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Viggo Mortensen Talks The Road

Published November 23, 2009 in Movie Interviews
By Fred Topel | Images property of TWC
Viggo Mortensen always gives his all to his performances. That’s why you see such intense stuff like Eastern Promises and A History of Violence. The Road wasn’t just a post-apocalyptic survival movie to him. He really got as thin as a starving traveler in the wasteland.

Viggo Walks The Road


“What was interesting to me that happened was partly it’s what you prepare first,” Mortensen said. “Then because of the toll the movie just was taking on us physically anyway, and because I think there’s that thing that’s magical in movies which can’t be explained technically. It’s why certain shots stay in your mind years after you’ve seen a movie. There’s something that’s inexplicable. There is something mysterious in movie storytelling. That’s why people go. It’s the way you prepare too. It’s in a way almost like a religious ritual. You have the props, you have the words, you have the clothes, the vestments, you have the costumes. You do all this stuff and you set it up properly and then you say action. It’s like we’ve done everything right. Let’s see if something comes. That’s what you’re doing in a way, if you’re going to church or mosque or temple. You can be an atheist but there’s something about a ritual preparation to do something where things can happen you can’t explain.”

Preparation paid off when Mortensen and crew got to the film’s locations. “What we did which was clever, first because we were shooting in winter outside so you had limited hours. We were dependant on crappy looking skies and weather, gray. If it wasn’t, that limited our time even more. We weren’t going to have much time to talk about stuff and because we were often going to have to be in a certain physical and mental, emotional extreme state, if you’re always analyzing, you’ve just got to stay focused and keep moving. So the director did something which I think all directors should do. We sat down for a week or two before and we talked every day, starting with the beginning of the script. We talked for two, three hours about a scene, fine.”


The Road The Road


Mortensen costars in the film with Kodi Smit-McPhee, a young actor playing his son. “With Kodi, his dad was there who’s an actor and really cool. He wanted to see how it was going to be with this director and this actor playing his dad. So it was useful for his father to see how that was going to be. It was useful for Kodi to, without any pressure, to get his feet wet as far as thinking through what we were about to do. It was great for the director to be sure that we were on the same page which ought to happen more. A lot of times you find halfway through the shoot an actor or director says, ‘Well, that’s not what I thought the scene was about.’ It happens too often. The writer was there so any questions we had, he could tweak it, make it even close to the book which he did. It was great, and for me, I got to see that Kodi had the ability that I’d seen in his final audition which I did with him and the other three finalists. He also had an intelligence. Not just this gift, this emotional availability and this presence, but that he knew. He understood the book really well. He’d often be the first one that would say, ‘Yeah, in the scene before, that’s why he says this.’ You’d be like oh yeah, okay. It was a great process. It saved a lot of time and worry. You’re never going to be completely ready but we were about as ready as you could be by the time we started shooting.”

All that is to say, there’s something about the magic of filmmaking. As much as an actor can prepare, sometimes it just happens. “You just hope something and sometimes that happens. In this movie, it happened quite a bit. I think that is why I go. I want to be taken on a ride and it happened physically too. There are shots that I see and I go, ‘Wow, that’s beyond what the makeup department did. It’s beyond having been thinner.’ There’s something in his face or my face that we were in a place that I’m not going to be in now, that would take me a lot to get back to, if ever, because we were committed. That leap of faith is what does it.”

The Road opens to theaters on November 25th.

For the trailer, posters and more movie info, go the The Road Movie Page.

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Fred Topel
Sources: Images property of TWC
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