Exclusive interview with Viggo Mortensen

on family, dreams in French, sticking around, and on the importance to keep a tidy ship

ristrettoTV: Viggo, you are quite the renaissance man – music, poetry, painting, 5 languages, a publicist and photographer .. oh, yes, and you do some acting and producing, too – I wonder: how do you gather and keep your energy?
Viggo Mortensen: It is getting more difficult to find the physical energy and mental focus as I get older, mainly because I, along with my brothers, am having to spend increasing amounts of time and energy looking after our parents. These days, after a year of non-stop work, travel, and promotional junkets for three different movies (and this will not stop until sometime in april), I am trying to take things a little easier, avoiding as many new professional commitments as possible. especially those that involve travel and stressful schedules in the public eye. It is a hard train to slow down, though, and the old habit of keeping many plates spinning at the same time is also hard to break.
How was it for you to write the music to your own acting?
It was already written. The two songs chosen for the “Jauja” soundtrack by Lisandro Alonso are from a record named “Please Tomorrow” that I made with the guitarist Buckethead a few years ago. It, like other records of mine, are available from Perceval Press.
When I think of you now, after having read up on you at the Viennale, I think: horses, light, music … but there must be a dark side to you as well, or you wouldn’t be able to dig up your more sinister characters. Care to extemporate?
Like anyone, I have my secrets and my doubts, my errors and my fears. In my opinion, there is no character that I or you or anyone else would be incapable of understanding on some level, no matter how evil or inscrutable they might seem the first time we meet them or read about them. I use my mind, my body, and my imagination to find a connection with each character. Sometimes it takes extra work to establish a link, but it is always possible to get there, to somehow relate to al characters.
 I need to ask this: Do you consider yourself a dansk after all? I mean, do you dream or count in Danish or in English?
Depending on where I am and what language I’ve been using at the time, I sometimes count or dream in Danish, sometimes in English, sometimes in Spanish. When I am working hard on a character in a language other than those three – in French, for example, while working on “Loin des hommes”, I might have a dream or part of a dream in french, count my change at a store in French. It depends where I am, what I am doing, and how tired I am. In Denmark I generally do everything in Danish.
 What is your advice to young actors and film makers – what should they do? What’s to avoid?
To do: Stick around, if you want to learn to do it well. To avoid: Don’t quit, unless you are sure that you hate acting and/or that you really are not meant to be doing it as a profession and ought to try something else.
Why is it that people who started at the theatre (like you) tend to have that je ne sais quoi? I see it, but I can’t explain it, being a mere journalist ….
I am not sure exactly what you refer to in terms of “je ne sais quoi”  but I can say that theatre training tends to emphasise the importance of collaborating with others, of teamwork. You also tend to learn that it is important to hang up your costume and keep your dressing room tidy. All of these things are important professionally, and not things that many eager young film or TV actors necessarily focus on. Acting, in any medium, is a team sport, a journey across a sea of fears and doubts that needs to be taken together, solved step by step in collaboration with others. The ship needs to be tidy and all the shipmates need to communicate and work together.
About Elisabeth Schabus 477 Articles
I see, I like, I write ... mostly about cinema and actors, but also about politics or economy. In English, auf Deutsch, på svenska. This ORF trained news journalist (TV, radio), who has also worked in corporate publishing for international brands and written/edited tons of magazines, has become a blogger out of passion.


  1. Hej Estel – tack så väldigt mycket, det är snäll av dig … och ja, du har rätt, Viggo svarade via mail

  2. Hej Elisabeth,
    tyckte dina frågor till Viggo var alldeles utmärkta, fantastiska svar som uppskattas av oss seriösa fans. Undrar bara när du hade möjlighet att intervjua Viggo, det har varit så många festivaler nyligen, Viennale kanske eller gjordes den på telefon eller mail? Viggo var ju i alla fall inte på GIFF, kunde inte komma av personliga skäl.
    MVH Estel

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