Every journalist’s dream is to get an interview with the Devil. Yesterday I had the chance to meet Lucifer, even if he was a fictional version. There were no black suits, evil horns, spiky tail or charred smells. Modernly dressed in an olive suit, lost in the sofa’s depths, there he was. He stood up slowly when he saw me. “Mortensen, Viggo Mortensen,” he said to me while firmly extending his hand.
The Devil is named Viggo Mortensen, he was born in New York and is of Danish descent. He isn’t just any Lucifer, he’s The Prophecy’s particular demon, a recently premiered movie that tells of the difficulties of a heavenly war being fought on Earth. A group of angels, led by the archangel Gabriel, played by Christopher Walken, have rebelled against the supreme power, possessed by an unstoppable jealousy of the human race. Humans have been enjoying a growing amount of attention by “those upstairs” for quite a while. Considering this state of affairs, the presence of a representative from Hell was inevitable. Lucifer comes into action to turn the outcome of this battle in his favor. If humans confront the rebellious angels, they won’t be able to create a second Hell, which would evidently rob Satan of his clients.
Surrounded by a dry atmosphere that won’t allow the least funny comment, we start the conversation. The first thing that surprises me is the perfect Spanish spoken by Viggo Mortensen. “I lived about ten years in Argentina,” he tells me while smiling contentedly, aware of how surprised I am. Viggo is a curious character, his gestures are slow and you get the impression that he has difficulty breathing. His tone of voice is inaudible, as if he were afraid that part of himself would escape when speaking. It’s evident that Lucifer is a bad guy, but he’s not the only one. “We are all a little bit evil,” says Viggo, “but at the same time, everybody is convinced that they are good and aren’t aware of the small residue of evil that they hide.” Not bad, coming from Lucifer himself. “I won’t defend him,” the actor says, referring to the Devil. “I believe in good as well as in evil.”
His participation in this movie was agreed at a moment’s notice. It went all so quickly that he read the script while flying out to Arizona, where the scenes in which Mortensen appears were shot. “I accepted, in part because I had always wanted to work with Christopher Walken,” the actor says while sitting on the sofa’s edge. His face lights up when saying Walken’s name. It’s evident that Christopher Walken is a cult actor for many young actors nowadays. “I would do any movie with him, no matter what [it was].”
Researching and searching the roots of a character is a natural process with actors. “I want to know where he’s coming from, where he was born, if he has a family,” Viggo states after swallowing half a glass of water in one go. The character that concerns us today, Lucifer, the epitome of evil and lord and master of Hell, doesn’t have a definite profile. Even if throughout history there have been many propositions as to how the Devil ought to be physically, none of them have really hit the mark. “That’s why I played the Devil the way I wanted,” says Viggo Mortensen, showing an ear-to-ear smile. “Nobody knows Lucifer, so I played him my way, according to my vision.”
While the conversation moves along, I get the impression that the air also moves more quickly. Viggo is more at ease. His movements speed up and his voice raises up a notch, eliminating the mystery aura that was about him during the first stages of the interview. “What attracted me most about this character is that he has no doubts. He has a definite reason for everything,” he asserts. “The Devil can do whatever he wants, he can come in any shape he wants,” Viggo sighs. “He doesn’t necessarily have to appear under a monstrous form or long fingernails and other things.” The Devil often has to take care of his appearance because of his tendency to seduce humans. “He has to be someone you can identify with,” says the actor with the Scandinavian name, the American nationality and the fluent Spanish.
In the movie, the celestial characters, good or evil, crouch at the slightest opportunity. “Yes, it was a very strange thing. Gregory Widen, the director, suggested this stance maybe to relate to birds of prey. Always lurking, waiting to get into action.”
There are many actors and actresses who never check their work, they prefer not to see themselves on screen. “I do, well… not the first movies I made, but now, when I start each job, I like to take a look at the material that has been shot to learn how the director works and how I move in relation to the other actors.” Aside from playing Lucifer, Viggo Mortensen has been inside the skin of countless characters, from ruthless executives to FBI agents. After stopping in Spain to shoot Gimlet with Angela Molina, he was also under the direction of fellow actor Kevin Spacey, whom we saw in The Usual Suspects, to work on Albino Alligator. He’ll barely have time to take a break before flying to Rome to face Sylvester Stallone in Daylight. “If you work in a Stallone movie, you know that you will never be right. And you’ll be lucky to be alive after 120 minutes,” the actor says, widening his eyes searching my complicity. At the same time that he’ll be arguing with Sly, he will also take part in Portrait of a Lady, director Jane Campion’s new movie, (she also made The Piano), with Nicole Kidman. This is all coming out of Lucifer’s skin. “Obstacles are an actor’s best training. The more difficulties you have, the more resources you will have later to face new acting challenges,” Viggo states without pausing once. “Besides, since I’m bored with always being myself, it does me good to be distracted with so many problems and different roles.”
It’s customary to finish with an epilogue that recaps everything. Considering this, I have no choice but to ask Viggo to describe himself as an actor. Just one sentence, at the most, that encompasses his personality and his attitude. He reflects for a few minutes. “One sentence?” he says, scratching his chin. “I’m a cat who blunders.” [Note: could also be taken to mean: “I’m a cat making a fool of himself.”]