Viggo Mortensen

Viggo Mortensen Films

Lord of the Rings

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Quotes by Viggo Mortensen

Viggo speakingGiven the hundreds of interviews on the Net, I've tried to be selective. See also the quotes on the Viggo politics and art and music pages and this page of quotes by others about Viggo.

Quotes by Viggo, from interviews and articles

"Rabbits sometimes run out in front of your car, right? Well, I hit this rabbit on this lonely road in the South Island and I wanted to make sure it was dead. If it wasn't, I'd put it out of its misery. And it was quite dead, so I thought, 'Well, why waste it?' And so I made a little fire and ate it.

"It was fresh. That, I knew."

As quoted by Tom Roston in Premiere, "The Hero Returns"
January 1, 2003

"If I don't get a little time by myself every day, it makes me uncomfortable. I really need that. Even if it's a minute or two."

As quoted in Variety Life, "Viggo Mortensen"
October 1, 2003

"I think it was Robert Louis Stevenson who said this. It was about meandering through a career, or the arts in general, without seeming to have a deliberate plan. He said, 'To travel hopefully is better than to arrive, and the true success is in the labor.' That's a great line, 'To travel hopefully.' That's what I'd like to do."

As quoted in Variety Life, "Viggo Mortensen"
October 1, 2003

"I'm not that involved in personal grooming. But I try not to be offensive to people."

As quoted by Allison Glock, GQ, "Twenty-one Reasons to Dig Viggo Mortensen"
November 1, 2003

"I have never been in a natural place and felt that that was a waste of time. I never have. And it's a relief. If I'm walking around a desert or whatever, every second is worthwhile."

Interview by Ariel Leve, The Sunday Times, "The Brain Dane"
November 30, 2003

"I have friends who I get along with who I know get very uncomfortable being alone, unless they're with people, talking all the time. Whether it's on the phone, or in person, they're never by themselves. Whereas I could be alone for months."

Interview by Ariel Leve, The Sunday Times, "The Brain Dane"
November 30, 2003

"If I can get a day to myself, I won't answer the phone, I'll read or go for a walk. Simple, basic things. People think there's always time to do that but there isn't. Life is short."

Interview by Ariel Leve, The Sunday Times, "The Brain Dane"
November 30, 2003

"We all experience many freakish and unexpected events - you have to be open to suffering a little. The philosopher Schopenhauer talked about how out of the randomness, there is an apparent intention in the fate of an individual that can be glimpsed later on. When you are an old guy, you can look back, and maybe this rambling life has some through-line. Others can see it better sometimes. But when you glimpse it yourself, you see it more clearly than anyone."

As quoted by Tom Roston, The Mail on Sunday, "The King returns"
December 1, 2003

What do you think makes you sexy?
"I don't really know how to deal with that question. I'm sure that there's just as many people who think I'm a grizzled hack."

As quoted by Tom Roston, The Mail on Sunday, "The King returns"
December 1, 2003

"Joseph Campbell said the privilege of a lifetime is being yourself. That's his feeling. And I guess it's mine too."

As quoted by Alex Kuczynski in Vanity Fair, "Finding Viggo"
January 1, 2004

On religion: "My answer would be what Walt Whitman said in Leaves of Grass, something to the effect of 'I hear and behold that God is in every object and yet I understand God not at all.'"

As quoted by Alex Kuczynski in Vanity Fair, "Finding Viggo"
January 1, 2004

"There's no excuse to be bored. Sad, yes. Angry, yes. Depressed, yes. Crazy, yes. But there is no excuse for boredom, ever.

"Of course, Henry says, 'Yeah, well, Dad, if you were in my science class you'd know what it is to be bored.' I guess that's something a little different."

As quoted by Alex Kuczynski in Vanity Fair, "Finding Viggo"
January 1, 2004

"Am I really barefoot every time you talk to me? I don't really think about it, but I try to be comfortable and not make things too complicated. I like to be respectful and dress appropriately, but if that can coincide with what's comfortable then that's what I'll try to do."

