Forty-year old actor, poet, painter and photographer Viggo Mortensen
can be kind of overwhelming. After all, it's not every day you get to
meet a real-life Renaissance man. Viggo you may remember, played the
sadistic Navy SEAL who got his butt whipped by Demi Moore in G.I. Jane.
He was last seen in A Perfect Murder, with Gwyneth Paltrow (yep, those
were Viggo's paintings in the movie.) Right now he's trying to find
out who wears the pants in the Bates family, in Psycho; and in April,
he'll play a blouse-selling hippie in A Walk on the Moon.
Whatever he is, whatever he's filming, Viggo's contract states that
he has to be home in Venice, Calif., for Halloween so he can go trick-or-treating
with his 11-year-old son Henry(the product of Viggo's brief marriage
to my punk idol, Exene Cervenka of X). Of all the things there are to
admire about Viggo, this is definitely the game point.
I read somewhere that you had the best walk. What's that about?
Really? (Laughs) I don't know. How do you they know? I guess people
are standing behind you. Yeah ... watching me walk. What's a good
walk? I stay in a straight line, I think. That's a good thing to aim
You've done 30 movies, and people still think you're a new face. Is
that good or bad?
" That's kind of a double-edged sword. In terms of people not being
tired of you, it's a good thing. In terms of people saying you have
yet to prove yourself, or being forced to do two movies in a year
away from home, that can be a lot if you have a life outside of that-whether
it's family or other interests. "
And you sure have a lot of them. You were born in Manhattan, yes?
" Yeah, but we moved all over the place-Venezuela, Argentina, Denmark.
I still have a taste for it, travelling. And I am good at making
myself at home quickly wherever I am. I don't know if I'm as good as like,
going into a social gathering and starting to talk, but I could spend
days by myself. "
When did you start painting, poetry and photography?
Somewhere along the way. According to my mother, I never was anywhere
without a pencil, drawing. She recently gave me a notebook filled with
my old drawings, and there's one from when I was 7 that was wild. All
the others were pretty regular, like swords, guns, planes crashing,
pee-pees ... And then there was this school assignment. At the top of
the page, it said, "Little Red Riding Hood." It was a real
painting-the colors were blended, and it was kind of abstract, but
I really liked it. Anyway written over the drawing in red pen was VERY
POOR! Underlined. Teachers used to do that thinking it was constructive. "
Ouch. But you showed her, because you just had your first gallery showing.
Is it hard putting a price on your art?
There's a woman at the gallery who helped me with it. When it's just
you, you may be having a bad day and look at something you made,
and go, "God!" But someone else will see something different.
A couple of days ago, l looked at all the paintings, and I was like, "I
don't know what these are." Then it snowballed. "What kind
of actor am I anyway? What kind of father? I mean, what a joke. God,
I'm such a vain, self-involved creature, and I should just stop making
these things and inflicting them on people!" I can see why people
jump out windows.
Wow. Is this a good time to ask how you feel about being called a Renaissance
I haven't been called that. I have been asked how I find the time
to do all this stuff.
Let me guess: no TV-watching.
That's right. My son gets annoyed because there are cartoons that
he feels are a matter of life and death. But he sees some of that
stuff at his friends' houses, and we rent a lot of movies. I think
later on he'll be happy about it. And he reads a lot- at least he's
using his imagination rather than just sitting passively. But Henry's
always been able to spend hours entertaining himself. He's great.
You could be in the same room with him but he's totally in his own
world .... I don't know what I'd do without him.
Author: Susan Colon
Publication: Jane Magazine