A barefoot Viggo lords it over the fans
Author: James Gardiner
Publication: New Zealand Herald
Date: 29 Nov '03
Barefoot, carrying a coffee plunger of water and sporting a United Nations badge on his jacket, Hollywood star Viggo Mortensen wandered into his own press conference as though he were planning to sit on the back lawn. But that's what big stars do, right?
The night before, he was up well after midnight with friends at the Green Parrot late-night eatery, happy to sign autographs on napkins for besotted waitresses and customers. Where Viggo goes, the women flock. The attendance at his press conference in Wellington was larger than the Prime Minister could pull - and most present were women.
The 45-year-old New York-born heart-throb was not prepared to talk about the event that brought him - and about 50 foreign journalists - to Wellington, The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. What he was happy to discuss were his other arts: photography, painting and poetry. He has two photography exhibitions opening in Wellington today - much of it work done while he was living here and making the film trilogy.
Michael Hirschfeld Gallery curator Rebecca Wilson introduced Mortensen, saying he had "a large and very impressive body of work" and was "equipped with a range of creative tools". Other rules were also laid down for the media throng. Photographs at the start and end of the press conference only and, no, Vig (as his friends call him) would not be photographed with his own photographs. At least one of the press photographers felt he could understand why someone might not want to be associated with what they would usually chop off the end of a roll of film.
But although Mortensen himself was prepared to concede that perhaps 90 to 100 per cent of those who came to his exhibition were doing so because of his fame as an actor, Ms Wilson said the exhibition was of a high standard. "We wouldn't do it otherwise."
For his part, Mortensen was, yes, happy to be back in New Zealand, where the landscape inspires him, as do the people. He had thought a lot about moving here permanently and had looked around for property to buy. Whereabouts? He wouldn't say. It might ruin the fishing. He gave some clues, asking a Canadian journalist whether she had been in the South Island. "I'd recommend it," he said. He spoke of the beauty of the landscapes on the West Coast and in the Far North.
There were pearls of wisdom: "No one is obliged in their lives to ever pay attention. It's the process of doing it, of taking the photograph, [that] means the most to me."
There were questioners from around the world: France, Chile, Germany, Brazil, Denmark, Canada, eager to know what inspired Mortensen, what was important to him (his son Henry, 15, his dog and political dissident Noam Chomsky), and what's with the bare feet?
"Yes, I have bare feet - when I don't have shoes on."
For 40 minutes he happily rambled away, sipping his water, courteously changing reporters' tape-recorders over for them and putting in plugs for Dr Seuss and Jello Biafra's poetry reading tomorrow.