“I thought it was a crazy idea when David [Cro­nen­berg] came up with it ... I usu­ally like to ap­proach roles in a phys­i­cal, non­ver­bal way. So this was a new way of work­ing for me”

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Cover Story -

VIGGO MORTENSEN stacks his case and suit pro­tec­tor neatly in the corner of the room. The pre­ci­sion of the move­ment is en­tirely in keep­ing with an an­gu­lar for­ma­tion of ra­zor cheek­bones and sharp suit. We prob­a­bly shouldn’t be sur­prised the Dan­ish-amer­i­can-ar­gen­tine has this trav­el­ling thing down.

This is his final press en­gage­ment for David Cro­nen­berg’s A Dan­ger­ous Method, a film that pitches Mortensen’s pa­tri­ar­chal Sig­mund Freud against Michael Fass­ben­der’s cor­rupt­ible Carl Jung. Keira Knight­ley’s Sabina Spiel­rein, a for­mer pa­tient turned psy­cho­an­a­lyst, is the spank-happy nympho­ma­niac who comes be­tween them. What’s not to like?

“I thought it was a crazy idea when David came up with it,” says Mortensen. “But I just had this idea of a man with a beard. You don’t have to read far to dis­cover a man who was ironic and funny and ca­pa­ble of us­ing lan­guage as a weapon. I usu­ally like to ap­proach roles in a phys­i­cal, non-ver­bal way. So this was a new way of work­ing for me.”

Method is Mortensen’s third col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Cana­dian film-maker, gath­er­ing A His­tory of Vi­o­lence and East­ern Prom­ises into a (very) loose tril­ogy about civil­i­sa­tion and its dis­con­tents.

“With David it’s al­ways about what’s lurk­ing be­neath,” says Mortensen. “He’s never ob­vi­ous. There are only a hand­ful of good film-mak­ers who have been work­ing for decades, and within that group they all even­tu­ally seem to slow down and play it safer or slip into self-par­ody.

“David may be the only film-maker I can think of who never re­peats him­self.”

Mortensen had al­ready en­joyed an im­pres­sive ca­reer when he first met Cro­nen­berg eight years ago. A poly­math, the ac­tor’s paint­ings and pho­to­graphs hang in gal­leries around the world; he runs a pub­lish­ing im­print; and he has recorded 10 al­bums.

Hav­ing grown up be­tween Venezuela, Den­mark and Ar­gentina, he’s ca­pa­ble of emot­ing across lan­guages and took the lead in the 2006 Span­ish-lan­guage swash­buck­ler The Ad­ven­tures of Cap­tain Alatriste. (Of course he rides horses, and is an ace swords­man.)

But even be­fore that, Mortensen had long been in de­mand among big-name di­rec­tors and fel­low thesps. He had popped up in Peter Weir’s Wit­ness, Brian De Palma’s Car­l­ito’s Way, Jane Cam­pion’s Por­trait of a Lady and Sean Penn’s The In­dian Run­ner, when Lord of the Rings came along and cat­a­pulted him into a more glit­ter­ing lime­light.

By the time Cro­nen­berg’s A His­tory of Vi­o­lence came along, Mortensen had wrapped on Peter Jack­son’s epic Tolkien saga and had his pick of projects.

“I wasn’t sure about go­ing to meet him,” he says. “I wasn’t sure about the script, and I ad­mired the man and I didn’t want to waste his time. So I said to him on the phone that there were a few things I thought were too trashy and not real to me. And he said, ‘Oh, me too.’

“And that’s him. He wants to talk these things through. He wants to thrash out the de­tails. He’s very flex­i­ble and play­ful as a di­rec­tor. He’s re­spon­sive.”

Cro­nen­berg’s method­ol­ogy reigned on set, where Fass­ben­der and Knight­ley proved ac­com­plished pranksters. The larks con­tin­ued on to the pro­mo­tional tour. Mortensen turned up on The Late Show be­fore Christ­mas and told David Let­ter­man that Fass­ben­der pre­pared for scenes by jump­ing re­peat­edly on one leg. Fass­ben­der re­tal­i­ated by claim­ing Mortensen liked to sit naked in a corner and eat a ba­nana be­fore film­ing. Sadly, nei­ther story is true. “But they did play a lot of tricks dur­ing film­ing,” says a grin­ning Mortensen, with­out elab­o­ra­tion.

The new film, a Bri­tish-cana­dian-ger­man co-pro­duc­tion set be­tween Zurich and Vi­enna, of­fers a frank and lively ex­change of

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