EXTENDED INTERVIEW: Craig Talks With Actor Viggo MortensenPosted: Updated:
Click the video above for Friday night's extended interview with Oscar nominated actor Viggo Mortensen at the Snowtown Film Festival. Mortensen grew up in the north country and he's a graduate of Watertown High School.
- Article by Craig Thornton
I had the pleasure of meeting acclaimed actor Viggo Mortensen before the opening of the Snowtown Film Festival. Mr. Mortensen is nominated for best actor for his performance as the unconventional father in the film Captain Fantastic. He was also nominated for the SAG and Golden Globe Award for the same film. A graduate of both Watertown High School and St. Lawrence University, Mortensen is in the North Country to visit his father and speak at a screening of the film at the Film Festival. I met him at the Dulles State Office Building before the screening.
Captain Fantastic is the story of a single Father raising six children off the grid and as far from society and societal expectations as possible. When a crisis forces the father (Ben) on the road with his children and to face the rest of the family and their expectations of how the children are to be raised, a highly original tale unfolds. I loved the film when I saw it back in August and asked Mr. Mortensen a few questions about the creative process.
I was very impressed with the ensemble of actors (the whole ensemble was nominated for a SAG award – which is the equivalent to the best picture award) but especially with the actors playing his children. The interplay and interaction of Mortensen with the children seemed so natural that they appeared to know each other for years. I asked him how this was accomplished. Because the film had a small budget there wasn’t the luxury of a long rehearsal period so he and the actors playing the children had a two week window to learn and practice much of the survivalist and meditation skills needed to portray the children accurately. Mr. Mortensen also learned to play the bagpipes, the children learned Yoga and even how to dress a dead deer. Mr. Mortensen remarked because he grew up in the North Country, he always had a love of the outdoors and these scenes filmed in the Northwest were enjoyable for him. He bonded quickly with the children and one of the child actors called him “Summer Dad.” Viggo was sure to clear this with the actor’s parents first, who were on the set at all times.
When I reviewed the film in August I wrote “Captain Fantastic is about real people and very interesting things like: family, conformity, death, literature, independence and parenting”- so I asked him what he hopes people would take away from the film? What was the message? He said he didn’t like message movies and doesn’t make message movies and that Captain Fantastic wasn’t a message film. He did say he thought the film was about communication and listening to one another and being human. People have different points of view and everyone needs to be heard. When speaking about communication he made reference to the divisive political situation in American right now and how Democracy could be threatened if we don’t communicate and listen to each other.
When asked about his Oscar nomination, Viggo was modest and said he was actually up here in the north country when he heard the news earlier this week. He was with his father. He said he knows he doesn’t have a chance to win, but is happy about it because it brings attention to the film. As a small film, the film needs recognition and more people may see it because it is nominated for awards. He is particularly elated that his cast members were nominated for the SAG ensemble award and said you will be hearing the young actors make a lot of noise on Sunday night, the 29th when the SAG awards are telecast on TBS and TNT. The film and the film shoot are obviously dear to him and he mentioned how smoothly the production went and how hard the crew worked despite financial restraints and the difficulty of switching locations often. Down to earth, unaffected and passionate about his work, Mr. Mortensen says he hopes the Oscar Nomination boosts opportunities to choose the work he wants to do, and possibly get one of the two screenplays he has written off the ground. He is interested in directing as well. It is always about the work with him, and we are fortunate to have such a gifted artist- he is also an accomplished poet and musician- hail from the North Country. Fortunate also because he keeps coming back to visit and is using his celebrity to promote arts in the community. We thank him for that.
Captain Fantastic, written and directed by Matt Ross is produced by the independent film production company Bleecker Films. It was originally released in July in the United States and won a directing award for its director at the Cannes film festival. Viggo Mortensen was previously nominated for an Oscar for his performance in Eastern Promises.
Mortensen was a special speaker at the Snowtown Film Festival Friday night, where Captain Fantastic and Mortensen did a Q&A with the audience. The film festival continues Saturday at the Dulles State Office Building in Watertown.
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