Mortensen at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival
Viggo Peter Mortensen Jr.|
October 20, 1958
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Alma mater||St. Lawrence University|
|Occupation||Actor, author, musician, photographer|
|Spouse(s)||Exene Cervenka (m. 1987–98)|
|Children||Henry Blake Mortensen (b. 1988)|
Viggo Peter Mortensen Jr. / / (Danish: [viɡ̊o ˈmɒːdnsn]; born October 20, 1958) is a Danish-American actor. He made his film debut in Peter Weir's 1985 thriller Witness, and subsequently appeared in many notable films of subsequent years, including The Indian Runner (1991), Carlito's Way (1993), Crimson Tide (1995), Daylight (1996), The Portrait of a Lady (1996), G.I. Jane (1997), A Perfect Murder (1998), A Walk on the Moon (1999), and 28 Days (2000).
Mortensen received international attention in the early 2000s with his role as Aragorn in the epic film trilogy The Lord of the Rings. In 2005, Mortensen won critical acclaim for David Cronenberg's crime thriller A History of Violence. Two years later, another Cronenberg film Eastern Promises (2007) earned him further critical acclaim and a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor. A third teaming with Cronenberg in A Dangerous Method (2011) resulted in a nomination for the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture. Other well-received films have included Appaloosa (2008), adapted from a Robert b Parker novel, and Far from Men, an adaptation of Albert Camus' short story The Guest.
Aside from acting, his other artistic pursuits include fine arts, photography, poetry, and music. In 2002, he founded the Perceval Press to publish the works of little-known artists and authors.
Mortensen was born in New York City. His mother, Grace Gamble (née Atkinson), was American, and his father, Viggo Peter Mortensen Sr., is Danish; the two met in Norway. His maternal grandfather was from Nova Scotia, Canada, and his maternal grandmother's family was from New England.
The family moved to Venezuela, then Denmark, and eventually settled in Argentina in the provinces of Córdoba, Chaco, and Buenos Aires, where he attended primary school and acquired a fluent proficiency in Spanish while his father managed poultry farms and ranches. At the age of 11, his parents divorced and he returned to New York with his mother, where he spent the rest of his childhood, graduating from Watertown High School in Watertown, New York in 1976.
He then attended St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, earning a bachelor's degree in Spanish Studies and Politics in 1980. Afterward, he went to Europe and lived in Spain, England, and Denmark where he took various jobs such as driving trucks in Esbjerg and selling flowers in Copenhagen. He returned to the United States to pursue an acting career.
Mortensen made his first film appearance playing an Amish farmer in Peter Weir's Witness (Mortensen had actually acted in at least one prior film, The Purple Rose of Cairo, but his scenes were deleted from the final cuts). Also in 1985, he was cast in the role of Bragg on Search for Tomorrow. Mortensen's 1987 performance in Bent at the Coast Playhouse, Los Angeles, won him a Dramalogue Critics' Award. Coincidentally, the play, about homosexual concentration camp prisoners, was originally brought to prominence by Ian McKellen, with whom Mortensen later costarred in The Lord of the Rings. In 1987, Mortensen guest starred as a corrupt police detective on the hit series Miami Vice.
During the 1990s, Mortensen appeared in supporting roles in a variety of films, including Jane Campion's The Portrait of a Lady, Young Guns II, Prison, Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III, Sean Penn's The Indian Runner, Carl Colpaert's The Crew, which won the São Paulo Film Festival Audience Award, Brian de Palma's Carlito's Way, Crimson Tide, G.I. Jane, Daylight, A Walk on the Moon, American Yakuza, Charles Robert Carner's remake Vanishing Point, Philip Ridley's films The Reflecting Skin and The Passion of Darkly Noon, the remake films A Perfect Murder and Gus Van Sant's Psycho (the 1998 remakes of two Alfred Hitchcock's movies Dial M for Murder and Psycho), 28 Days, and The Prophecy, with Christopher Walken. Of these roles, Mortensen was probably best known for playing Master Chief John Urgayle in G.I. Jane.
Another major mainstream breakthrough came in 1999, when Peter Jackson cast him as Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. According to the Special Extended Edition DVD of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Mortensen was a last-minute replacement for Stuart Townsend, and would not have taken the part of Aragorn had it not been for his son's enthusiasm for the J. R. R. Tolkien novel. In the The Two Towers DVD extras, the film's swordmaster, Bob Anderson, described Mortensen as "the best swordsman I've ever trained." Mortensen often performed his own stunts, and even the injuries he sustained during several of them did not dampen his enthusiasm. At one point during shooting of The Two Towers, Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, and Brett Beattie (scale double for John Rhys-Davies) all had painful injuries, and during a shoot of them, running in the mountains, Peter Jackson jokingly referred to the three as "the walking wounded." Also, according to the Special Extended Edition DVD of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Mortensen purchased the two horses, Uraeus and Kenny, whom he rode and bonded with over the duration of the films. He received critical acclaim for his portrayal of Aragorn, and was ranked No. 15 on a 2015 survey of "The 100 Greatest Movie Characters" conducted by Empire.
