Hollywood sees in him its new favorite, its latest sex symbol. It's not certain he will let it happen.
Eternal supporting role actor for 20 years, he shot into A-list in 2001 with Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings. He's not making a big deal of it.
It's as though he's already had two lives: That of an invisible man to begin with. Then that of one of the handsomest men in Hollywood. Viggo Mortensen, alias the invisible man, that was before the release of the first part of Lord of the Rings, three years ago. When he was still playing only small parts (or worse); an Amish man who lost out to Harrison Ford in the heart of a pretty farmer in Witness in 1985 [not quite sure what they're talking about here - Viggo was the brother of the man trying to win Kelly McGillis's heart! - Obs], or a wicked sergeant in G. I. Jane, a stinker with Demi Moore headlining. Also Gwyneth Paltrow's lover, in the bad remake of A Perfect Murder, and even a very nasty cannibal in Leatherface, Texas Chainsaw Massacre III. That's the time when, if Viggo made a lot of films (40 movies at 45 years old, is not bad), he was almost the only one to know it (with his mother, his wife and his son).
Not a bad actor however, excellent even, when given the opportunity to show it: in 1991, he was surprising as a violent alcoholic Vietnam veteran in Indian Runner, Sean Penn's first film. The critics acclaimed him, the profession bowed to his performance, his colleagues as well. "He's not a good actor, he's a damned good actor," said his partner on screen, Dennis Hopper...
Then nothing. Viggo returned to his semi-anonymity, became the invisible man again. Not enough of a charmer,no doubt, not the type to kiss ass or slip into the Hollywood mould. Not ambitious enough, maybe. Because for Viggo, being an actor is almost secondary. What he loves above all else is to paint, write poetry (he's started a publishing company with a friend), take photographs and play music (he's already made four albums). Healthy activities certainly, but not something that feeds a man. Not these days, at least. Because since then, there's been the trilogy of Lord of the Rings. And the start of his second life: Viggo the sex-symbol, Viggo the late-blossoming star, like Clooney. Minus the conquests and the dirty old man.
Yet he almost missed out on stardom again: in the beginning, to play the role of Aragron, fearless noble warrior of Lord of the Rings, Peter Jackson thought of Stuart Townsend, a young, 26-year-old leading man who - thank heavens - finally proved to be too bland, not charismatic enough... A few days after the start of shooting, Jackson made a frantic telephone call to his second choice, Viggo Mortensen.
"I'd never heard of Tolkien or Lord of the Rings, but my son Henry loved it. He told me that I absolutely had to do it, so I accepted," the actor says. Three long months [months?? do these people know what they're writing about??? - Obs] of filming in New Zealand followed, then the success we all know: coming out in 2001 and 2002, the first two segments have made close to 2 billion dollars, and the third, coming out in 2003, has more than fulfilled its promise. In the role of Aragorn, Viggo has joined the "pretty boys of Hollywood" club, with his share of magazine covers and adoring fans. Journalists included. This time Viggo played the game, helped out with promotion, more or less at ease in his role as chic personality, simple and close to nature, who gives interviews barefoot or in socks (because it's more comfortable) and offers everyone a collection of his works, photos and poems. Graciously, Viggo has told and retold his story. That of a solitary kid, dragged around with his two brothers by his parents (Mum is American, Dad Danish), from New York to Denmark, from Argentina to Venezuela, at the whim of his father (a chicken farmer). A bit of a bohemian life which ended with the divorce of the Mortensens when Viggo was 11.
Return to New York, school years without problems then, at 18, a long stay in Denmark and in England, where the adolescent discovered European film, Pasolini, Bergman... A revelation: "I wanted to get into this world," admits the actor. Once again, return to New York where he took acting classes, acted a bit, learned his craft, his highs (a role at 27 in Woody Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo) and his lows (his role was finally cut in editing). Fortunately, cinema wasn't the only thing in his life. There was also love. In 1988, Viggo married Exene Cervenka, singer with the punk group X...A year later, their son Henry was born. The couple divorced in 1997. Viggo went out several times with the artist, Lola Schnabel, 23, daughter of painter Julian Schnabel, then nothing more to report. Not a trace of a compromising photo with Viggo and the latest star of the moment or her like. Nothing, a bachelor by nature. But not worried about it. When he's not filming (he is apparently much in demand), he lives discreetly in his house in Topanga Canyon, with his son, his best friend. And two horses, his two companions from Lord of the Rings and Hidalgo (his latest film, a major Disney production). Far from the Hollywood glitter. Still his invisible man side...
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