Actors are a rare breed. It is their job to take everything that makes up their personality and mould it into someone completely different, sometimes pure and virtuous and sometimes malevolent and the very embodiment of evil itself. It has to be a tough gig. To supplant everything that makes you you and mutate the very essence of your being into someone, and sometimes something, else. Few people can do it effectively. Even fewer still can safely navigate the hazardous road conditions on the thoroughfare to celebrity and keep a level head and a rational ego. One person who has done all of this and more is Viggo Mortensen. A soft-spoken man who has appeared in such films as Witness, Carlito’s Way, Crimson Tide, The Prophecy, The Portrait of a Lady, G.I Jane, A Perfect Murder and Gus Van Sant’s controversial soon to be released remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, Viggo is an artist of extraordinary range and depth who does not feel the need to constrict his perception of art to any one medium. He is an accomplished photographer, writer, and painter whose artistic endeavours are all pieces of the larger puzzle that makeup who Viggo Mortensen is. And now, with his recent showing of his paintings at Track 16 Gallery in Los Angeles, he is sharing his unique vision with the world.
Being an artist is being an artist. So just be.
Was Witness your first screen role?
“That was the first time I wasn’t cut out of a movie. Actually, I’d done three [films] before where I had at least a couple of lines and they were cut out. In a couple of cases with really good directors too; Jonathan Demme, Woody Allen…”
Oh, just those guys. [laughs]
“But the experience was good, you know, when you do one scene. Every movie no matter how tight the screen play is, in the end, there are parts of scenes and entire scenes that end up being taken out, just like you edit a piece of writing. You would have the best of intentions when you shoot the scene and make it work as a director. And then, you find what you could do without. You know the first thing you have to do is [determine] what could this story lose and still work. I do that in writing, become more tolerant and understanding of that in terms of what people can do with movies. I’m always looking at things that I write and going ‘what can I take out of that and [make] it still work. And then, years later… I might look at that poem again and go, ‘You know, I can still take out two words.”
Someone once said to me about being a musician, “It’s not the notes you play it’s the notes that you don’t play.”
So, I was looking at the list of your films and a couple popped up like Prison, the Renny Harlin film.
“Yeah. [We] shot that one in Rawlings, Wyoming.”
How was that? I mean, as a film, it was fairly enjoyable?
“It was a real low budget horror exploitation thing. The cast was a bunch of people [who were] New York stage actors. For that kind of movie, it was a pretty experienced group of actors; good actors got those parts. So, I was surrounded by people who really knew what they were doing, which was nice. It was fun to work with them. I mean, the story was what it was. It was a horror movie and it was on the cheap side and all that, but Renny Hahn had a certain amount of visual flair. Other than that, I don’t know if it stands out any more than the other movies at this time. I liked the location, I liked Wyoming.”
Another thing that interested me was Leatherface…
[laughs] “That was fun. I don’t know how many times they sent that to the censors. People think that the ratings board is some kind of official [body which has an] answerable objective, answerable to the public or something. It’s not. It’s just a bunch of guys making decisions with certain codes to go by. I do think that if that movie had been put out by a big studio I think they would have gotten away with more.”
Right, I think they might…
“Anyway, they kept getting X’s and so they cut so much out that I think the movie is only like 70 minutes long. Unfortunately most of the really funny jokes were associated with gruesome bloodletting of some kind or another. There was a lot of funny shit that was going on.”
Yeah, I think that the M.P.A.A., in many respects, comes to the table when the film is a Texas Chainsaw sequel saying “Alright lets take the scissors to this baby.”
“Yeah maybe that’s it. The Halloween [films], those kind of movies get to do as much or more. I don’t really care that much. I mean to me it was just a job and I try to do my best and have fun with it….”
and, as Spencer Tracy said, not bump into the furniture… One of your films that is a favorite of mine was The Reflecting Skin. That was a great film.
“Yeah, it was interesting. [Philip Ridley] is a good writer. He’s a guy that I know Hollywood has approached many times. I did another film with Philip Ridley by the way that had a real cult following in Europe and Japan but never came out here for some kind of contractual [reason]. I don’t know what the hell the deal was. I think it had to do with one of the actors’ contracts. In any case, it’s out on video. It’s called The Passion of Darkly Noon and that’s visually pretty interesting, too. You know he keeps writing and putting on plays in England and one of them came here, The Pitchfork Disney it was called and that was done in Washington D.C. He’s an interesting guy who’ll keep making stuff. [He’s] kind of an original.”
