Viggo Mortensen was the last of the leading actors to join the cast of The Lord of the Rings, but today it is difficult to separate them. While he is not reluctant and doesn’t know any tracking techniques like Aragorn, the star is always involved in politics and in the struggle for citizen’s basic rights. Kind and drinking mate during the three interviews he gave to SET, Aragorn shows that he is ready to ascend the throne of Gondor… and Viggo the throne of the president of the United States.
As Mel Brooks says in History of the World… is it good being the king?
It is good being able to help, but it must not be oppressing. Aragorn cannot just help somebody and go “ok, now I’m gonna change my name and have a cup of coffee”. He has to stay there and remain underneath the scrutiny of the people. That is not easy.
You were born in the United States, spent some time in Denmark, Argentina and Venezuela. Are there differences in your interviews when there is a group of American journalists?
No, not at all. I know that there are differences in the perception of certain issues, but I always try to answer the same thing. I don’t know if that is a smart thing to do or not, but I don’t change it. What happens is that, when I meet journalists from Spain or Latin America I speak Spanish. If they are from Scandinavia, I try to do likewise.
What can we expect from The Return of the King?
I hope inspiration. I certainly felt that throughout the process. I think there is a lot of focus on the special effects as the central characteristic, but that’s not it. It is a story about something simple, but difficult to find: compassion. Pity is what Frodo feels for Gollum, Aragorn has compassion for all of the races, a trait that doesn’t only make a great leader, but a good human being. The problem is that nowadays a lot of people think: “What is the point in participating in this process?”. You vote for somebody, he wins, and the other candidate cheats to win the election. But if you don’t do anything, you are giving up. Merely by treating the people around you with respect and compassion you are already doing a big step. Sauron or the American government, or the English government, or the Danish government, it doesn’t matter, they want you to feel as if you could not control anything. The film’s message is that a small person can change everything. That’s why people like it, it isn’t merely another special effects extravagance. It’s emotional, it has a sense of community and the way it was made shines through on the screen. Even if in twenty years the special effects will seem out-dated, people will still feel that there is a certain integrity and dedication in the story.
Do you think that stars have more responsibility than other people because they are public figures?
I don’t believe that famous people have a higher responsibility that anybody else inside or outside the government. We live in times with serious problems, as a nation and as a society. We are losing our way, our integrity, our compassion. The fact that the government/media try to discredit actors and public figures involved in entertainment is an ancient technique, that basically means: “You are not part of the government, so shut up. Only who is part of the government has the right to speak”. If there is anything in this country that still has left a vestige of respect, apart from pop culture, it’s the principle of a nation governed by the people for the people. It is not our right, but our obligation to speak. The American flag is turning into a symbol of intimidation, something that the government calls a “Patriot Act.” for me, all of that is the Ring of Sauron, shackles for controlling people and their behaviour.
Will you back one of the candidates for the American presidency in the upcoming year?
Definitely. I haven’t chosen which one yet. Be it a Democrat, a Republican, somebody of the Green Party, or a Communist, my priority number one is to get rid of George Bush, because he is a dangerous fool. The interests behind him are dangerous, not only for America, but for the whole world.
Changing the subject, will The Return of the King be the biggest film of the trilogy?
I have seen the twenty minutes with the other actors, here in New York, and we were pretty excited. When we came out, we started talking to find out what each of them had done to bring the pieces together. We wanted to see the film that very moment. This has nothing to do with marketing, it is because we knew how much we invested in it.
All the other actors have said that the leave-taking was very painful.
We knew that at the end of filming we would have to part, but still it came as a shock. This was another chance for saying good-bye to everybody. The film was a learning experience for many of the actors. On my last day, they gave me the sword and the clapper board. But I never had any problems freeing myself from a character. It wasn’t different this time.
Hugo Weaving is one of the leading actors in Matrix, playing Agent Smith. Did you play around a lot with that?
(laughs) He did something very funny with me. He and Peter prepared a prank in the scene where Elrond is going to give the reforged sword to Aragorn and I’m kind of like: “Oh my God, it got fixed.” Hugo is sitting with a hood covering his face, so nobody will see who the character is. I approach and he, with the sword in his hand, pulls down the hood and says: “Mr. Anderson. What do you think of doing with this sword?” (laughs). With sunglasses and everything. I was unable to do anything after that.
We will have to see that on the DVD. Do you think that there will be an extended edition of The Return of the King?
I don’t know. I don’t know how much is left of the film. I believe it won’t be like the other films, so different from the original. I prefer the extended versions, I think they have a better flow and more information. In the third film, Denethor appears for the first time, but you can see him in a magnificent scene in the DVD version of The Two Towers, with Faramir and Boromir. This version shows why Boromir acts like that. In the third film, Denethor already has gone insane because of his son’s death, but in The Two Towers he appears as a villain instead of a madman who does not care for his own family. He thinks that he’s a great man, but he doesn’t even know how to treat his son properly.
When I spoke to Bernard Hill, he told me that he was shocked, in spite of himself, that in The Two Towers there is a suicide terrorist that would be the Uruk-Hai, who leaps with the torch to light a bomb that destroys the wall of Helm’s Deep. And, coincidentally, the film came out in a period where there was increased activity by terrorists.
This is really an interesting idea. But the conception of the despised is different. The few hundred people in Helm’s Deep have precarious weapons and expect an enemy a thousand times more numerous who attacks at night with superior technology. Whom do you think are the Afghans and the Iraqis? The weak of Helm’s Deep or the thousands of Orcs? They are attacked by people who want to destroy their culture and take control of their country. I believe it’s a story about individuals who are looking for light in the darkness, who get up every morning wishing to do what they can, even knowing it is impossible. The Ring is not bad. It only gives the power to do the wrong thing. And the most evil thing that can happen, at least to Tolkien’s mind, is controlling the will of other peoples. For me this is what Sauron is doing and it’s what the United States are doing.