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Viggo Mortensen (1958)

Viggo Peter Mortensen Jr.

Type :  

  Summary  

Viggo Peter Mortensen, Jr. is a Danish-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 , Carlito's Way , Crimson Tide , Daylight , The Portrait of a Lady , G.I. Jane , A Perfect Murder , and A Walk on the Moon .

Mortensen made his major breakthrough in 2001 with 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 earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. Other well-received films in recent years have included Appaloosa 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.

  Biography  

 early life
Mortensen was born in New York City. His mother, Grace Gamble (née Atkinson), was American, and his father, Viggo Peter Mortensen, Sr., was Danish; the two met in Norway. His maternal grandfather was from Nova Scotia, Canada, and his maternal grandmother's family was from New England. During his early years, Mortensen moved with his parents to Venezuela, then Denmark, and eventually settled in Argentina, taking residency in the Argentine provinces of Córdoba, Chaco and Buenos Aires; there, he did his primary school and acquired fluent Spanish. His father managed chicken farms and ranches in Argentina. They remained there until Mortensen was eleven, when his parents divorced and the boys and their mother returned to New York, where Mortensen spent the rest of his childhood. He graduated from Watertown High School in Watertown, New York. After high school he went to St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, earning a bachelor's degree in Government and Spanish. Then, driven by the need for a defining purpose in life, he went to Europe and lived in Spain, England and Denmark, where he took various jobs like a truck driver in Esbjerg, Denmark, and a flower seller in Copenhagen, Denmark, before again returning to the United States two years later to pursue an acting career.

Following his appearance in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, in 2006 he was granted an honorary doctorate by his alma mater.

 career
 Acting career
After several years of experience in live theater, Mortensen made his first film appearance playing an Amish farmer in Peter Weir's Witness . 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 Sao Paulo Film Festival Audience Award, 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.


Mortensen's 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 stunt 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." Also, according to the Special Extended Edition DVD of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Mortensen purchased the two horses, Uraeus and Kenny, whom he rode and bonded with over the duration of the films.

In 2004, Mortensen starred as Frank Hopkins in Hidalgo, the story of an ex-army courier who travels to Arabia to compete with his horse, Hidalgo, in a dangerous desert race for a contest prize.

In 2005, Mortensen starred in David Cronenberg's A History of Violence. He was nominated for a Satellite Award for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture for this role. In the DVD extras for A History of Violence, David Cronenberg relates that Mortensen is the only actor he'd come across who would come back from weekends with his family with items he had bought to use as props on the set.

In 2006, he starred as Captain Diego Alatriste in the Spanish language film Alatriste, based on the series of novels The Adventures of Captain Alatriste, written by the Spanish writer Arturo Pérez-Reverte.

In September 2007, the film Eastern Promises, directed by David Cronenberg, was released to critical acclaim for the film itself and for Mortensen's performance as a Russian gangster on the rise in London. His nude fight scene in a steam room was applauded by Roger Ebert: "Years from now, it will be referred to as a benchmark." Mortensen's performance in Eastern Promises resulted in his winning the Best Performance by an Actor in a British Independent Film award from the British Independent Film Awards. He was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor.

In 2009, Mortensen appeared as himself in the film Reclaiming The Blade, in which he discussed his passion for the sword and his sword-work in films such as The Lord of the Rings and Alatriste. Mortensen also talked about his work with Bob Anderson, the swordmaster on The Lord of the Rings, Alatriste, Pirates of the Caribbean and many others.

In 2009, Mortensen performed in The People Speak, a documentary feature film that uses dramatic and musical performances of the letters, diaries, and speeches of everyday Americans, based on historian Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States.

In April 2009 Mortensen revealed in an interview that he had, at least temporarily, retired from film acting as the schedule required for promoting a film is too stressful. In 2010 he joined the cast of The Road, a film adaptation of the Cormac McCarthy novel of the same name, and collaborated with David Cronenberg for a third time on A Dangerous Method. He has recently made a cameo appearance in Dirty Raymond's Neighbor.

