In critically acclaimed “A Dangerous Method,” Viggo Mortensen plays the creator of psychotherapy—Sigmund Freud. The multitalented 53-year-old star tells us that he’s been in therapy himself. “I felt I needed to speak to someone who was objective,” he says.
How did you prepare for the role?
Well, I was probably an unusual choice for most people. I even thought so myself when David (Cronenberg) proposed it. Just because, physically, in was a bit of a stretch. But once I figured out how to do it and got comfortable with it, not just the physical side but also the way he spoke and his sense of humour, I could put some irony in his tone. I read everything I could get my hands on about how he moved and spoke. Then the cliché image of him that I had of an old, thin man with white hair went out the window. In his 50’s, before he had cancer, he was robust and had a great appetite for life. He avoided on purpose talking over people’s heads, and was very entertaining and generous and included his listeners, even when introducing a new revolutionary idea. He wasn’t just polite but also very clever.
Have you been to therapy yourself?
Yeah, about 20 years ago I went for a short time. I felt I needed to speak to someone who was objective, who had no emotional interest or investment in my situation. Sometimes you can just talk to a close friend in confidence, but at that point, and I still think now, that a sort of confession without any judgment that’s a great idea, especially with someone who can help you understand the connections of what you are saying. It helped me.
What was it like working with Michael Fassbender and Keira Knightley?
It was very good. I didn’t know either one of them before. I have always liked Keira Knightley as and actress and I’ve never understood why some critics, especially in England, are always attacking her, because I think she’s a really good actress. She took some risks and studied very well and prepared and did an excellent job. I think her performance will be remembered for a very long time. Michael Fassbender did a very good job as Jung and he has a great sense of humour. We had a good time on the set. Both of them are football fans just like me so we enjoyed watching the World Cup whenever we had free time. We made bets when England, Germany, Argentina and Denmark played. Michael was cheering for his father’s Germany and I lost some bets on the Argentina – Germany game and they made a lot of fun of me.
There’s a lot of Oscar-buzz about the movie…
My experience is that you never know. More than half the nominations are usually questionable, it doesn’t make sense why certain performances are excluded. I’ve had the good fortune to be nominated once, and was pleasantly surprised, but I’ve done other performances that I thought where as good or better than that. But why hasn’t David Cronenberg has never been nominated for best director is beyond me—to me he is one of a small handful of consistently great directors internationally. And there are a few people who have been nominated who are clearly mediocre. But what can you do. It is just kind of a strange lottery, or a popularity contest.