In 2005, Mortensen starred in David Cronenberg's movie A History of Violence as a family man revealed to have had an unsavory previous career. He was nominated for a Satellite Award for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture for this role. In the DVD extras for A History of Violence, Cronenberg related that Mortensen is the only actor he had come across who would come back from weekends with his family with items he had bought to use as props on the set.
In 2006, he starred as Captain Diego Alatriste in the Spanish language film Alatriste, based on the series of novels The Adventures of Captain Alatriste, written by the Spanish writer Arturo Pérez-Reverte.
In September 2007, the film Eastern Promises, directed by David Cronenberg, was released to critical acclaim for the film itself and for Mortensen's performance as a Russian gangster on the rise in London. His nude fight scene in a steam room was applauded by Roger Ebert: "Years from now, it will be referred to as a benchmark." Mortensen's performance in Eastern Promises resulted in his winning the Best Performance by an Actor in a British Independent Film award from the British Independent Film Awards. He was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor.
In 2009, Mortensen appeared as himself in the film Reclaiming The Blade, in which he discussed his passion for the sword and his sword-work in films such as The Lord of the Rings and Alatriste. Mortensen also talked about his work with Bob Anderson, the swordmaster on The Lord of the Rings, Alatriste, Pirates of the Caribbean and many others.
In 2009, Mortensen performed in The People Speak, a documentary feature film that uses dramatic and musical performances of the letters, diaries, and speeches of everyday Americans, based on historian Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States.
While it was reported in April 2009 that Mortensen had, at least temporarily, retired from film acting, Mortensen said he was misquoted. In a 2012 interview, he denied that he ever said he was retiring, only that he didn't have "plans to do another movie" at the time and that he was "taking a little break now. I don’t have anything lined up.”
With part of his earnings from The Lord of the Rings, Mortensen founded the Perceval Press publishing house—named after the knight from the legend of King Arthur—to help other artists by publishing works that might not find a home in more traditional publishing venues.
Perceval Press is also the home of Viggo's many personal artistic projects in the area of fine arts, photography, poetry, song, and literature (see below).
Mortensen is also an author, with various books of poetry, photography, and painting published. His bibliography includes:
- Ten Last Night – (1993), his first collection of poetry.
- Recent Forgeries – (1998), ISBN, 5th Edition, documents Viggo's first solo exhibition and includes a CD with music and spoken-word poetry. Introduction by Dennis Hopper.
- Errant Vine – (2000), limited edition booklet of an exhibit at the Robert Mann Gallery.
- Hole in the Sun – (2002, ISBN), color and black & white photographs of a back yard swimming pool.
- SignLanguage – (2002 ISBN), a catalog from an exhibition of his works, combining photographs, paintings, and poetry into a multimedia diary of his time in New Zealand while filming The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Introduction by Kevin Power.
- Coincidence of Memory – (2002, ISBN) Third Edition. In this book, the artist combines photographs, paintings, and poems that cover his artistic output from 1978 to 2002.
- Mo Te Upoko-o-te-ika/For Wellington – (2003), ISBN, a book to accompany the joint exhibitions at Massey University and the Wellington City Gallery during the premiere of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
- 45301 – (2003), ISBN. Abstract images, fragments, and phrases from poems comprise this photography book. Many of the photographs were shot during travels to Morocco, Cuba, and the northern plains of the United States.
- Un hueco en el sol – (2003), a small booklet published to accompany the exhibition "Un hueco en el sol" at the Fototeca de Cuba in Havana. In Spanish.
- Miyelo – (2003), a series of panoramic photographs of a Lakota Ghost Dance. It also tells about the events leading up to the massacre at Wounded Knee.
- Nye Falsknerier – (2003). Paintings and poems translated into Danish from Ten Last Night, Recent Forgeries, Coincidence of Memory.
- The Horse is Good – (2004), ISBN, a photography book, partly shot during his work on the film Hidalgo, about horses as partners, teachers, and fellow travelers. Images from Morocco, South Dakota, Montana, California, Iceland, New Zealand, Denmark, Brazil, and Argentina. This book reflects Mortensen's fondness for horses. In fact, he bought Uraeus—the horse who played Brego, Aragorn's steed (Roheryn in the books) in The Lord of the Rings movies—as well as TJ, one of the horses who played Hidalgo. He also purchased the stallion that played Arwen's horse, a grey Andalusian stallion named Florian, and gave it to the stunt woman, Jane Abbott, who rode the horse in place of Liv Tyler.