After two decades, Mortensen returned to theatre in 2011, starring in Ariel Dorfman's Purgatorio in Madrid.

 Perceval Press
With part of his earnings from The Lord of the Rings, Mortensen founded the Perceval Press publishing house — named for the knight from the legend of King Arthur — to help other artists by publishing works that might not find a home in more traditional publishing venues.

Perceval Press is also the home of Viggo's many personal artistic projects in the area of fine arts, photography, poetry, song, and literature .

 Bibliography

Mortensen is also an author, with various books of poetry, photography, and painting published. His bibliography includes:

  • Ten Last Night — , his first collection of poetry.
  • Recent Forgeries — , ISBN, 5th Edition, documents Viggo's first solo exhibition and includes a CD with music and spoken-word poetry. Introduction by Dennis Hopper.
  • Errant Vine — , limited edition booklet of an exhibit at the Robert Mann Gallery.
  • Hole in the Sun — , color and black & white photographs of a back yard swimming pool.
  • SignLanguage — , a catalog from an exhibition of his works, combining photographs, paintings, and poetry into a multimedia diary of his time in New Zealand while filming The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Introduction by Kevin Power.
  • Coincidence of Memory — Third Edition. In this book, the artist combines photographs, paintings, and poems that cover his artistic output from 1978 to 2002.
  • Mo Te Upoko-o-te-ika/For Wellington — , ISBN, a book to accompany the joint exhibitions at Massey University and the Wellington City Gallery during the premiere of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
  • 45301 — , ISBN. Abstract images, fragments, and phrases from poems comprise this photography book. Many of the photographs were shot during travels to Morocco, Cuba, and the northern plains of the United States.
  • Un hueco en el sol — , a small booklet published to accompany the exhibition "Un hueco en el sol" at the Fototeca de Cuba in Havana. In Spanish.
  • Miyelo — (2003, ISBN-X), a series of panoramic photographs of a Lakota Ghost Dance. It also tells about the events leading up to the massacre at Wounded Knee.
  • Nye Falsknerier - . Paintings and poems translated into Danish from Ten Last Night, Recent Forgeries, Coincidence of Memory.
  • The Horse is Good — , ISBN, a photography book, partly shot during his work on the film Hidalgo, about horses as partners, teachers, and fellow travelers. Images from Morocco, South Dakota, Montana, California, Iceland, New Zealand, Denmark, Brazil, and Argentina. This book reflects Mortensen's fondness for horses. In fact, he bought Uraeus—the horse who played Brego, Aragorn's steed in The Lord of the Rings movies—as well as TJ, one of the horses who played Hidalgo. He also purchased the stallion that played Arwen's horse, a grey Andalusian stallion named Florian, and gave it to the stunt woman, Jane Abbott, who rode the horse in place of Liv Tyler.
  • Linger - . In this book, the artist combines black and white photographs and prose poems. Images from Spain , Morocco, Iceland, United States, Denmark...
  • I Forget You For Ever - . Texts and photographs.
  • Skovbo - . Collection of photographs, poems and quotes. The book is dedicated to Howard Zinn and Dennis Kucinich and functions as a companion to the photo exhibit Skovbo at the Reykjavik Museum of Photography .
  • Sådanset - . A small booklet published to accompany the exhibition Sådanset (October 18 - November 16, 2008) at the Palæfløjen in Roskilde .
  • Canciones de Invierno - Winter Songs - . Collection of photographs and poems. Bilingual : in Spanish and English. It includes new texts and revised versions of texts previously published. They're accompanied by pictures of landscapes taken during the previous two winters.

 Visual arts and discography

Mortensen is a painter and photographer. His paintings are frequently abstract and often contain fragments of his poetry in them. His paintings have been featured in galleries worldwide, and the paintings of the artist he portrayed in A Perfect Murder are all his own.

