iggo Mortensen railed against the fate of Green book. Peter Farrelly’s feel-good movie seemed to have peaked in Hollywood when it received an Oscar for Best Picture last year. Set in the separated Sixties America, it tells the true story of the budding friendship between a black classical pianist and his bigoted Italian-American driver. Mortensen himself was nominated for best actor. But he tells me somberly, “It has become a cliché to say,” Will this movie be that? Green book this year? ” Green book has become pejorative. “
The film was attacked because it fits into a story of white savior tales. Mortensen found the opprobrium “hurtful and destructive”. “Much of the criticism that was made of this film was not only unreasonable, but also imprecise, mendacious and irresponsible,” says the Danish-American star of Zoom from his home in Madrid, where he and his wife, the actor, lives Ariadna Gil. “It’s based on a load of cops and an ax to grind and little else. Does it affect what I do or how people perceive me as an actor? Maybe it is. But there really is nothing I can do about it.”
Mortensen is something of a paradox personally. Humble, worried and with a rollie that is never far from his mouth, the 62-year-old exudes a gentle gravita. He listens attentively; His answers are viewed and formulated in calming tones. The New York Times once called him “Hollywood’s most attractive man, probably because he’s Hollywood’s least threatening man”. Fittingly, he’s specialized in on-screen laconic complexity – whether he’s Aragorn, the sword-wielding adventurer king in Lord of the Ringsor Nikolai, the Russian gangster at David Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises (for which he received his first Oscar nod). But for someone who speaks so quietly and quietly, he certainly has a divisive opinion or two.
His latest film that he wrote, directed, acted and starred in is called Falling, and how Green bookit has caused controversy. Mortensen’s directorial debut is essentially a drama about a married gay liberal who has trouble looking after his homophobic, conservative, dementia father. It is a confident and deeply personal meditation on forgiveness and human fragility. Still, Mortensen’s decision to pretend to be a gay character has disheveled a few feathers. In recent years there has been a growing consensus that LGBT + roles are too often given to pure actors. As a director, Mortensen says, “He wouldn’t think of asking anyone about their sexual orientation or identification. Nor do I assume that actors who identify as homosexual only want to play homosexual roles. I wasn’t going to play [the gay son] John, but I ended up playing him because I was high profile and didn’t have to pay the actor either.
“But,” he continues, “in terms of writing the role, being politically relevant wasn’t a trick. I just felt,“ In the next scene we’re going to meet the woman. Maybe it’s not a woman, maybe it’s a husband, how about that? “And I tried to write the scene and I liked it, and I liked the extra layers that it gave to the relationship between John and his father. That’s how it happened – organically. But yeah, it’s not necessary To ask people how they see themselves. What matters to me is the person who will do a good job in that role. “
Mortensen began to write Falling on the flight back from his American mother’s funeral in 2015. First he wanted to write down his memories of her “so as not to forget them”. But he soon decided that the bones of what he had written would make a good story. “It really became something inventive, with my mother’s initial inspiration and memories of her with my father,” explains Mortensen, whose Danish father died in 2017. “Things I remember from childhood and adolescence. There are fragments of conversation or experiences that my brothers Charles and Walter would recognize. “A flashback sequence in which the father shoots ducks with his little son, for example, comes from Mortensen’s own childhood. “It’s unusual for a father to let such a young child shoot a gun,” he says. The portrayal of dementia in the film also corresponds to his experience. “It comes from intimate experiences of this illness with my parents, grandparents, stepfather, etc. I mean some things are true, but mostly it’s just imaginary.”
That means that the father Willis is fortunately not so much like Mortensen. Played by beloved character actor Lance Henriksen (Aliens, Terminator), Willis has grown into a venomous old man who by default shakes off a store of homophobic and racial slurs. Even Picasso is on the receiving end of Willis’ anger when he visits the museum (“Commie Greaseball who painted like a retard”). Willis is so offensive that Mortensen initially struggled to find a US distributor for the film. But he’s optimistic that people will at least have some compassion for Willis. “A character like Willis,” he explains, “no matter how hideous his behavior and language may be most of the time, I think people are more aware of the fact that old people are people too. I think that’s a positive aspect of the coronavirus pandemic. There is more awareness, even young people, who of course don’t pay much attention to old people. “
I wonder if he was originally trying to embody some of the clear differences in America today, not just between young and old, but also between progressive and conservative. Is the film a reflection on a fragmented American society? “Well, since I wrote it, the gap has grown by leaps and bounds, and not just in the United States,” says Mortensen, who studied politics and Spanish at New York’s St. Lawrence University. “I mean. I would call it the other pandemic.” Fear and ignorance would have led to “hate speech, hateful behavior, racism, homophobia and misogyny.” And like the Covid pandemic, it is highly contagious. But yes, I was with me Write consciously that the Obama presidency definitely encouraged certain types of people to get out of the woodwork. “
Given that Mortensen is such a polymath – he’s also a part-time poet, painter, publisher, and musician – it may be surprising that it took him so long to make his first film. But then his film career didn’t begin until he was 27, with a small part opposite Harrison Ford in the thriller witness. Before Hollywood opened its doors to him, he had lived a peripatetic life. Born in the United States, he spent time in Venezuela and Denmark before settling in Argentina, where his father ran farms and ranchers. After his parents divorced when he was eleven, he moved to New York with his mother. In his mid-twenties he had worked as a truck driver, shipyard worker and flower seller.
Almost four decades later, Mortensen is one of the movie’s most fascinating leading characters. Think of him as the small town family man hiding a dark past in 2005 A history of violence. Or the post-apocalyptic survivor in the 2010 Cormac McCarthy adaptation The street. Or his Chomsky-loving rural eccentric in 2016 Captain Fantasticfor which he received his second Oscar nomination. It is for Lord of the Ringshowever, that he is best known. After Mortensen replaced Stuart Townsend, who was fired by Peter Jackson the day before filming started, he became the trilogy’s breakout star. In an interview with The daily telegraph In 2014 he said that The community of the ring was the best of the three. “The second film,” he explained, “already started ballooning for my liking, and the third had a lot of special effects. It was terrific and all that, but what was subtle in the first film was gradually lost in the second and third films. “His comments caused a stir.
Today Mortensen is less critical. “I don’t really want to go into that,” he says, “but over the years certain things that I have said have been taken out of context in certain ways that were unhappy.” I’ve tried to be honest when someone asks me which movie I prefer. I prefer certain scenes that I remember and that are natural, but the overall experience was fabulous, memorable and educational. The obvious benefit is that the trilogy’s popularity around the world has opened doors for us. Dave Cronenberg shouldn’t have thrown me in A history of violence Wouldn’t it have been the popularity of the trilogy, for example? “
Mortensen was also in hot water at the time of the 2016 presidential election after refusing to endorse it Hillary Clinton called her a “moderate Republican” and instead offered his support to Jill Stein, the Green candidate. He later stood by this decision and talked about it The times 2018: “In the long run, the Clinton model would not be good for the country. And [the Trump administration] is painful at the moment, but the reaction will bring something much better. “
What is his view of the current situation in the US, where Donald Trump is still calling for last month’s elections to be “overturned”? “Well, I feel increasingly alarmed and not entirely surprised,” says Mortensen. “I always thought if he lost to Joe Biden he wouldn’t accept it.” He laughs ruefully. “You will probably have to kick and scream to pull him out of the White House.”
Falling is in the cinema now