That’s what I think the industry needs is more people who are willing to put their asses on the line and do something decent. Otherwise you end up getting these soulless big budget monstrosities.
“Yeah I know. I’ve certainly been part of some of them. [laughs] Yeah, you gotta pay the rent sometimes. A guy’s gotta eat, you know.”
Indian Runner. How was that?
“You know, it was Sean [Penn’s] first movie [that he directed]. I think he studied and prepared really well for it, but you can’t beat first hand experience. I think that was his training ground as Director, so we sort of went to school with him in way. I’ve learned a lot since then, but I also learned a lot during that movie and, at the time, that was certainly a very special opportunity you know? I’d been doing smaller parts in movies and never had a part that was that significant. You can’t count Prison, though that was a leading role, it was barely a blip on the radar as far as movies people go to. And it (The Indian Runner) has an arc in the story that you interact [with]. It had the feel and it had the reputation of being just a sort of maverick independent movie, but in fact it was a fifty-four or fifty-five day shoot which is considerable. I mean it’s well over two months and locations and a good crew and good equipment. It was just a regular move [with] really good actors in it [like] the late Sandy Dennis. That was her last film role. She’s someone who I really admired, still admire, and it was really one of the things that stands out for me as an honor to get to act with her. I mean it was a good opportunity. The movie didn’t do that well. I think the producers didn’t want to leave it in the theaters and let it build word of mouth. It’s had, fortunately, a kind of second, third, fourth life you know on cable and on video. A lot of people seem to know that movie and it didn’t make dime. A lot of people like Patricia Arquette really went on and did some important things after that. David Morris… It’s interesting to see Charles Bronson in that kind of role.
“I just think of that movie as having been a good opportunity. A situation where I learned a lot. At the time, people [would say], “Wow, now you’re on your way and this will get you all this other stuff. In reality I don’t think it did, but I learned something doing it and it’s one of the few movies where people seem to think it’s close to being somewhat artistic, I guess.”
Ok, how about Crimson Tide? I mean you got to wake on the mornings of making that and look around and go “Jesus..”
“Watching Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington was pretty interesting; to be at several scenes when they’re arguing in speeches and stuff. I’d say that’s fun to watch those actors go at it like a sporting event and I had a front row seat. It was shot near where I lived at the time, so I could go on my days off up there and just hang out and watch, like a free acting class.. .you know, some of those things are one time only. It’s a good thing to watch and stick around [for] even when you’re not required, because you don’t get a lot of opportunity to see people that are that good working up close, and that was certainly true of Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington. You know Gene Hackman is someone who has been around for a long time, done all kinds of things.”
I was talking to someone recently about Hackman and we were trying to think of a really bad Gene Hackman film and we couldn’t do it.
“He’s always good it doesn’t matter what he’s in. [There are] not a lot of actors like that who, no matter what the material is, you find something.”
We interviewed Greg Widen for The Prophecy when the film came out and I wanted to talk to you a little bit about that because of your performance in it. Even though you’re playing, literally, the Devil himself it’s not big thing – you know what I mean? You’re real subdued and in a lot of it the menacing is so subtle. How did you get there? I mean I wonder how do you go about playing Satan and still make him enigmatic enough? Play him so that you don’t go for the big mug shots and the big arm gestures…
“Well, that was weird. That’s a complicated thing in a way, a kind of a puzzle. I mean, every part is a puzzle but this one was different in that [it was] not like other characters [where you] make up a past for them. I mean, literally, where they were born and what were their parents like, what kind of childhood, down to what food, what toothpaste. You can make up all, which is fun. I mean, some people you don’t need to do that, but it’s fun to do it. It’s kinda like some people, to keep from being nervous at the dentist’s office, read magazines. Until the movie is over, I just try to keep thinking of things that I can think of that are real aspects, real imagined aspects, of this character, of their prior life. How they feel right now about what’s going on. You know, it’s just fun. You know what I mean? It’s kind of like that’s the play part that I enjoy and that I know from experience helps me to do a better job, and be more relaxed.
But in this case, it’s like playing Santa Claus. I mean, I guess, in some sort of cliche way, Hell is supposed to be hot, but what else do you know? Yes, there is all this stuff in the Bible and you can read every Satanic thing in the world if you want too. It doesn’t matter. Evil as a force. It’s something you can consider and you can debate about whether you believe it really exists or not and all those things, but as a Being, with a past, and knowing how you know.
