Listening to Viggo Mortensen describe production on the big-screen adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Road,” you’d think he’s been through the book’s post-apocalyptic events himself.
“At the end, there was a sense of satisfaction in having gotten through it OK,” he says. “If the movie turns out well, then fine. But the actual experience was intense.”
The movie indeed turned out well, with Mortensen already garnering Oscar buzz for his portrayal of an unnamed father navigating the ravaged, cannibal-lurking highways of the U.S. after a disaster, trying to keep his young son (newcomer Kodi Smit-McPhee) safe. But it was a role the actor wasn’t originally interested in taking on. “I was reluctant,” he admits. “I initially said, ‘I don’t think so.’ I said to my agent, ‘I can’t. I’m really worn out. I won’t be focused.’ And then I looked at the story and I thought, ‘Well, being worn out? That works.’”
Once he’d signed on, Mortensen threw himself into his usual process for preparing for a role. “I tried to do things that I thought would be helpful, like listening to certain kinds of music, watching certain kinds of movies to get me in a certain state where I could go to those places that the character demanded emotionally,” he says.
But the usual techniques didn’t work for this project. “It was very different than any other role. ... It’s about being naked emotionally and just being honest about it,” he says.