tr. Note: the socialist party candidate who lost], we are going to give it to you up your ass!" and ugly things. And also normal things, that they were happy, "Hooray for Spain" and I don't know what else, whatever they wanted to say. It was OK with me. I was tired. I was returning home, anxious to begin my day off, like Carme, and nothing else, calm. It seemed to me like we'd had a good performance on Sunday and I wasn't thinking, but I saw this...And they began to hit the car with their banner and finally I looked at them. I thought, don´t look because they´re going to do whatever to you. Then I looked at them for a moment and looked back at the traffic lights. Since I didn´t say, "Very good! [he applauds] I congratulate you!" they called me "f**king socialist fag", and I don´t know what else. And I thought, well, what a pity. But obviously, this is a minority. It´s not a comment on the PP. They could have been from the PSOE [the socialist party], I guess. I don´t know. But I think that this has to be watched, everywhere. It´s something...
Gemma: But did they recognise you, Viggo?
Viggo: I don´t think so. I don´t think so. No, I was a guy who was not reacting in a positive way to their exploits, their stupid words. So then they simply took me for an enemy. Well, you always have to be careful with that. Soccer is a game...
Maria: But politics and soccer are not the same thing, right?
Viggo: I don´t know, many times they are.
Jaume: But you have campaigned against violence in Argentinian soccer. And a very active campaign. You support San Lorenzo, right?
Viggo: Yes, Yes. No, it´s a problem. In Spain, in England during the eighties and nineties there were many problems, right? But they decided that had to change. They infiltrated the barras [tr. note: barras bravas, the Argentinian hooligan supporters], things were changed and now people here can go to the stadiums without being disturbed. That´s not the case in Argentina. But it´s a question of corruption in the government and the Asociación de Fútbol de Argentina [the Argentinian Football Association] and the clubs´boards of directors. There´s money in it; that´s why they don´t change it. It has to be changed. But saying that, well, it´s Argentina, the Argentinians are crazy, it´s different in Spain, it can´t be changed...everything can be changed! When you were saying that soccer isn´t like politics, I don´t know if you have ever listened, if you have ever listened to a team´s coach talking about the result, or a soccer player speaking - they never say anything. They almost never say anything. Some of them speak better than others...In this [political] campaign, if it was advisable to say nothing, then nothing was said. That´s what I learned watching...I say this as a foreigner watching this campaign, it seemed a lot like what I've seen in the United States. Even the debate between Rajoy and Rubalcaba - the model was like the North American one. They excluded other parties, like in the United States, although they exist there like they do here, and the debate formula didn't allow for having a real debate, and the fact that a gentleman was reading the whole time without anyone saying anything, seemed very unusual to me. And later, at the end, when you're speaking to the people from the heart, to have to read it?...It seemed absurd to me, but it was allowed. I don't blame the gentleman. But, well, if you have an advantage, it gives you the luxury of not having to go deep; you don't have to say anything and...what is going to be interesting is to see what the PSOE does and the other parties in the opposition. Because often it's much more important to see how a person loses, how he behaves when he loses than when he wins. And what I've seen, and as we're saying, I've been in Spain these last few years, trying to do this play and doing other things, so I've followed this very closely. Politics everywhere interests me and what I've seen up to now in the last three years is about the problem of the economic disaster that occurred under Bush's government and that, unfortunately, Obama has not done anything to correct...he's done the same thing; he's given the responsibility of managing the economy to those on Wall Street, who were the problem. The evil-doers. And it spread to Europe, to Spain, everywhere. So those three years have been very hard for the government. It would have been hard for any Spanish government. The opposition hasn't helped. On the contrary, from what I've seen, it set up obstacles continuously. And I don't say this as a fan, as a supporter of either one of the two teams, of the two parties. I´ve seen gentlemen who wanted, as much as they wrap themselves in the Spanish flag ...I´ve seen that what they´ve done continuously is do everything [they could] for Spain to do badly. Because it was convenient for them to be elected. It´s obvious. I see it from the outside and also from the inside. It´s obvious what happened. Let´s hope that the PSOE doesn´t make the same mistake, that they truly wish the others luck, work together with them to see if it´s possible to fix the situation. A patriot isn't supposed to want things to go badly for the country. Nonetheless, [that's] what I've seen the PP do, in general, in the last two, three years. Especially in the last year and a half, doing everything - seeming like they're not doing so, or saying that they're not doing so, but their actions spoke...clearly, so that Spain will do badly. That's what I've seen.
