Viggo Mortensen – A man with many hats

In the new film Eureka, released in UK cinemas on 16th February, Viggo Mortensen appears as gun-toting bandit Murphy, in a film that starts like a gritty classic western and then veers off on a very unexpected tangent. It’s an unusual, but not unexpected part for the actor to play – after all, he seems as comfortable appearing in Hollywood blockbusters as he does in left-of-centre arthouse films; one year he’ll be nominated for an Oscar, the next he’ll publish a book of very personal poems. Here’s a look at Mr Mortensen’s fascinating and varied career that has led to his part in Eureka.

Blockbuster actor
Mortensen starred as Aragorn in Peter Jackson’s epic The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The films grossed over $3 billion at the box office, and Mortenson garnered a legion of new fans, with his standout performance as the stoic heroic swordsman stealing the show from the hobbits.

Bold choices
Given his Lord of the Rings success, Mortenson could easily have played it safe and taken pay cheques for big budget films. But here is an actor who is not afraid to take a risk – for the legendary, and often shocking, Canadian director David Cronenberg he wrestled naked in a bathhouse in Eastern Promises, starred as Freud in the talky psychoanalysis drama A Dangerous Method, and played a performance artist who grafts on body parts in Crimes of the Future.

Oscar-nominated star
He’s been nominated three times for the Best Actor Oscar – in 2008 for Eastern Promises, in 2017 for Captain Fantastic, and most recently in 2019 for Green Book. He was also nominated for BAFTAs for the same three films.

As well as acting, Mortensen is a poet. “I have written since I was a child”, he told Gente Magazine in 2009. “At six or seven, I did my first little stories. I talked about animals and kid things. At about 15, I started with poetry. I always write. In aeroplanes, in bed, in the bathtub.” In 2007 he released the book of poems I Forget You Forever, followed in 2011 with Winter Songs, a collection of poems and photographs. He’s also released musical collaborations with guitarist Buckethead. Is there no end to this man’s talents?
Director: His directorial debut Falling (2020), which he also wrote, scored, and starred in alongside Lance Henriksen and Laura Linney, was described by The Guardian as “ a really valuable work, beautifully edited and shot”. Last year he made The Dead Don’t Hurt, a western that he also wrote, composed the music for and stars in, that The Guardian were equally impressed with, giving it a four star review.

His eureka moment
Directed by acclaimed Argentine auteur Lisandro Alonso (who wrote the script with renowned Argentinian authors Martin Camaño and Fabian Casas), EUREKA reunites the director with Mortensen, who starred in his 2014 Cannes award-winning Jauja. Mortensen appears in a richly textured old-style Western, shot in monochrome. Is seeing an A-list star in such a dreamlike and offbeat film strange? Not when that star is Viggo Mortensen.


John McArthur
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