Mortensen experiments with his poetry and music by mixing the two art forms. He has collaborated with guitarist Buckethead on several albums, mostly released on his own label or TDRS Music. Viggo was first introduced to Buckethead's work while working on sounds for an educational CD on Greek mythology. The finished product included a guitar part by Buckethead, which caught Viggo's ear and led him to initiate contact with the guitarist. The collaboration grew from there.

Viggo's discography includes:

  • 1994: Don't Tell Me What to Do
  • 1997: One Less Thing to Worry About
  • 1998: Recent Forgeries
  • 1999: The Other Parade
  • 1999: One Man's Meat
  • 1999: Live at Beyond Baroque
  • 2003: Pandemoniumfromamerica
  • 2004: Live at Beyond Baroque II
  • 2004: Please Tomorrow
  • 2004: This, That, and The Other
  • 2005: Intelligence Failure
  • 2006: 3 Fools 4 April
  • 2007: Time Waits for Everyone
  • 2008: At All
  • 2010: Canciones de Invierno
  • 2011: Reunion

Mortensen is featured on The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King soundtrack, singing "Aragorn's Coronation" (the name of the extended version of this song in the 3rd original sound track is "The Return of the King"), the words by Tolkien and the music composed by Mortensen. In the extended DVD edition of the first Lord of the Rings movie, The Fellowship of the Ring, he sings the song "The Lay of Beren and Lúthien". His poems are written in English, Danish, and Spanish.

 personal life
Mortensen has a son, Henry Blake Mortensen , with ex-wife Exene Cervenka, singer in the punk band X. Henry and Viggo have done public father/son poetry readings together as recently as April 2006. His son also has a minor uncredited role in the extended version of The Two Towers, as well as a brief appearance as Viggo's character's son in Crimson Tide.

Mortensen holds dual American-Danish citizenship. He speaks fluent English, Danish and Spanish; he is also conversational in French and Italian, and understands Norwegian and Swedish. He has stated that he was raised speaking English and Spanish and at times feels more comfortable expressing himself in Spanish.

Mortensen is a hockey fan, particularly of the Montréal Canadiens. He wore a Montréal Canadiens t-shirt underneath his armour all through the filming of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. He is also a fan of football and is a fan of Argentine star Diego Maradona, Héctor "Bambino" Veira, and both the Argentine and Danish national teams as well as Argentine club San Lorenzo de Almagro. In 1993, Mortensen went to Ireland during a break in shooting to watch Denmark play in a 1994 FIFA World Cup qualification match. He is also a fan of the New York Mets, and recently appeared in an interview promoting 2009 film The Road wearing apparel indicating his support of the Australian Football League's Collingwood Magpies football club.

Mortensen actively campaigned for Dennis Kucinich in the 2008 United States presidential election, and later endorsed Barack Obama for the presidency. He was also one of the signees of the "Toronto Declaration" protesting against spotlighting Tel-Aviv at the TIFF in 2009.

Mortensen has owned property in northern Sandpoint Idaho, and spends time there when not filming movies. He also has a home in the Malasaña neighborhood of Madrid where he spends long seasons with friends.

On October 13, 2006, Viggo Mortensen was awarded the Gold Medal of the Province and the City of León, Spain.

On April 16, 2010, Viggo Mortensen was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Order of Dannebrog.