Gemma: Viggo, we still have to talk about...
Viggo: Sorry! We're talking about Purgatorio and I'm [here] with Carme Elías. [Uncontrollable laughter from Viggo]
Gemma: No, no - it's very interesting. Carme, Viggo, let me play a few messages right now. We'll return and continue in three minutes. I remind our listeners that they can follow this whole interview live at CadenaSer.com. We'll be right back.
Viggo at the Cadena SER studios for the radio ….
© Cadena SER.
Gemma: In La Ventana, we are back. This you are hearing is another song from the latest CD Viggo Mortensen has recorded, Reunion. Viggo, we have received some messages with the phrase "Viggo for president" [general laughter], after the speech you've just given, right Viggo?
Viggo: Well, there must be some other messages with a different tone too.
Gemma: Well, those don´t reach us at the moment.
Jaume: No, those don't. We don't talk about those.
Viggo: We have to talk about everything.
Gemma: Tell me a bit about the music. Is music only a pastime in your life or your next professional stop?
Viggo: No, I've been doing it for years. This CD is called Reunion; it´s a jam session with a musician called Buckethead. He's a musician...
Gemma: A funny guy. He always wears a white mask.
Viggo: Yes, yes, and covers his head with a Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket. But he doesn´t do it to attract attention, and I always tell him "You are attracting a lot of attention." He does it because he is very nervous and when he´s on stage, he doesn´t allow anyone to take a picture of him. He puts on a white mask, like that one from The Phantom of the Opera, with little holes for the eyes and nothing else, and then that bucket on top. He's got very long hair, is very tall and he stays there, bent down. And he plays...just great. He plays something like some kind of jazz and he always says [Viggo assumes a little voice] "I don´t know how to do anything," and he later does it in such a way! He played for a while...they signed him up to play with Guns and Roses; he did a world tour with them. He played in Brazil, in a stadium for a hundred thousand people, I don´t know. And he didn´t move like the others did; he stood there and played great. So people liked what he did a lot and the others got jealous, and finally, he didn't like it, that competition, that macho guitar player thing. And then he said, "No, I don't want to do it anymore" and got out of his contract and they were really mad. But he's a guy who's very...The recording is called Reunion because it took me three years to get him out of his house. He's at home all the time, watching Japanese samurai movies. He has twenty thousand battery-operated Japanese toys and all that.
Gemma: So, a funny guy, for sure.
Viggo: Very funny. I met him like seven or eight years ago when I'd made a recording of...I'd participated in a poetry recording for children and each poet or writer had to invent something about a theme, well, from Greek mythology. I did something about Poseidon and he put it to music. I listened to the music afterward, when the recording was ready and I asked, "Who's the guitar player?" Then I called him and we began to work [together]. And he showed up the first day with an enormous bag, full of toys and I go, "And the guitar?" "Ah, it's in the car." "Well, bring the guitar. We're going to play the guitar." "Yes, but these toys can help us too." He put the toys on the floor and set them in motion and it was [Viggo imitates the sound of battery-powered toys.]
Maria: But you compose. On this CD you've composed the songs, well, the themes.
Viggo: Well, yes. It's been a conversation. Buckethead came, I gave him a hug and, knowing he was only going to stay a little while, he's very shy, and it was hard for him to talk, we talked a while about strange movies that he'd seen, and afterward he said, "OK, let's play a little, see what happens." And it was a conversation between the piano and the guitar. And without arranging anything we recorded that. We had fun.
Jaume: Carme, I don't know if you've told Viggo that you were a fantastic Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Wouldn't you like to suggest doing a revival of that Cat with him to decompress us a little after Purgatorio? It would be fabulous.
Carme: I´m afraid I´m no longer in a Cat moment, but in other "moments." Maybe more dangerous ones. [laughs]
Jaume: Listen, have you seen the movie A Dangerous Method, Carme, or haven't you still? No, right?