- Linger – (2005). In this book, the artist combines black and white photographs and prose poems. Images from Spain (partly shot during his work on the film Alatriste), Morocco, Iceland, United States, Denmark...
- I Forget You For Ever – (2006). Texts and photographs.
- Skovbo – (2008). Collection of photographs, poems (in English, Spanish and Danish) and quotes.
- Sådanset – (2008). A small booklet published to accompany the exhibition Sådanset (October 18 – November 16, 2008) at the Palæfløjen in Roskilde (Denmark).
- Canciones de Invierno – Winter Songs – (2010). Collection of photographs and poems. Bilingual : in Spanish and English. It includes new texts (most of the poems and all the translations) and revised versions of texts previously published. They're accompanied by pictures of landscapes taken during the previous two winters.
- That Turned Ugly Fast - (2015), ISBN, Poems by Mark Berriman, with a foreword by Viggo Mortensen.
Visual arts and discography
Mortensen is a painter and photographer. His paintings are frequently abstract and often contain fragments of his poetry in them. His paintings have been featured in galleries worldwide, and many of the paintings of the artist he portrayed in A Perfect Murder are his own.
Mortensen experiments with his poetry and music by mixing the two art forms. He has collaborated with guitarist Buckethead on several albums, mostly released on his own label (Perceval Press) or TDRS Music. Viggo was first introduced to Buckethead's work while working on sounds for an educational CD on Greek mythology. The finished product included a guitar part by Buckethead, which caught Viggo's ear and led him to initiate contact with the guitarist. The collaboration grew from there.
Mortensen's discography includes:
- 1994: Don't Tell Me What to Do
- 1997: One Less Thing to Worry About
- 1998: Recent Forgeries
- 1999: The Other Parade
- 1999: One Man's Meat
- 1999: Live at Beyond Baroque
- 2003: Pandemoniumfromamerica
- 2004: Live at Beyond Baroque II
- 2004: Please Tomorrow
- 2004: This, That, and The Other
- 2005: Intelligence Failure
- 2006: 3 Fools 4 April
- 2007: Time Waits for Everyone
- 2008: At All
- 2010: Canciones de Invierno
- 2011: Reunion
- 2013: Acá
Mortensen is featured on The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King soundtrack, singing "Aragorn's Coronation" (the name of the extended version of this song in the 3rd original sound track is "The Return of the King"), the words by Tolkien and the music composed by Mortensen. In the extended DVD edition of the first Lord of the Rings movie, The Fellowship of the Ring, he sings the song "The Lay of Beren and Lúthien". His poems are written in English, Danish, and Spanish.
Awards and honors
On October 13, 2006, he was awarded the Gold Medal of the Province and the City of León, Spain.
On April 16, 2010, he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Order of the Dannebrog.
Mortensen holds dual American-Danish citizenship. He speaks fluent English, Danish, Spanish and French; he is also conversational in Italian, and understands Norwegian and Swedish. He has stated that he was raised speaking English and Spanish and at times feels more comfortable expressing himself in Spanish. He also has some knowledge of Catalan; twice, when receiving a prize in Catalonia, he made a short speech in Catalan.
Mortensen met his wife, actress/singer Exene Cervenka (of the first wave California punk band X), in 1986 on the set of the comedy Salvation!, a parody of televangelism. The couple married on July 8, 1987. On January 28, 1988, Cervenka gave birth to a son, Henry Blake Mortensen. Mortensen and Cervenka lived in Idaho for three years. Mortensen and Cervenka separated in 1992, and were divorced in 1997. Since 2009, he has been in a relationship with the Spanish actress Ariadna Gil.
Mortensen is a fan of football with his favorite players being Argentine star Diego Maradona and Héctor "Bambino" Veira. He has professed a liking of Argentine club San Lorenzo de Almagro, English team Fulham FC, Turkish side Besiktas after attending games whilst shooting The Two Faces of January in Turkey, and both the Argentine and Danish national teams. He is also a hockey fan, particularly of the Montreal Canadiens. He wore a Montreal Canadiens T-shirt underneath his armour throughout the filming of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. He is also a fan of the New York Mets, and in an interview promoting 2009 film The Road was seen wearing apparel indicating his support of the Australian Football League's Collingwood Magpies football club. While appearing on the Late Show with David Letterman, he held a sign supporting the New York Giants.
Mortensen was a good friend of Icelandic painter Georg Guðni Hauksson up until his death in 2011. Mortensen had long been an admirer of Hauksson's work as a landscape artist, and the two published books together as well as maintaining a close friendship. He was one of the signees of the "Toronto Declaration" protesting against spotlighting Tel-Aviv at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2009. Mortensen has owned property in northern Sandpoint, Idaho, and spends time there when not filming movies. In an interview with Bill Maher, Mortensen confirmed that he smoked marijuana.
