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Starburst Back to starburst MainPage Contents Buy this issue from UK/World site Buy this issue from USA $ site
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Feature: The Return of the King

The epic continues

Last to be cast, yet a role which has proven to be Viggo Mortensenís crowning glory. We follow his journey to The Return of the King.

Starburst: Elijah Wood told us that it was your son, Henry, who helped convince you to take the part in The Lord of the Rings when it was first offered to you on very short notice.
Viggo Mortensen: :
Yes, Henry heard me talking about it, when the phone call from Peter [Jackson] first came in. He said, ĎWhat are you talking about?í and I said, ĎItís a movie, The Lord of the Rings, they want me to go and make in New Zealandí. He said, ĎThatís a pretty interesting book, what character would you play?í and I said, ĎStriderí and he said, ĎYou should do that, heís a good characterí. So I talked about it with him, and told him Ďit would mean going away for a long timeí, but he thought I should do it.

Also, as an actor I was a little nervous, because I hadnít read the book, and I wasnít sure if I would have the time to give them good value for their money, not knowing the material at all. From what they told me the other actors had already been there for months, preparing and learning all the various skills, dialects and rehearsing. So it was good to have my sonís blessing, but at the same time, you have to decide for yourself whether it feels right or not to do it.

It felt like a challenge, that I ought to accept, that I might regret not accepting, and I might learn something, which I certainly did. Much more than I bargained for, so Iím glad that I went, and made all those friends, and saw all those beautiful landscapes, and re-explored a lot of what I was already familiar with in terms of the source material Ė particularly Nordic mythology and mediaeval literature.

Like any movie, you try to get us much out of it as you can. You draw us many parallels and find as many connections as possible. You can treat working in it like comparative mythology, or you can treat it like a job, where youíre supposed to memorize your lines, show up on time and do your thing, and walk away and not think any more about it. Either way, you can do a good job. The director takes what youíve done and uses as his raw material, along with everything else and makes his movie. But for me, I like to explore and see where it will take you, and it took all of us lots of places that we didnít expect. Mentally, emotionally and physically, too.

Of course, you are mining a very rich vein with Tolkien. Itís not a typical blockbuster movie, but more on a par with Shakespeare.
Yes, and in this genre of the heroic journey, the quest myth, whether it be of an individual, or as in this case, of a group, itís a story that has been told countless times over the millennia. The same story has been told in Asia, Japan and by Native Americans. I donít think there isnít a place in the world that doesnít understand this story. I know the movie company was initially worried that Japan didnít have a familiarity with Tolkienís books, and Japan is a very important market for movies, but I was never worried about that.

by Lawrence French

Read the full 12-page article in
Starburst #305

Photo © New Line Cinema
Feature © Visual Imagination 2003. Not for reproduction

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Starburst #305
December 2003
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