Carme: No, I still haven't.
Jaume: I say this because, besides Viggo there's Michael Fassbender, who's another generous guy, with such good vibes, which María Guerra can attest to about him in San Sebastian. I bet that in the breaks between filming, it must have been pretty funny between Viggo and Fassbender, yes or no?
Viggo: Yes, we laughed a lot. Cronenberg had to play the nanny there; he got annoyed like a couple of times [laughter]...
Viggo: Yeah, but jokingly. Along the lines of, "OK, back to work, kids". [laughs]
Viggo and Carme at the Cadena SER studios for the ….
© Cadena SER.
Gemma: What I see, Carme, is that this man...working with him must be interesting.
Jaume: And very varied!
Viggo: What a polite way to put it. [laughs]
Gemma: Carme , what happens in the Purgatorio play when you leave? Well, you bow, obviously, several times...
Carme: To begin with we are very ridiculous bowing because we don´t get things straight...
Gemma: Why? Why?
Viggo: Very clumsy.
Carme: Well, there´s supposed to be an established bow, but since we are always like driven by I don´t know what when we finish...
Viggo: But there´s nothing established.
Carme: Well, the director indicated something [to do]...
Viggo:...and then he left. [laughs]
Carme: You have to go to the right. To the right. To the front ... [Viggo laughs.]
Gemma: First you do a bow toward the front.
Carme: To begin with, I think that it relieves us a little, at least for me. I don't know. There's something there, right? That's like, "Aaah, we're finished with that "purgatory."
Viggo: It gets out what we're feeling during the play, which I guess is an honest way to do it, right?
Maria: And does it seem to you that the Spanish audience doesn't applaud a lot? Because the other day, I read that in Germany they were applauding like eighteen minutes...
Carme: How boring!
Viggo: That´s excessive! Even if the play is bad?
Maria: ...and that in Madrid it´s only five [minutes]. It was because of the opera...
Carme: Well, the opera, you know...
Maria: It said that the average in Berlin is eighteen and five here.
Carme: Well, in the opera there´s a certain tradition and everybody relishes that, but not in Spain. No, we are delighted. They always tell us "Come out one more time, you still can, you still can. Make the most of it!" But, I don´t know, we begin talking about this and that having happened and...
Viggo: ...they stop clapping. [laughs]
Carme: They stop clapping. [They both laugh]
Gemma: But, Carme, we're talking about the end of the play, but it's also interesting to talk about the beginning, when the people [are] arriving at the theatre and the hall, you're both already there. You're onstage...
Viggo: Fifteen minutes.
Gemma: And Viggo, Carme, you hear all kinds of comments there, too, right?
Carme: Yes, it's odd, because for me, it gave me a bit of 'whew'! I thought, my God, fifteen minutes there, and having the audience on top of you, too. I don't know, I'm not used to having the audience right there, either. And yet, it seems to relax me. We're getting into a kind of... [giggles]...it's like a prelude to what's coming and then, well, we establish a relationship there, too, and we've already started to be in character, and at the same time, we're ourselves. And then the audience keeps coming in, and every day is something different, too...
Viggo: Yes, there's a transition, right? Like, at the beginning of the fifteen minutes, we talk like this, in low voices.
Carme: We tell each other things.
Viggo: ...ask each other how we're doing and "Are we going to have fun today? Yes, right?"
Carme: And we practice a little Catalán. I'm not going to say how or what...
Viggo: Ah, yes, yes! [laughs]
Viggo at the Cadena SER studios for the radio ….
© Cadena SER.
Gemma: Of course you are going to say how and what! Please, Carme!
Carme: No, we don´t practice anything. The minimum...The Catalan greeting and then...
Viggo: "Me cago en Déu!" That? [Tr. note: "I shit on God!" Swearing that is the same in Spanish as in Catalan] [General surprised laughter]
Carme: Viggo loves that. [laughs]
Viggo: Or "Me cago en dena!" [I shit on it]
Carme: And so it goes!
Viggo: And as a superstition you have to say it every evening. And there are other things I always do outside...
Gemma: Do you? What else, Viggo! Come on, Viggo, tell us.