As quoted by Jae-Ha Kim, in the Chicago Sun Times, "Viggo Mortensen rides back in 'Hidalgo'"
February 29, 2004

As quoted by Dotson Rader in Parade magazine, "I Still Ask Why"
February 29, 2004

"My son's the reason I'm in L.A. I hate the place, but I didn't want to be an absentee father. My son has friends here from when he was little. He has continuity in his life--something I didn't have growing up, because my family moved so much. Different cities, different languages. You'd try to make new friendships, and then they'd be cut off. It was an unsettled life."

As quoted by Dotson Rader in Parade magazine, "I Still Ask Why"
February 29, 2004

"I knew early on that life is sorrowful. We all decline, slowly or quickly, and we die. We can't change that. But we can change our attitude toward it.

"We each have only a limited amount of time here. We have to do more with it--pay attention, explore, be open to all of life. Because we have only one chance, we have to make life seem longer than it really is."

As quoted by Dotson Rader in Parade magazine, "I Still Ask Why"
February 29, 2004

Quotes by Viggo, on acting

"I don't know anyone who tells people everything about themselves. We all purposely keep secrets. I'm an actor so I'm definitely not in the truth business."

As quoted by Louis B. Hobson, Express Writer, "Versatile Viggo"
June 5, 1998

Regarding rumors that Mortensen was having an affair with Gwyneth Paltrow after A Perfect Murder: "I had a great sex scene with Christopher Walken in The Prophecy and no one started rumours about us. When will people realize that actors act? If we didn't make love scenes believable, we wouldn't be doing our job properly."

As quoted by Louis B. Hobson, Calgary Sun, "Scarred for life"
April 12, 1999

"Do I have a goal? I want to be happy - even when I portray a tormented character."

As quoted by Ulrike Schroeder, "The Crowning of the Shrew"
Translated by Evie Finsterer
August 1, 2003

"It comes down to the fact that you supply the blue, and they supply the other colours, and maybe there's some blue left in the painting, and maybe there isn't. So just have some fun, make a good blue and walk away."

As quoted by Tom Roston, The Mail on Sunday, "The King returns"
December 1, 2003

"You hear a lot of people saying, 'I want to get rid of that character' or 'It took me days, weeks, months, years to shed the skin of that character,' but I don't. We're all going to get old and die, and if we live long enough, we're going to forget things or lose our memories. That's just what happens in life. So why be in a hurry to forget something or undo something?

"Any movie or experience, I want it to be a part of me."

As quoted by Bob Longino, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A pensive hero: Poet, painter, philosopher, photographer - 'King' actor has many faces
December 19, 2003

"If I really think about it, there isn't any one movie I would wipe off my slate. Even during the worst experiences, there was somebody I got to know, or something about the place we were in, something memorable. A lesson."

As quoted by Alex Kuczynski in Vanity Fair, "Finding Viggo"
January 1, 2004

"I don't know why [I became an actor]. I went from watching plays and movies as just looking at them as entertainment and something you could talk about afterwards to starting to wonder how it was done. When I would see a really seamless, fully realized performance or an ensemble performance, I would wonder, How did they do that? How did they make it so effortless? In order to find out, I started to study acting and, to be honest, I don't know why I stuck with it, because it took me a long time before I made a living. I suppose if I had known what it would be like and how much frustration would be involved, maybe I wouldn't have, but it's like life: You can quit, or you can keep going. You can become bitter, or you can stay open. It's kind of up to you. I guess I stayed interested enough in the work, and I got some encouragement."

As quoted by Jamie Painter Young, Backstage.com, "Good Fellow"
January 5, 2004

"If there's anything in my favor, it's the fact that I remain curious about the craft of acting and I'm interested in improvement from job to job, from day to day, from scene to scene. I mean, on every job I do, and that I'm lucky to get, there's always some point, or many points, at which I'm at a loss for how to get through a scene. What you learn to do after a while is to relax and to just kind of let something happen."

