He played the title character in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, part of a trilogy with a worldwide gross approaching $2 billion. At the least, we expect his cheques to clear. But Viggo Mortensen—aka the one and true king Aragorn—says that The Lord of the Rings has not made him rich. In fact, he says it’s time for him to find a job.
“If you’re part of a movie that’s very popular, temporarily there are more opportunities for work,” says Mortensen, who was here yesterday to promote his film Hidalgo—about the legendary Mustang and rider who won a 3,000-mile Saharan race against the world’s greatest Arabians at the turn of the 19th century.
“Unfortunately, most such opportunities are cliched, uninteresting rehashes of stories that weren’t very interesting to begin with. Or exploitation or whatever.
“So I do what I’ve always done,” says the 45-year-old Mortensen. “You wait to find something interesting—until you run out of money, and then you to do the best with what you can find. We stopped shooting The Lord of the Rings a long time ago, and most of what I’ve done for the past year has been talking about making movies. And I don’t get any money for talking about making movies.
“So I will be needing to look for something (to pay the bills). I do have a project I may do in Spain, which I don’t want to talk about because I might jinx it. I like the idea of doing something in Spanish.”
Mortensen, a painter, photographer, poet and musician (he has a music/spoken-word album out with avant-garde Japanese guitarist Buckethead), has tended to lead a bohemian life, with movies paying for his other artistic pursuits, and sometimes the other way around. At 26, he was a highly touted young actor, with a role in Peter Weir’s Witness.
“I’m pretty long in the tooth now, and I’m pretty cynical about money and fame.”
Hidalgo, based on the real-life tale of Wild West horseman Frank Hopkins, saw Mortensen on location in the Moroccan Sahara in Oct. 2002.
A fierce critic of U.S. foreign policy, Mortensen says, “It was obvious to everybody there that the Iraq invasion was a movie that was greenlit. It was going to happen in spite of the charade.
“I wouldn’t have been surprised to deal with animosity from the people there, but mostly what I heard was, ‘We like Americans and their culture. What we don’t understand is why you can’t control your government.'”