Carme: But I think they are not tellable.. [laughing]
Viggo: No, well. You have to sing a little tango...
Carme: There are some rituals that get established...
Viggo: ...Taking a little leak, right?
Gemma: How does it go, the little tango you sing, Viggo?
Viggo: Noooo! [moaning]
Gemma: Come on, for the listeners on SER.
Viggo: If they come around to Matadero warehouse at quarter to eight..
Carme: Going through the back isn't allowed. Luckily, they won't let them through, right?
Viggo: Yeah, through that alley, it's OK. I sing to everybody there.
Carme: Yes, he goes around singing a tango. Sometimes I get to singing something in Catalan just to make up for that. But much softer than he does. I'm more shy.
Gemma: And that singing helps to warm up your voice, of course. To relax, I imagine, right? To settle your nerves...
Viggo: Yes, yes.
Carme: The truth is that before going there we have plenty of time to do a good job...I don't know about today. A good job of detoxification from what we bring within ourselves, in order to enter into the other.
Viggo: Yes, well, the space is interesting. The set, Clara Notari's design, is a very lovely set. It's perfect for this play and it has some geometric lines that each of us, in our own way, traverses as we cross the space. The little furniture there is, and we make... we make it into our space. We take control of the place before having to begin the performance, which is good.
Gemma: Speaking of geometric lines: nice striped sweater you're wearing this afternoon, eh Viggo.
Viggo: Thanks. It's not from any team. Just, neutral.
Gemma: Nautical style, right, María?
Maria: [joking] And besides, he's not at all cold-sensitive, because he's wearing a wooly hat. And, well, I´ve got the table full of books...I'm looking at them...
Gemma: Tell me about the books. I've got two minutes left.
Maria: I'm looking at the books, because I'm looking for a poem, to see if... because Viggo didn't want to play the piano, so I'm looking for poetry, but I see there's an anthology. It's an anthology of new Argentinian poetry...
Viggo: [Taking the book from his bag and taking off the plastic in which it's wrapped] I can read a poem from a friend of mine, who is also a San Lorenzo supporter but he's a great poet. His name is Fabián Casas. Let's see if I can find it.
Maria: It's from your publishing house, right?
Viggo: Yes. This is a book that's called Antologia de la nueva poesía argentina [Anthology of New Argentinian Poetry] and we're going to do another volume soon, edited by Gustavo López...
Gemma: So, you have a publishing house as well?
Viggo: Since 2001...2002
Gemma: What a man, María! If I had only known!
Viggo: [in the background, looking for the poem and mumbling] Fabián Casas...It´s a very short poem.
Gemma: Right, go ahead.
Viggo: It´s called "Sin llaves y a oscuras" [Without Keys and in the Dark] [he reads]
[They all applaud while Viggo laughs]
Gemma: Viggo Mortensen, thank you very much.
Viggo: [To Carme] Would you like to read one? Shall I give you one by a woman?
Gemma: Come on, read one, Carme, please!
Carme: No, no. He knows them and I don´t. I think this is a good closing. Really.
Gemma: Yes, really, Carme, you don't want to?
Carme: Besides, I need to look for my glasses - I don't know where they are. Viggo?
Maria: We also have here a CD of Canciones de invierno, by Viggo Mortensen, Time Waits For Everyone, Viggo Mortensen. Really, it's a whole production of photographs...the man... [Viggo laughs]
Gemma: The man is a one man band!
Maria: Really, another of photos, another of paintings. I mean, it's impressive.
Gemma: Did you find your glasses, Carme?
Carme: [hastily and obviously lying, while Viggo laughs] No, I don't know where they are.
Gemma: Well, guys, we're going to leave it here. I want to thank you very much for having been on Cadena SER, and also for having stayed a few minutes longer than we anticipated; we'd agreed on an interview of a certain length, but we were so at ease that I didn't want to end it. But now, yes, come on, we'll leave you. Thank you, Carme Elías, it's always a pleasure to have you here on the radio, thank you...
Carme: Thank you, Gemma!
Gemma: Viggo Mortensen, thank you very much.
Viggo: Thank you for putting up with us.
Jaume: Come on, kisses to everyone! [they all say goodbye]
Last edited: 5 February 2012 11:36:18