As quoted by Jamie Painter Young, Backstage.com, "Good Fellow"
January 5, 2004

"Anytime you're thinking of results--how you want to come off in a scene or accepting a role or playing a scene in a way that you can steal focus--you're taking a shortcut, which necessarily implies jumping over, skipping the reacting part. You're already thinking of where you want to be and what you want to get done. You can't both be open to whatever might happen--preparing well, yes, but then being open and therefore reacting. You can't be thinking about winning a scene, and I've unfortunately heard actors--a lot of young actors who are too dumb to realize that saying that doesn't sound good, but also a lot of older actors do it in very subtle ways where it sometimes take you a long time to realize that's what they're doing, and you just have to find a way to deal with it.

"I've also seen advertised, teachers saying, 'I'll show you how to not only win in auditions, I'll show you how to win every scene.' You can't win every scene. That's not even a goal. The goal isn't to win anything. The goal is to be there. That's how you tell a story. And so when you're thinking in terms of results, then you're skipping the reaction part, the foundation of good acting."

As quoted by Jamie Painter Young, Backstage.com, "Good Fellow"
January 5, 2004

"Sidney Lumet said something that was pretty valuable. The work consists largely of making the best possible preparations for accidents to happen. I never quit trying to figure out new stuff and trying to add stuff, until it's taken away from you to be edited."

As quoted by Jeffrey M. Anderson, Combustible Celluloid, "Interview with Viggo Mortensen"
February 11, 2004

Quotes by Viggo, on the movie Hidalgo

"I like the idea of being in an American movie, and the American character goes to a Third World country, in this case the Middle East, not to destroy, not to punish, but to challenge them in this contest, and in the end they learn something and he learns something. And then he goes home. I think that's kind of healthy."

As quoted by Alex Kuczynski in Vanity Fair, "Finding Viggo"
January 1, 2004

"Most of it has to do with the lucky casting of T.J. On his own, he just came up with one reaction after another that was totally appropriate; whether it was jealousy, or possessiveness, or annoyance, or nagging me, or guilting me. ...

"With T.J. anybody can go up and pet him or be around him and it's like, 'whatever.' I think of Andy Capp a lot when I look at him. You know that comic strip the guy who's got the pint and the cap and the cigarette in his mouth? That's T.J."

As quoted by Jeffrey M. Anderson, Combustible Celluloid, "Interview with Viggo Mortensen"
February 11, 2004

Quotes by Viggo, on the movie Lord of the Rings

"The movie is not the book. They're different mediums. It's not been possible in the movie to emphasize language and poetry, for example, as Tolkien did. Nor do we get the attention to detail regarding various characters' backgrounds and interrelationships. It's not possible unless it's three 12-hour movies, I suppose. And, you know, as authors, Tolkien and Peter Jackson have different sensibilities. While Peter obviously cares a great deal for Tolkien's writing--otherwise he wouldn't have given so much of his life to it--what seems to have drawn him most as a filmmaker was the pure adventure aspect of the tale. The heroic sacrifice of individuals for the common good. All the breathtaking sequences--he really poured himself into those. The more I explored Tolkien, the more I felt I had two bosses: Tolkien and Peter Jackson. I tried my best to be loyal to both of them."

As quoted in Newsweek, "Viggo Mortensen: 'We Were All on an Epic Journey'"
December 6, 2001

"[Lord of the Rings] was so densely packed with allusions to so many archetypes and mythological elements. Whether it's out of a 12th-century French poem, something Native American, or certain Muslim tales, it doesn't matter. There are certain things, like the hero's journey, that all those stories have in common."