So, it was different in that way. I didn’t have that to go by, but instead of that being a problem I looked at it as being kind of interesting. So then, it limits the things that I can connect with in a real way, what is it that’s human about the way he is behaving, at least in that story. The thing that stood out to me was jealousy, that was a very human emotion. If you’re playing someone who isn’t deluded, but actually has the power to do pretty much anything they wanted, to change forms and disappear entirely, to just get inside of people’s heads and doesn’t have to be afraid of other things that we do, the usual mortal dilemmas that we have, it kinda gives you a freedom. There is no real need to yell and scream and prance around. If you are in charge, [laughs] you know you have it. You don’t have to prove it. You do have to believe that at the moment or certainly I guess in movies make it seem like you do. I mean, I think it’s a psychological switch that you have to try to flip. If you’re given a part and, on the page, it says you know you can do anything you want, you can say anything you want, you can do anything you want, you know what people are thinking, it doesn’t matter what they say or do, [laughs] you know, so you don’t really have to make a big noise about it. ”
Right and I think therein lies the menace.
“There were some silly things which I felt were interesting that were cut out of that movie for reasons of whatever, shots didn’t look right, or they wanted to speed the movie up. I think [the studio people] were afraid we were too kinda wacky. “It’s the devil, man. You can’t do stuff like that. I go, “What are you talking about? I can do anything I fuckin’ want. You know, just odd things that at the time people were laughing at. I mean, Chris Walken was pretty fuckin’ out there and very funny. [He’s] another guy who it doesn’t matter what movie he is in, he is always doing something really interesting. You put him in any situation and something interesting will happen, just by him being there. Anyway, there were some silly things that didn’t make it, but, who knows? I mean, it’s their movie and stuff, but there were certainly enough things there and, for me, it was certainly memorable to have a scene with Chris.”
I’m also curious about G.I. Jane. Did you have any idea that the film was going to be received by the public the way it was? It seemed to be both held as an example of female empowerment, but it was also vilified by certain feminists.
“I didn’t read too extensively on how it was received other than what I heard people say or questions I was asked when I did an interview, but, I think that most of the negative press about it had more to do with Demi Moore as a person or as a perceived public personality than it did with what she was actually doing in the movie or what the movie was about. That was kinda the feeling I had. I don’t know if that’s accurate or not.”
It was playing on HBO recently and for the first time, I sat down watched it. I went into it with all these reservations because of what I had read. However after sitting down and watching it, I was surprised to discover that its a good film and Ridley Scott… He’s no hack.
“There are certain big studio movie kinda things in it, but that’s the movie for whom it’s made, but never the less, it still has a lot. Obviously Ridley cut the movie and made something interesting out of it. And I thought [Demi] did a good job. I mean there are certain archetypical things about it, but I think we rounded those edges a little bit, [gave it] a little more substance than what it set out to be. Just this mean fuck and this poor woman stuck in the middle of a bunch of mean bastards. You know I think it was a little more interesting than that.”
And you’ll go down in history as the guy that Demi Moore told to suck her dick.
Ah. . .right. [laughs]
Now another film I just recently saw you in was A Perfect Murder. Those were your paintings in that film, right?
How was that? I mean, you’re working with top flight people like Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow. You get a chance to present an array of your work…
“Yeah, I’m surprised they let me do that, actually. There was just a little time before we were going to start and I just asked, “What if I did this myself? I showed them a couple of small samples and they said sure if I made this bigger and I said OK. So it was one of those things where you’re at a job interview and they say can you speak Chinese? Because if you can speak Chinese you’ve got the job. And, of course, you go, “Yeah sure. You’ll water ski or whatever. Then, you just figure you’ll figure out how to speak Chinese between now and next Wednesday. Well maybe it’s not that extreme… I like to draw and stuff but the reason they used photography in it was because that was something that I did know and I had a certain stock pile of images I could play with. That helped.
Well, I think the other thing that was interesting was that, because your work has an intensity to it, it wordlessly gave your character more of an edge. Now if you had been painting kids with big eyes or bunnies, it would have been one thing, but instead there was this dark intensity to the work and therefore the character had that element of his personality right out of the gate.
“Hmm. Yeah, that’s good. I can think of one or two [pieces] that they showed. I can’t remember which ones that you sort of see. I couldn’t be that objective about it because I had filled that whole loft area with 40 paintings or something. The ones that were featured were certain ones that seemed appropriate at the time. My interest was just to make sure they seemed like something that a fledgling artist would make. I thought it would be interesting if he had some ability here, there was something going on, rather than just some kind of generic thing anyway because I was playing a fictional artist, I thought it should be something you weren’t familiar with. They were cool about it, so it was great.”
