Today Show Interview
Publication: The Today Show
Date: 06 Mar '04
As the returning King in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Viggo Mortensen
is riding high after the film swept the Oscars. In his latest project,
Mortensen is still riding horseback but this time in the Middle East
in the new Disney movie, HIDALGO.
right, Viggo Mortensen great to see you. Good morning. What a thriller!
I saw it last night. It seemed to be part Western, part Seabiscuit.
But I gotta tell you throughout the movie, you’re on the edge
of your seat. What drew you to this film?
Well, I mean the script was very good. I thought it was a chance
to make something that big studios don’t make so much anymore.
Adventure stories in an old fashion way, that are in the end about
something, underneath that and I think that Joe Johnson, the director,
did a great
was terrific. And your character, this cowboy, winds up in Arabia,
basically, in this three thousand-mile race. This was thrilling and
just grueling to watch. You did a lot of this riding, didn’t you?
You were on horseback.
Yeah, I mean there were hard days, but it was fun and we were in
such good places. The Sahara desert and South Dakota. I mean I love
horses. It was really fun to be on a horse every day, you know.
seems that you really do have a passion for horses. Is it more than
love; it’s more of a visceral connection with you?
Well, it’s..it’s nothing, nothing weird (laughs). No, I
rode a lot as a boy until I was about 11. Then with Lord of the Rings
and then especially in Hidalgo, I got to revisit that and get reacquainted
with horses again and T.J. the main horse, who plays Hidalgo, the mustang,
had so much personality in the story. I mean, it’s not a digital
movie, or like Mr. Ed, where you make the horse act like a human being.
Horses are going to be interesting or not. As you say, he’s got
so much, umm…..He reacts in such an interesting way to what’s
I got to tell you it was weird. You felt like he was on cue sometimes.
he’d turn his head; you’d say something...
Yes, people would ask me if that was done afterwards in post-production,
the way he behaved.
Now this horse, Hidalgo, is also the star, one of the stars...
Uh, no, he IS the star.
was it like sharing the spotlight with a horse?”
It was... I loved it. There’s a dictum, I think, from W.C.Fields "Never
work with kids or animals because you’ll be upstaged.” I
don’t really believe in that. Whatever your acting partner - be
it human or animal or equine - is, if they are doing a good job, that’s
gonna make you look better. This cast, in general, is really good.
I gotta be honest, before I saw this, I thought this was gonna be
a guy film. But when I went, there were also some bursts of romance.
Why don’t we take a look at a clip where someone is trying to
seduce you, in one scene and we’ll come back right after it.
(movie clip, showing Lady Davenport trying to seduce Frank)
you kind of just walked out on her. But you’ve got a great
Yeah, that’s true. It was difficult walking out on her.
Lily Blossom - I think that is the actress' name - is a very fine
actress, and there was a lot of that in this movie. It was kind
of like the Lord of the Rings, where before those movies came out most
of the cast, including myself, were not very well known at all.
And with Hidalgo it’s the same thing. Apart from Omar Sharif and
me recently, with the Lord of the Rings, you didn’t really know
these people. I think, the reaction has been so great with Hidalgo,
that I think they’ll have a whole lot of opportunities. And
they deserve that.
lastly, in a nutshell, what’s the message in this movie?
I would say that it is that people are people, wherever you go, whatever
their culture is, you know, and the guy I play, Frank Hopkins,
is the kind of cowboy I really admire, who whatever he doesn’t
know - and how could he know - about this strange place he goes to
and what if he might not agree with their philosophy or point of view,
he’s at least curious about it. And just being curious about
other people and cultures is the first step toward being open minded.
Well, it clearly a movie men will be attracted to as well as women,
mainly because just look who you are looking at for most of the movie!
Viggo Mortensen, thank you SO much, I really, really appreciate it.
Thank you. Thanks for having me here.