Viggo Mortensen Talks His Western ‘The Dead Don’t Hurt,’ Vicky Krieps, Choosing Acting Roles & More [Marrakech Film Fest]

6 mins read

MARRAKECH – Nominated three times for the Best Actor Academy Award, including in “Eastern Promises” by his dear friend and close collaborator David Cronenberg, and best known for playing Aragorn in “The Lord of the Rings” by Peter Jackson, actor Viggo Mortensen is also a big fan of Marrakech.

He has returned for the 20th edition of the Marrakech International Film Festival, which wrapped this weekend, to give an In Conversation session, talking about his career, and to present Lisaandro Alonso’s 146-minute drama “Eureka,” which premiered in Cannes.

One recent morning, Mortensen sits calmly giving interviews in the city’s top-ranked La Mamounia hotel, dressed in a checked shirt that is as casual and understated as the hotel is opulent and designed to dazzle in an OTT fashion.

He speaks slowly and contemplatively and gives the impression of someone who lives in a state of meditation rather than in a state of distress, which, given the number of interests and projects he is involved with, one imagines could otherwise be the case.

“Even at home, I’m always writing or reading or thinking about an idea,” he said. “It takes a long time as a director, even more than as an actor, to prepare films because as a director, it takes even longer to find the money and organize a cast and crew. I’m working on something now that I will probably shoot a year from today, but I also like to sleep and do nothing sometimes, to switch off my devices.”

Mortensen is involved in a slew of different projects, including a JFK assassination thriller to be directed by David Mamet, while promoting his upcoming 1860s feminist thriller, “The Dead Don’t Hurt”.

His second feature as a director, the film is dedicated to his late mother, Grace Gamble Atkinson, who inspired the film’s lead character, the ultra-independent Vivienne Le Coudy (Vicky Krieps).

“It was a story about an independent woman, and I liked putting it in that time period,” he said. “It’s a woman that, in her own quiet way, is going beyond accepted boundaries. She’s, in a quiet way, resistant to being told what to do. She’s, in her way, crossing frontiers. In her society, that’s a new frontier. It seemed like an appropriate setting for that sort of character.”

Of selecting Krieps for the role, he said: “She’s a very unique person and character. I thought she would be great as this character. Very quiet but with a particular point of view. I needed someone I could believe was from the 19th century, and I don’t believe that about all actresses I see for various reasons. There’s a lack of vanity in Vicky, but once she commits to something, she just goes there, and you really believe she is this character.”

Mortensen’s talents extend beyond directing and acting, but all of these activities are united by his curiosity, he said.

“I don’t really separate different media, whether it’s painting, writing, or photography, which were things I did before getting into the movies as an actor,” he said. “I think it all has to do with curiosity and observing and translating what you see,  feel, and hear, and expressing how you see it. Your interpretation of things. I think all those things take the same curiosity.”

How does he go about choosing his roles?

“For a role, it’s if I recognize it is good quality as a story. It’s not just a copy of something else, and it is well-written. If I don’t think I can do it and it’s a bit scary. If the director thinks I’m right but I’m not sure, it’s usually a sign I should go there,” he said.

Does he identify with any of the roles he’s played in particular?

“There is always something of you; it’s your body and your voice. But maybe ‘Captain Fantastic,’” he said. “In a way, ‘The Dead Don’t Hurt.’ They all have something.”

His first film directing, “Falling,” was due to play at the 2020 Cannes Film Festival, which was canceled because of the pandemic. In it, he plays a middle-aged gay man whose homophobic father comes to live with him and his partner at the onset of dementia.

To be selected for Cannes and have the festival canceled gave him a new perspective on completing his feature debut.

“I wanted people to see it. The movie was selected for Cannes. Then the festival was canceled, but in circumstances like those, you have to remember it exists, and you did it,” he said.

This interview took place at the Marrakech International Film Festival.

Viggo Mortensen Talks His Western ‘The Dead Don’t Hurt,’ Vicky Krieps, Choosing Acting Roles & More [Marrakech Film Fest]

Previous Story

Jodie Foster Calls Superhero Movies “A Phase That’s Lasted A Little Too Long” & “Hopefully People Will Be Sick Of It Soon”

Next Story

‘All Of Us Strangers’ Int’l Trailer: Andrew Haigh’s Acclaimed Drama Stars Andrew Scott & Paul Mescal

Latest from Blog