I’m curious about one last thing… You’re working in Psycho. Now that I’m getting a lot of press. Some of it is good, some of it bad, been hearing that the tide is turning and people are starting to get behind that film.
“I’m pleasantly surprised that people seem to be more curious about that movie than pretty much anything else right now, which is unusual. November/December is when you get all these big Oscar [contenders] and people seem to be as interested in what Psycho‘s going to be as they are in any thing else. I wonder how it applies to people who haven’t seen the movie or people who are younger and used to seeing horror. A movie like Psycho, if it were made today, you know, somebody would have to get killed with a hammer.”
[laughs] Yeah they’d end up looking like… I don’t know if you’re familiar with William Lusting but he did films like Maniac in the 70’s with scalpings and shot gun blasts to the face.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. It would have to be something like that. It would have to be just a real blood fest and you know obviously Psycho isn’t that.”
It’s amazing. The Hitchcock version was playing on Starz or Encore or something and I have a thirteen year old and we sat down and watched it. He went into it not wanting to like it, but it grew on him. We recently went to go see John Carpenter’s new film Vampires and they ran an ads for the new Psycho and it was interesting to watch someone that young, having seen the original, have his interest piqued because the ads seem to be taking a different tact on it which is good, because I know Gus Van Zant was getting a lot heat early on for even wanting to do it.
“Yeah, I heard that, but then people get tired of being annoyed. I hate it. Then, it’s like, “Oh, right. Well, what is it actually? And then, they start thinking, we can’t see it yet? Well now we want to see it.”
Now, in finishing up that portion of our talk, I’m curious as to what you have coming out as far as film work goes.
“There’s a movie called The Blouse Man that I think is going to be called something else now, Over the Moon or something. It’s set in 1969 in the Catskills. It’s kind of an interesting story. Diane Lane plays the main character and she’s really, really good in it. Miramax is going to put that out. I know they are doing some re-editing or something, but I guess the whole reason Miramax bought it was because the reaction to it was really strong. So, I really don’t know what shape the movie’s in or anything other than that the people that are in the business who have had a peek at it like it. That, I think, is coming out in April. There is a movie that I made in Europe and did well at the film festival that I did in Spain that’s called My Brother’s Gun and that may or may not get here. It would be nice if it did. I guess it will probably come here on video, eventually. It’s from a first time director, a guy who is a novelist. Some guy who’s a big success over there. He travels a lot and writes a lot and has a loyal following. Somebody wanted to make a movie out of one of his books which was called Fallen from the Sky or something like that originally. He said, “Nah, those people take books and just screw them up. I’d rather not. I don’t need any reason to do that. They kept pestering him and finally said, “Well, why don’t you direct it? You love movies. You have your shelves stocked with videos. You’re a real movie buff” He said, “No.. .I wouldn’t know how to do that.” They kept saying, “Well, we’ll just help you. What do you need?” He said, “All right. Well, I want to do it with this cinematographer and blab, blab, blab. So, he ended up doing it really cheap and kind of an interesting story. No one will believe it. It’s cool.”
I want to talk to you a little bit about you, the artist. First, who are the artists who take your breath away?
“You know, I’m sort of ashamed to say it [but] I don’t really have one artist that I’m crazy about. I just came across a book a really nice book from a retrospective show of an artist named Franz Kline. You know who that is?”
“He was from that New York school in the forties and fifties. Contemporaries of his were Jackson Pollack. I kind of like his stuff, but, then again, I don’t really know enough to really.. I mean, I’m starting to learn stuff now, [but] it’s just like anything. I guess you start racing bicycles or something and then you start to be interested in who raced bicycles before and who is racing bicycles now, you know what I mean? I have always enjoyed, to a degree going into museums, but I’ve also been bored when I’ve done that. But, once in awhile, you’re walking around and suddenly “Oh wow! Look at that picture or photograph.” I have had just that undisciplined sort of scatter-shot way of doing it. [If] I’m in New York City and I have time or I’m in any major city, I’d just as soon look at some kind of local folk art kind of thing. I like finding things in second hand stores. I find the most amazing drawings and a few things like that. That people wouldn’t see otherwise. But yeah… about that folk artist book I’m looking through, I kind of felt like there wasn’t really anything in that book of his paintings that I didn’t like in some way I guess, not that my @#%$ necessarily looks like his at all, but I just thought it was pretty good. Who do you like?”