As quoted by Tom Roston in Premiere, "The Hero Returns"
January 1, 2003

"I found that [Aragorn], too, had misgivings and was hiding something. You use what you can as an actor. And the fact that he was someone seemingly as brave and honorable and self-sacrificing as he was, but, at times, also so plagued by doubt and insecurity about what others--and he himself--might expect of him, I thought, 'Well, yeah, I can relate to that.'"

As quoted by Tom Roston in Premiere, "The Hero Returns"
January 1, 2003

"In a story like Lord of the Rings, whether the Ring and Sauron are evil is incidental to me. Even if we were not to get the Ring anywhere near Mount Doom. Even if we all died. It doesn't really matter. It's the fact that everybody got together and decided to go on this trip. That's the thing. That's the miracle."

As quoted by Tom Roston in Premiere, "The Hero Returns"
January 1, 2003

"There is no promise of a paradise in Nordic mythologies. The certainty to have done the right thing is the only benefit you can expect."

As quoted by Ulrike Schroeder, "The Crowning of the Shrew"
Translated by Evie Finsterer
August 1, 2003

"There is no star in LOTR. The Fellowship is a union."

As quoted by Ulrike Schroeder, "The Crowning of the Shrew"
Translated by Evie Finsterer
August 1, 2003

"I just feel calm when I'm around [horses], just interacting with them....

"When I would go out [to the stables], I'd be really tired, I'd be driving, it'd be an hour or something to the stables, and I would think 'I'd really like to stay in bed.' But by the time I got together with the horse and got the horse ready, got on the horse and went out riding, all the stress and the tiredness would just go away. By the time I was done riding and washing the horse and on my way back to town, it was almost like I'd taken some very pleasant drug. [I felt] just very calm and glad to be alive and noticing the trees and what not. And ready for the week."

As quoted by Fred Topel on HorseCity.com, "Horses bring serenity to Lord of the Rings' Viggo Mortensen"
December 9, 2003

"I've never been in this position, and I hope that I'm not in that position again where I'm replacing another actor.... It was a mutual agreement between [Townsend] and the filmmakers that a mistake had been made, and it would have been unfair to him to be an actor who was the same age as were the actors playing the Hobbits and Legolas. Aragorn was a wizened 87-1/2-years old. They needed to find some old guy, and so they did.

"I don't know why Peter Jackson called me. He probably ran out of options. But then that's what you do with opportunity I suppose. You make the most of it."

As quoted by Jamie Painter Young, Backstage.com, "Good Fellow"
January 5, 2004

"[The Lord of the Rings] reinforced my belief in the group ethic. The greatest reward for me [on this film] was getting to know these actors and going through this together--how we got through good times, and especially bad times, together as a group. In that sense I think that Peter cast the movie very well. He picked a group of people who worked well together and didn't complain too much about the hardships, to the point where the last six months was [a schedule of] six days a week, 16 hours a day--just, 'Go, go, go,' no end in sight. And people really did pull together and work as a group. It's the way that actors should always work, whether it's in a play or in a movie, and I don't see that often. That ideal was one that we adhered to. As a result of that effort, I have a group of friends that I'm as close to as anyone I know and who will always be my friends."

As quoted by Jamie Painter Young, Backstage.com, "Good Fellow"
January 5, 2004

As quoted by Pastor Greg Wright on the Hollywood Jesus web site, "What was Michael Medved thinking?"
February 1, 2004

Viggo maxims

"You have a moral obligation to finish the job you said you would do."

As quoted by Allison Glock, GQ, "Twenty-one Reasons to Dig Viggo Mortensen"
November 1, 2003

In dire times, you might be tempted to "set your house on fire and never answer the phone again, but it would be better to ask yourself: How can I be most useful to this world? Not that I'm a fucking genius."

As quoted by Allison Glock, GQ, "Twenty-one Reasons to Dig Viggo Mortensen"
November 1, 2003

"Life is too short to do all this work and not do it right, especially when dealing with customers."

As quoted by Scott Thill, "An Interview with Viggo Mortensen"
Referring to Perceval Press
April 6, 2004

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