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  Played TV shows  

  Albums 

  Tracks  

Name Duration Released
Empty House 05:17 2011
Hold My Ladder 05:30 2011
Nice Walking With You 03:29 2011
Meet Me Outside 04:29 2011
Lend Me Your Tightrope 09:00 2011
Why Not Now? 02:02 2011
It Wasn't Me 08:08 2011
Sorrow Acre 00:00 01/2008
Bomb This 00:00 01/2008
Blacksburg 00:00 01/2008
At All 00:00 01/2008
Tokyo Doesn't Love Us Anymore 00:00 01/2008
Thanks, China; Keep The Change 00:00 01/2008
Shoreditch Nocturne 00:00 01/2008
Blind Rendition Fly-Over 00:00 01/2008
Fear's Echo 00:00 01/2008
Leave It 02:27 11/2004
This 01:26 11/2004
The Other 02:51 11/2004
They Ate Your Family 01:22 11/2004
Den Gang Jeg Drog Afsted 03:38 11/2004
That 04:00 11/2004
Nocturne 00:00 09/2004
Swallows to bats 00:00 09/2004
Luis J. Rodriguez 00:00 09/2004
Sunrise 00:00 09/2004
Patricia Smith 00:00 09/2004
Moonset 01:23 09/2004
Mike McGee 00:00 09/2004
Frost 00:00 09/2004
Marvin Bell 00:00 09/2004
Dream Three 00:00 09/2004
Mark Eleveld 00:00 09/2004
Dream Two 00:00 09/2004
Dream One 00:00 09/2004
Go Bad 00:54 11/1999
Carne De Nino 01:01 11/1999
Inner Beauty 06:19 11/1999
Africa 00:37 11/1999
Counting Calories 01:16 11/1999
To Market 00:16 11/1999
Barbecue Kingdom 03:21 11/1999
Chicken Surgery 02:04 11/1999
Birth 01:13 11/1999
Products 00:29 11/1999
Fortune Cookies 08:18 11/1999
Koughka 01:06 11/1999
Bette Davis, 1962 00:45 11/1999
Holy Communion 02:26 11/1999
Jack's Box 00:38 11/1999
One Man's Meat 02:09 11/1999
Joe 00:19 11/1999
Isadore Demsky 00:00 10/1999
Home 00:00 10/1999
Hillside 00:00 10/1999
For Sandy Dennis 00:00 10/1999
Keepsake 00:00 10/1999
Room for Nine 02:47 1999
The Other Parade 08:15 1999
Strike at the Wig Factory 05:05 1999
Trouble at the Launchpad 04:12 1999
Death of a Dentist 02:30 1999
... 3, 4 ... 05:03 1999
Night in an Animal Hospital 03:52 1999
Dream of the See-Saw Repairman 03:30 1999
Massage School 04:31 1998
1/2 Red 00:00 1998
Show 00:59 1998
Envidia 03:57 1997
Opportunity 00:15 1997
Forgetful 02:38 1997
Wet Dog 00:25 1997
The New Year 00:18 1997
Reading 00:41 1997
Cursive 00:39 1997
To Sleep 00:29 1997
Blow 00:18 1997
Clear 00:41 1997
1959 03:22 1997
Bedtime Story for Henry 02:39 1997
Writing 01:14 1997
I'm Not A Singer 04:22 1997
Prepare 00:45 1997
The Show 00:59 1997
Cruelty 00:06 1997
The Night We Called It A Day 02:32 1997
Edit 00:27 1997
Fat 01:04 1997
Lagrimas Puras 04:03 1997
Reno 00:22 1997
Henry, Age 2 00:27 1997
Independence 01:36 1997
Week Ends 01:55 1997
Ganas 00:22 1997
Tell Yourself 00:19 1997
Stop 00:05 1997
Matinee 00:17 1997
Necessity of Lorca 01:11 1997
Parrillada 00:25 1997
Laureles 00:15 1997
Lunch 01:08 1997
Wading 00:32 1997
Pioneers 00:16 1997
Eleonora 01:08 1997
Meet 02:09 1997
Single 00:08 1997
Cuttings 00:49 1997
Recuerdo 00:07 1997
Chaco 00:11 1997
Parker 01:06 1997
Otono Catalan 00:39 1997
Thursday 02:22
Time waits for everyone - usually 04:41
Farvel farbror 07:02
Ural poem 03:28
Berlin poem 02:44
Ashes 02:18
Confession 03:24
Danube poem 04:34
Amends 05:15
You are there 03:39
Treblinka poem 01:59
Warzawa morning poem 01:00
Munchen morning poem 01:17
Oswiecem poem 03:39
Belzec poem 03:15
The lake 05:11
Seed 02:56

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Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "Viggo Mortensen", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.