As Diego Alatriste, he perfectly embodies the epic Castilian captain created by Arturo Pérez-Reverte. A hero with whom Viggo will no doubt leave a mark in Spanish cinema.
If something is typical of him, it is his charm and familiarity. We hadn't even met him, but the comments from the other actors had created a very clear picture of Viggo: a man of depth, charm and, above all, generous. It was with all these expectations we arrived at the interview with the star of Alatriste, the new Spanish blockbuster. And, to be honest, the first impression that you get from the New York actor with cosmopolitan roots (his father is Danish and his mother is American), is very different from that of the vigorous and strong hero that we have always seen on the big screen. Instead, Mortensen is a calm, serene, and very reflective man. His blue eyes reflect the inner peace that he has managed to maintain in spite of the Hollywood craziness, and his looks are rather casual: jeans, t-shirt, Argentinean wristbands, and sneakers. Besides, he immediately makes you feel at home, and he prepares you to enter his world. As a matter of fact, he takes the lead and starts the interview, which will soon lead to one subject: his career.
Loving and sensitive
Apart from acting, Viggo loves poetry and painting. So far he has written three books; his sensitivity and detachment from the world of glamour are widely known: 'I just take care of my work, of the people I love, of my good friends, and of my family. I try to stay away from unnecessary ceremonies, from glamorous events, and from everything that has no direct relationship with what I am doing at that moment. I stay away from the spotlight, gossip, and from anything that would make me a target of the paparazzi. I don't even read the newspapers or magazines that talk about me; I think it's dangerous because you start believing the good and bad things they say about you, and you lose your ability to know what you think and what you want to achieve,' he says categorically. Another thing that the actor has fought to preserve is his privacy. After he divorced Exene Cervenka (the legendary singer of the group X, the American punk band of the 80's, and with whom he has an 18 year-old son, Henry Mortensen), nothing about his private life has been known; 'of course love is something very important in my life; I am a man who is in love with his work, his family, and his friends; in that sense I feel I am very similar to Captain Alatriste, who is in love with his cause and his land,' he tells us, focusing again on Díaz Yanes' movie.
In search of the Captain
For this actor, characters must have roots, so when he accepted the project, he decided to visit Castile and León to find the exact place where Diego Alatriste was born. 'It was very important for me to know what had happened to Diego between the time of his birth and the moment when the movie starts. So, a long time before we started filming, I got my car and set out to visit all the towns in that part of Spain. When I arrived in the mountains of León I discovered something in the people there that made me feel like I was in the land of Alatriste,' Mortensen tells us and, after a brief pause, he continues: 'Another thing I did to make sure I was right was to call Reverte from the hotel: `Let's see, Arturo, I have been travelling around Spain for days, and I think I have found Alatriste in the León mountains, what do you think?' I asked very seriously. And almost immediately he said "yes'. So I started working on getting a Castilian accent, and developing a past for the Captain. I am sure there are a lot of things that are not said in the movie but that will show on the screen, and this search is one of them, just like the friendly atmosphere there was during the filming that turned us all into a big family.'
Blockbuster Spanish style
This is the third time Viggo has worked with a Spanish director. The first time was under the direction of José Luis Acosta, and the second with Ray Loriga. 'When you are used to filming in the U.S., the way things are done in Spain may feel like a great chaos, because there is a more relaxed atmosphere. But you soon realize that it is something that has to do with the culture, and I loved it! In the long run, this style makes you feel more relaxed, and it creates a unique way of working together and of camaraderie. Tano (Díaz Yanes) encourages team work, makes you feel at peace, and he lets you make suggestions about your own view and approach to the character,' he tell us convincingly.
A post-modern hero
'It's always a bit scary to start something new, even when I am convinced that it is a good story and a good character. But I think it is necessary to be afraid, because when you think that you know everything and you feel confident, you can contribute or learn very little. Yet, it is very important to visualize yourself doing everything, and to believe that you can do it; that will guarantee your success', the actor, who identifies more and more with heroic and realistic roles, tells us. 'Something I loved about Alatriste is that it takes place during a period in history that has been studied very little in movies. The Americans, the French and the Italians have produced several stories based on their epic pasts, but the Spaniards haven't. This is a story that deals with love and pride, because many mistakes are made in the name these feelings. I have also taken some wrong turns out of pride, or because I was thinking with my guts instead of with my head. In that sense, I can relate to Alatriste, because he cannot admit that he is in love with Maria de Castro just out of pride'. The character Viggo is talking about is played by Ariadna Gil, and Viggo shares with us: 'She is a beautiful, intelligent and unconventional woman; she has everything a man could wish for! My character refers to her as the most desired woman in Spain and, I can say, it is true!'