ROTK 2003 Los Angeles Premiere – Viggo MortensenHere is the fourth roundtable discussion in our series of interviews with the cast and crew of The Return of the King. Listen in as Viggo discusses his role as Aragorn in LOTR. Viggo was quite the friendly, if softspoken participant.
Please pardon the quality of the file as well–the range on my iPod’s microphone is a lot less than what I was hoping for… and laud and praise to Eruname127 for taking to transcribe it all below!!!
Hellos and general chit chat.
So did you say thank you to your son because he was the one who help(ed) you to say yes to the (film?)
Viggo: Um yeah. In the sense in doing the best I can with it or I’ll get in trouble with him. (laughter)
What have these films done for your career? Obviously taken from the US standpoint you weren’t really on the map and now your all over the place and everybody wants you.
Viggo: Well I got to do a movie I like a lot that’s coming out in March called Hildalgo, and that’s the name of the horse and the story and that’s a really great story..another heroic journey that’s set in a different time with different kinds people in it. But some of the ideas are similar in that a challenge is offered and then its up to you if you want to accept that challenge just like the members of the Fellowship do at the Council of Elrond, and then once you’ve said yes, you’re in a world of trouble until you find a way out of it. And in the same sense there’s Lord of the Rings and it becomes more important how you handle tough times just like in life. That’s what forges your character and that’s what makes for friendships. How you handle the journey is more important than whether you get there or not. It’s that kind of story throughout. I certainly would not have been offered that role (inaudible) if I hadn’t, well not me, if the Fellowship of the Ring hadn’t (managed?) to be a big, popular success.
Do you find yourself more recognized on the streets or restaurants?
Viggo: A little bit more, yeah, definitely. I don’t get out as much as some of the other guys in this group. So I don’t deal with it that much, its only, I’d say tonight at the Premiere I’m sure it’ll be pretty crazy and the last couple of premieres have gotten more and more intense for everyone.
But not long ago you went back to Argentina and you a national hero for…
Viggo: Yeah, I got to go on a, I mean this is a lot nicer because there’s a whole bunch of us and we can kind of share then…I went to Mexico, Brazil, Argentina. Argentina is where I was raised until I was 11, but there I was on my own so it was kind of (laughter). You know you leave the hotel as a group and then sign some autographs then you all disperse, but I would come out by myself and there would be people from the interior of the country that had been out all night in the rain waiting and it was just incredible the impact that this movie had had everywhere. Japan, when I went earlier this year, it was the same thing, I guess it was January…seems like it was a few years ago, so much has happened, but that public reaction has been the same everywhere.
Everyone has had a unique answer to this so I want to ask you this too. (Viggo: Uh oh) Your Shire…everyone wants to get back to their Shire, whether it be a moment in time or a place that you felt happy, safe, comfortable. Where is your Shire?
Viggo: I think all children are open to playing with anyone. I think you learn to see yourself as different from others and to exclude others from your play, your life and what this story was about and what the experience of making these movies was about, the way in which we retold this story, was with the idea that we have a hell of a lot more in common with other people than not, so that’s a good place to be for me where you don’t really consider the difference or you celebrate the difference and then try to find what you have in common in spite of it.
That’s the theme of the movie. But your personal place, is there a place you went to as a boy? Like Sean has said he thinks of a garden. He hasn’t found his Shire, but he thinks it would be a garden somewhere.
Viggo: I would say it’s not where you are. It’s how you are.
Peaceful and comfortable?
Viggo: Whatever makes you happy.
How do you see yourself as a human being or an actor of these trilogies?
Viggo: Very lucky.
You don’t seem to be the type of guy to go out and seek a (mantle?) of sex symbol and its, especially with this movie, it’s being tossed your way and I was wondering how you deal with that or how it’s affected you?
Viggo: Doesn’t that happen with every popular movie? Almost any…..
I think it happens a lot, but this one I’m more curious, not that it happens with every movie, but how it has effected you because you don’t seem the type that would want to go seek it out.
Viggo: Well every time my pocket gets full of strangers phone numbers, I can give the contents of one pocket to Dominic Monaghan and the other to (Elijah Wood?) (Laughter). I just assume Dom and Billy will share those.
How was it to film the battle scenes…they had to add on the CGI after you went (and) filmed that.