Me? Personally? Caravaggio, Munch, Klimt, that kind of stuff.
“Hmm, well you know, actually I do like Munch. He’s somebody I can say that, as far as an undisciplined way whenever I see stuff of his, I like all of it. I’ve seen stuff of his in Norway.”
I’m also a big realist fan.
“I was just in Italy and I went to the Uffizi Gallery. They have all the renaissance things. It’s incredible the way people did @#%$, although it was really all about showing the Human Being, not about flesh, all those tones. It’s a different way of looking at things.”
Right. As far as latter day stuff I’m a Frazetta fan, that kind of stuff. I grew up as a big comic book fan so I like some of that kind of stuff in there as well. That’s the kind of art that you sort of don’t proudly show.
“My son loves that… He likes drawing all the time. I need to really educate myself more. You know, it’s like movies or movie actors. There isn’t necessarily a particular person… There are certain paintings that I’ve liked or works of art that I would gravitate towards. In fact, [if I] thought about it more carefully then I [would be] more systematic [and] I’d ask myself, “Well, do I like that or that? and then I could see some sort of pattern, I suppose.”
I know you work in both photograph, and is it oils?
“Yeah, acrylics, oils. A mixed media.”
Is that because that is the only way you can achieve your desired affect? Or is it a tactile thing?
“I like to paint and I like glue. I like gel, you know? Acrylic gel. It’s fun to play with that and see what that does. I mean, some of the things are things you’re not supposed to mix; oil, acrylics, or water. I just like to get dirty and play with it and see what happens. It’s just fun. Sometimes you get something interesting by accident by coating something with some thing you haven’t tried coating with before. You just have a hunch that will do something to It will change the texture or alter it some how chemically in an interesting way and change the tone of it. I don’t know. I don’t have a reason really…”
Again, it just feels right. Yeah.
“I have boxes and boxes of these paint sticks that I like. I have a friend, whose name is Robby from Austin, Texas, and he sent me some of these paint sticks, about five or six colors and I was @#%$ around with making some little things. This was before A Perfect Murder, and I was just making little things with them; flyers, little drawings, paintings, and I really liked the texture, the way they dried really quickly and the way you can manipulate. What was interesting is that they were like eighty or ninety cents a piece as opposed to fifteen or twenty bucks, or even thirty with certain colors, when you buy those oil sticks at the art store. I mean, you could get a whole box for less than you can get one stick of another which you can get the same results with. What they are are livestock markers. They’re weather-proof markers that have similar properties. I mean, you can paint with them really well. So, someone sends you something and it works. I basically use whatever is around in the house because, all other times, I’ll think of something I want to make and it’s late at night and there’s not going to be an art store [open]. I may think of a specific thing during the day and go get it but, initially, I kind of use what’s in the house and things [that are] not conventional materials.”
Let’s see what pancake batter would look like…
“Exactly! [both laugh] Lemon juice, yeah. My house has gradually, over the past year and half, turned into this work shed almost. I have moved the furniture aside and there’s drop cloths [everywhere]. I just have boxes of these paint sticks and paint stuff so that, if I think of something, I can make it.”
You are also doing some gallery showings?
“I do have this show… It’s a really good gallery actually. I’m fortunate to have it. It’s at Track 16 in Santa Monica. I’m looking forward to it. That’ll be the 21st of November [through the 9th of January]. I wish I had another year to make @#%$ but I probably have enough stuff. There will be a lot of photographs in there and a lot of newer ones.”
How did all of that come about? Was it a result of your film work?
“Well, I had done a couple of shows of photographs before which I don’t know if you have seen them or not. But they were curious about seeing this stuff I had. They came over to the house and looked at the paintings and looked at stacks and stacks of photographs I had lying around. They liked it enough to take a chance on it. I guess.”
Do you think that since you’re an actor and, by definition you have to be empathetic, that helps you be more in tune with what it is to be human( or like in The Prophecy case, not human), do you think that quality sort of dovetails into your being in tune as an artist.