Mortensen authorizes a line of custom-made Swedish and American knives sold under his name.
With anthropologists Federico Bossert and Diego Villar, Viggo Mortensen made several works related to ethnography of natives in South America, specifically in Argentina, Brasil, Paraguay and Uruguay. Some of the published books, co-authored by Viggo Mortensen are:
- Sons of the Forest
- Stone, Andrew; Carolyn Bain; Michael Booth; Fran Parnell (2008). "Cinema". Lonely Planet Denmark. Lonely Planet. p. 46. ISBN 978-1-741-04669-4.
Viggo Mortensen catapulted to fame as Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Although he was born in New York and has lived outside of Denmark for most of his life, he retains Danish citizenship.
- " Flawed father role a test for Viggo Mortensen". Toronto Star, Michael O'Sullivan, July 16, 2016.
- Viggo Mortensen gets nude for 'Eastern Promises' fight scene | HamptonRoads.com | PilotOnline.com Archived October 12, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
- "St. Lawrence University: Commencement". Stlawu.edu. May 21, 2006. Retrieved February 23, 2011.
- "Film: Viggo Mortensen magret seg ned 15 kilo for drømmerollen VG Nett". Vg.no. May 20, 2009. Retrieved May 9, 2010.
- Pearlman, Cindy. "Superstar Viggo's a serious soul at heart." Chicago Sun-Times. September 9, 2007.
- Doyle, Macreena A. (2003). "Viggo Mortensen '80 REMEMBERS". St. Lawrence Magazine. St. Lawrence University. Retrieved October 2, 2012.
- DePaulo, Lisa. "Why Viggo Mortensen Is Off the Grid". Esquire. Retrieved 6 June 2016.
- Brooks, Xan (April 17, 2009). "The happy trails of Viggo Mortensen". The Guardian. Retrieved October 15, 2014.
- Lane, Harriet (February 22, 2008). "'My mother is very happy about it'". The Guardian. Retrieved October 15, 2014.
- "Viggo Mortensen". denmark.dk. Retrieved 2016-03-28.
- Applebaum, Stephen (December 5, 2002). "Mortensen's battle scars". BBC News.
- "The 100 Greatest Movie Characters". Empire, 29 Jun 2015
- "Eastern Promises". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved December 22, 2007.
- "British Independent Film Awards 2007 nominations". British Independent Film Awards. Archived from the original on December 26, 2007. Retrieved January 24, 2008.
- "80th Academy Awards". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Archived from the original on January 23, 2008. Retrieved January 22, 2008.
- "Rigorous Promotions Have Viggo Mortensen Considering Retirement". starpulse.com. April 6, 2009.
- Gilsdorf, Ethan (March 10, 2012). "Viggo Mortensen Speaks: Part 1 of 3". Wired.
- Shoard, Catherine (August 6, 2010). "Viggo Mortensen to star in Walter Salles's On the Road". The Guardian. London. Retrieved March 8, 2011.
- Lodderhose, Diana (April 22, 2010). "UPI to distribute new Cronenberg pic". Variety. Retrieved February 20, 2011.
- "Viggo Mortensen vuelve al teatro con Carme Elias en una obra sobre la capacidad de perdón (in Spanish)". El País. Retrieved November 23, 2011.
- "Little press shines with star power". Los Angeles Times. March 3, 2004. Retrieved May 9, 2010.
- "Viggo & Buckethead", March 5, 2004, IGN Music". Retrieved August 11, 2008.
- "Viggo Mortensen Tells Grads "Activism Not A Dirty Word"". Newswise. May 21, 2006.
- Bysted A/S. "Kongehuset - Forside". Kongehuset.dk. Retrieved 2015-03-09.
- "10 Questions for Viggo Mortensen". Time. December 17, 2008.
- Trucks, Rob (May 20, 2008). "Interview: Exene Cervenka of X". Village Voice. Retrieved February 2, 2014.
- Heller, Zoe (December 2, 2011). "Viggo Talks and Talks". New York Times. Retrieved February 2, 2014.
- Interview with Clarín (Spanish)
- "Hollywood'da doğdu Beşiktaşlı oldu - Hürriyet Magazin Hattı". Hurriyet.com.tr. Retrieved November 12, 2012.
- "Hockey is my religion, the Canadiens are my god." Globe And Mail. January 23, 2009
- "Best of ABC Online". ABC News.
- DV ehf. "Viggo Mortensen kveður Georg Guðna". DV.is. Retrieved August 13, 2012.
- "A Visit with Viggo." Sandpoint Magazine. Winter 2004 Edition.
- Viggo editará la obra de Branislava Susnik. ABC Color (Paraguay)
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