Viggo: Well after the first movie, not that we didn’t trust them while we were doing the principle part of the shoot before the first movie came out, but you saw the proof of what Peter was promising to be there. “Don’t worry. You won’t look silly.”…even though you were talking to all those imaginary things with a green curtain or a blue curtain behind you or in front of you. “Trust me. It’s going to look good.” And it did. So by the time we were doing the last of our reshoots and I was going to have to speak to thousands of dead people..and get very involved in their imagined reactions, I trusted Pete. But those were interesting challenges. I think in the course of making these movies, Peter explored or made use of every trick in the movie making book and he invented quite a few along the way, new ones. It was a really interesting experience technically for me and I think for the younger actors, in particular those like Orlando who had almost no movie making experience whatsoever, I think it was a great school. How lucky you know. Whether the movie ended up doing well or not…just the process of making the movie they were asked to make a leap of faith everyday in some way or another whether it was the way they looked or the way they had to speak, the kinds of words they had to say, the things they had to imagine. It is make believe at all times, but Peter really stretched the lengths you had to make believe and to get through that especially for the younger guys or the less experienced actors was a great accomplishment and set them up now for any movie making experience. I would be surprised if any of them ever on a movie shoot said “This is too hard. I can’t believe this is so long or this is so difficult.” You can’t really go much further than we did in terms of difficulty and the degree of the challenges in making these movies and the time it took.
You go pretty deep into character on the set. How do you come back when it’s over?
Viggo: I don’t. You hear a lot about of people saying I want to get rid of that character or it took me days, weeks, months, years to rid myself or shed the skin of that character or directors who say I just want to move on but that thing stayed with me, it was a heavy burden or it wasn’t heavy. We’re all going to get old and die. If we get live long enough we’re going to forget things, we’re going to lose our memories, that’s just what happens in life right? Why be in a hurry to forget something that you learned something from which is potentially any movie or any experience. I’m not ready to erase them.
So how are you a different Viggo than from when you started?
Viggo: I have a lot less brain cells left probably.. No, it’s hard to put that into words. As I said before, I think that the making of the story and getting into what Tolkien was writing about has reinforced my impulse to at best see past what seems very different in other people at times and try to find a connection rather than look for separateness.
What do you want your career to go? What are you looking for in the next script?
Viggo: No plans really. I don’t think I’ll change the way I run my career which is not to run it at all. In other words, I try to find, or hope it finds me, a good story or a challenging story or I run out of money. And that game usually goes the same way 99% of the time which is I run out of money and then whatever I’m lucky enough to find to get out of debt or pay the rent is what I do. That’s what I’m comfortable doing. Every once in a while I get lucky. Every once in a while you get lucky and you get a phone call about a movie in New Zealand.
How is Perceval Press doing?
Viggo: It’s doing very well. We’ve been able to publish a lot of interesting writers and have plans for several more interesting books. And I know that Lord of the Rings in doing so well has helped that too. People have been curious. It really doesn’t matter why they go there, but they’ll go to the site and they might buy a book or they might go to an exhibition of one of the artists that we publish. It has a domino effect and you can make what you want of an experience.
What is the website?
If Hildago does well (for) your career doing movies in Hollywood, will you be going for more movies in Spanish?
Viggo: Yeah, I’d like to work…I’ve worked a little bit in Spanish before. I might do something maybe next year in Spain. I’m not sure yet. I don’t want to name it just because I’m not sure of it until it happens.
Which do you prefer: writing or acting?
Viggo: I don’t really separate them, they feel similar. They’re like branches of the same tree…just different ways of expressing yourself, all of which have to do with being in the moment, not just walking by without noticing your surrounding. I think that it’s a conscious effort initially but once you get in the habit of say taking the camera with you whether you use the camera or not, the potential that you could is you’re already looking at things in a different way…the potential of making a story out of anything or writing something down about it …just having a pen in your hand. You have a pen sitting on that pad of paper..you might write something, you might not but you’re considering whether you might. That’s a start right?
Did you have a workout routine that was helpful in keeping up your strength and energy level because its obviously a very arduous shoot?
Viggo: It was the shoot itself. I always give a little credit to (????) seriously. That’s a good way of getting energy without zapping yourself like coffee does. But, no I think it was learn as you go and hang in there. I came to it very late so I didn’t have time like some of the others to prepare as much. I stayed in shape by doing it.
What was the time difference that the other folks arrived…how many weeks before you got there to replace Stuart Townsend?
Viggo: They’d been there for months rehearsing and stuff. They’d gotten their roles much earlier and had begun studying. I got there and within a couple of days I was shooting and they were already shooting and I didn’t get to rehearse at all as far as working with the director and stuff.
What book are you reading?
Viggo: I’m reading a collection of stories by Mario Benedetti…an Uruguayan writer.
(General chit chat about a TV show on Argentinean television. Can’t understand it and some of the talk is in Spanish.)