“To paint you mean? I don’t know. I’m not sure. I mean, I don’t think that it can hurt. There are people who act and it’s just more about their personality. They might not put, or need to put, that much thought into what they’re playing. I like to get to know the characters and I have never played a character, no matter how hideous his actions were, that I didn’t really like the person I was playing somehow or feel a bond with this character in a sense. I think that certainly this painting thing that I dove into a year ago now, more or less in earnest, and I’ve kept going because of not knowing what I’m doing. If I stop and think about too much, I just won’t do anything. I have to make these things and be tolerant of my own mistakes and be open to people’s criticism or whatever. Just make them and throw them out there. It’s not like I have the luxury to sort of start from zero and just jump into it without a lot of thought and that probably will be helpful in acting. [You can’t] be so hard on yourself. Just, I don’t know, just do what you can and move on.”
Do you think that art can go too far? Years ago, there was flap about Robert Mapplethorpe work and whether it was art. Do you think that art can go too far and is there some art that shouldn’t…
“No. I mean, God why? I think going too far is if you grab people off the street and force them at gun point to go into [a gallery] or a [theater] and make them look at your @#%$ or your pathetic @#%$ drawings or your photographs of children being tortured. It doesn’t matter what… It’s not even about the artist, it’s about whether someone is free to look at your @#%$ or not. I understand that people are concerned in terms of TV, because that’s something that is in your house if you choose to have it. I don’t. And then how do you monitor what your kids watch? There are commercials and shows and then, when they get to be teenagers, they start to watch @#%$ whether you like it or not when you’re not around. You know that’s kind of a tough one… I think some of it has to do with how much time you spend with your kid in the first years and how much you talk with them about that stuff. Ideally parents [wouldn’t] let their kids watch TV until they’re several years into their lives. Just try to take an active interest in what they are fucking being exposed to. As far as art of any kind, I think you can go to far only if you make people watch @#%$ [they don’t want to watch]. Some people would even say, “Well what are you talking about? It’s a performance if you create a traffic jam, take off your clothes, and force people [to watch]”. Maybe that’s a statement, I don’t know. It’s a fine line between making a statement and just being a pain in the ass.”
So, this gallery opening is going on and you’re going to have this show going through January…
“Yeah. If people express interest, we may be doing something in New York with photos, I don’t know.”
Okay. And then, for you, it’s just business as usual as far as working as an actor…
“Well, unless people buy everything at this show I don’t [know] if I can really make a living doing this, but maybe… Who knows, but I don’t anticipate that so, I’ve got to find a job pretty soon”. [laughs]
However, how many times, as an aspiring actor did you say “I don’t know if I’m ever going to make money at this…”?
“I had certain doubts about it, I suppose, when I first started out. If I’d realized it was going to take as long as it did to make a living… But that goes for life in general, I suppose. If people said, “Now look, you’re going to break your legs. You’re gonna get your heart broken. You’re going to say and do things to people that you wished you didn’t. You’re going to be mean and people are going to be mean to you. You’re going to see awful things. You’re going to be deathly ill. I mean at death.” Even the luckiest, most sheltered person in the world, if they really, consciously, had to make a decision, they would maybe not want to get involved in the first place. They’d just say, “Nah, I’ll just not go back”. [sarcastically] Like if that is possible. But, with acting, I don’t know the amount of compromise and big and small moments of embarrassment, humiliation, all that frustration, self debasing, unkind moments… I don’t know if I would have so willingly pursued it. It was just one of those things I had an interest in. I kind of started something and it got a life of it’s own. It started telling me what to do, whether [it was] a certain part or certain thing, working with a certain person would teach me something or send me sort of bouncing in another direction. And, lo’ and behold! all these years have passed and I’m still doing it. If it was only for the money, then I wouldn’t have [kept going] because there were several years that I didn’t make enough money to pay the rent or whatever.”
OK . . one last question. In twenty years, would you rather be remembered as an actor who painted or a painter who acted?
“I don’t know I.. .uh. . .I really don’t give a shit.” [Laughs]
“I’d like to know that I was honest. I was myself as far as just being an artist and being an actor or poet or photographer or painter or whatever the hell. A pebble stacker, whatever the hell you end up doing, that’s art. Being an artist is being an artist. So just be. If you only do acting, you’re still an artist. I’d just like to know that I actually challenged myself. I hope that twenty years from now I could, if I made a drawing, I could look at it and ask myself, “Am I really happy with that? Is that good enough”. I suppose Picasso at a certain point, could take a @#%$ on a napkin and probably sell it for a hundred thousand dollars. But would he feel like he made something up to his standards or what he knew at that moment was true to himself? I mean, I just hope that I can have some perspective if indeed I keep doing it.”