Viggo Mortensen : biography
Viggo Peter Mortensen, Jr. ( October 20, 1958) is an American actor, poet, musician, photographer and painter. He made his film debut in Peter Weir’s 1985 thriller Witness, and subsequently appeared in many notable films of the 1990s, including The Indian Runner (1991), Carlito’s Way (1993), Crimson Tide (1995), Daylight (1996), The Portrait of a Lady (1996), G.I. Jane (1997), A Perfect Murder (1998), A Walk on the Moon (1999) and 28 Days (2000).
Mortensen’s career rose to new heights in the early 2000s with his role as Aragorn in the epic film trilogy The Lord of the Rings. In 2005, Mortensen won critical acclaim for David Cronenberg’s crime thriller A History of Violence. Two years later, another Cronenberg film Eastern Promises (2007) earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. A third teaming with Cronenberg in A Dangerous Method (2011) resulted in a Golden Globe Best Supporting Actor nomination. Other well-received films in recent years have included Appaloosa (2008) and the 2009 film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel The Road.
Aside from acting, his other artistic pursuits include fine arts, photography, poetry, and music. In 2002, he founded the Perceval Press to publish the works of little-known artists and authors. Mortensen is politically active. He campaigned for Dennis Kucinich in the 2008 United States presidential election, and later endorsed Barack Obama for President.
After several years of experience in live theater, Mortensen made his first film appearance playing an Amish farmer in Peter Weir’s Witness. (Mortensen had actually acted in at least one prior film, The Purple Rose of Cairo, but his scenes in the latter film were deleted from the final cuts.) Also in 1985, he was cast in the role of Bragg on Search for Tomorrow. Mortensen’s 1987 performance in Bent at the Coast Playhouse, Los Angeles, won him a Dramalogue Critics’ Award. Coincidentally, the play, about homosexual concentration camp prisoners, was originally brought to prominence by Ian McKellen, with whom Mortensen later costarred in The Lord of the Rings. In 1987, Mortensen guest starred as a corrupt police detective on the hit series Miami Vice.
During the 1990s, Mortensen appeared in supporting roles in a variety of films, including Jane Campion’s The Portrait of a Lady, Young Guns II, Prison, Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III, Sean Penn’s The Indian Runner, The Crew, which won the São Paulo Film Festival Audience Award, Brian de Palma’s Carlito’s Way, Crimson Tide, G.I. Jane, Daylight, A Walk on the Moon, American Yakuza, Charles Robert Carner’s remake Vanishing Point, Philip Ridley’s two films The Reflecting Skin and The Passion of Darkly Noon, A Perfect Murder and Gus Van Sant’s Psycho (1998 remakes of two Alfred Hitchcock’s movies Dial M for Murder and Psycho), 28 Days, and The Prophecy, with Christopher Walken. Of these roles, Mortensen was probably best known for playing Master Chief John Urgayle in G.I. Jane.
Another major mainstream breakthrough came in 1999, when Peter Jackson cast him as Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. According to the Special Extended Edition DVD of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Mortensen was a last-minute replacement for Stuart Townsend, and would not have taken the part of Aragorn had it not been for his son’s enthusiasm for the J. R. R. Tolkien novel. In the The Two Towers DVD extras, the film’s swordmaster, Bob Anderson, described Mortensen as "the best swordsman I’ve ever trained." Mortensen often spent days hiking to the film’s remote locations, in costume and carrying his sword, in order to appear authentically travel-worn; he also performed all of his own stunts, and even the injuries he sustained during several of them did not dampen his enthusiasm. At one point during shooting of The Two Towers, Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, and the scale double for John Rhys-Davies all had fairly serious injuries, and during a shoot of them, running in the mountains, Peter Jackson jokingly referred to the three as "the walking wounded."