Legendary King Aragorn in Lord of the Rings, Viggo Mortensen is on the poster for David Cronenberg's new movie, A History of Violence. Meeting with an atypical actor of multiple talents.
It was at the Cannes film festival. King Aragorn, Lord of the Rings, had missed his flight. He had a few hours to kill and accepted a spur of the moment interview. Aragorn, alias Viggo Mortensen, is a great lord who is very accessible. And laidback. On this day, he sat barefoot and drank Argentinean maté.
Viggo is the son of a Danish man and an American woman, but in between roundtrips between New York and Copenhagen, he grew up in Mar del Plata. Such a zigzagged youth augured today's colorful personality. His standout presence in this last Cronenberg production adds to a varied filmography which includes The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III and Lord of the Rings, along with movies by Jane Campion and Sean Penn.
He has a patchwork appearance. Moustached and long haired, the American hero of A History of Violence is unrecognisable. Viggo stumps for Alatriste, the movie adaptation of Arturo Pérez-Reverte's novel, the story of a Spanish bandit/general from the 17th century. King Aragorn thus recites a poem from the Golden Ages, and wears a San Lorenzo shirt, avidly displaying support for his football team. A Hollywood star who is a fan of soccer? Viggo confirms this, and eagerly adds, 'Yesterday, my limousine was blockaded by people. The fans were banging against the windows. I opened the door and escaped down a small alley. And who did I run into? King Pelé and his bodyguards. I asked for an autograph...but his bodyguards stopped me. King in his limousine, poor beggar in the street. A good lesson,' concludes Mortensen, who invites you to reflect on the morality of such a story.
"Soundbite' interviews are very rare for him. 'Celebrity fell upon me by chance, after 15 years of making movies. Another actor, Stuart Townsend, was supposed to be in Lord of the Rings. The glory, the majors...,' Mortensen, at 47 years, is wary of such things. When one speaks to him about Hollywood he responds with Venice, the artistic quarter in Los Angeles. There, in his workshop, he is also a painter, photographer, poet and musician. 'I'm not looking to become a catalogue artist or an intellectual. I like to touch upon many things.' Published by his own company, Perceval Press, his books, which are selling better after Rings , are photo collages, poems and canvases.
Subtle and imperceptible are trademarks of his roles. Romantic in Jane Campion's Portrait of a Lady, vicious drill sergeant in Ridley Scott's GI Jane. He made his mark with Sean Penn's Indian Runner in 1991, his true debut after six years of blood and sweat. He played a Vietnam veteran: a fascinating, uneasy nihilist. For Tom Stall, the loving and gentle father and family man in A History of Violence, who has renounced or repressed his past as a murderer, Cronenberg wanted an ambiguous actor with an edge.
'Viggo has charisma. Not only that - he knows how to be subtle, imperceptible. In a look, a gesture, he reveals a whole other personality of Tom's.'
'We had to avoid creating a caricature. I played with a more or less transparent look, a state of tension or relaxation, the delivery of sentences,' Mortensen says.
After Lord of the Rings, where he communicated with Peter Jackson by fax, he appreciated an ease of dialogue with Cronenberg. The actor, who on Rings wandered around carrying his sword outside of the set, was able to satisfy his passion for thoroughness in his work. 'I also brought some personal effects to the movie. A piggybank, photographs of birds.' Appropriately, Mortensen then seizes his camera and surprises Cronenberg in mid-interview. A nice way to conclude the afternoon.