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Viggo Mortensen

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Also Known As: Viggo Peter Mortensen Jr. Died:
Born: October 20, 1958 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: New York City, New York, USA Profession: actor, photographer, composer, poet, artist, popcorn vendor

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Getting his start in forgettable grade-B movies and so-called "other man" roles, actor Viggo Mortensen made a slow, steady climb up the ranks to become one of Hollywood's most reliable and in-demand talents. Though he had little trouble finding work, Mortensen spent a good deal of time looking for that one breakthrough that would catapult his career. That springboard came with a leading role in the epic "Lord of the Rings" trilogy (2001-03), in which he played a heroic, but displaced king in a fictional land beset by evil. Because of his being a central character in one of the biggest, most beloved trilogies in cinema history, Mortensen had a wealth of opportunities open up to him, including the critically acclaimed and award-nominated "History of Violence" (2005). Exceedingly humble about success and uncharacteristically un-Hollywood, Mortensen managed to stay somewhat reclusive and focused on other interests outside of acting, namely painting and writing poetry, despite becoming one of the most recognizable stars in the world.Born on Oct. 20, 1958 to a Danish father and American mother, Mortensen was raised in both Manhattan and South America, where he learned to speak fluent Spanish and Danish as...

Getting his start in forgettable grade-B movies and so-called "other man" roles, actor Viggo Mortensen made a slow, steady climb up the ranks to become one of Hollywood's most reliable and in-demand talents. Though he had little trouble finding work, Mortensen spent a good deal of time looking for that one breakthrough that would catapult his career. That springboard came with a leading role in the epic "Lord of the Rings" trilogy (2001-03), in which he played a heroic, but displaced king in a fictional land beset by evil. Because of his being a central character in one of the biggest, most beloved trilogies in cinema history, Mortensen had a wealth of opportunities open up to him, including the critically acclaimed and award-nominated "History of Violence" (2005). Exceedingly humble about success and uncharacteristically un-Hollywood, Mortensen managed to stay somewhat reclusive and focused on other interests outside of acting, namely painting and writing poetry, despite becoming one of the most recognizable stars in the world.

Born on Oct. 20, 1958 to a Danish father and American mother, Mortensen was raised in both Manhattan and South America, where he learned to speak fluent Spanish and Danish as well as English. The multi-talented Mortensen trained for two years as an actor at Warren Robertson's Theatre Workshop in New York. Soon after moving to Los Angeles, he landed the role of the captain in a stage production of "Bent," then had a small role as an anonymous lieutenant in the CBS miniseries "George Washington" (1984). Although the actor had been cast in small roles in both "Swing Shift" (1984) and "The Purple Rose of Cairo" (1985), both performances wound up on the cutting room floor. Mortensen finally made his feature acting debut as an Amish farmer and younger brother to Alexander Godunov in "Witness" (1985), a role for which he was so well-cast that some failed to realize he was acting. Mortensen delivered a strong turn as a rebellious inmate in Renny Harlin's "Prison" (1988), then was effective as a returning soldier in "The Reflecting Skin" (1991).

Making his way up the Hollywood food chain, Mortensen was cast by Sean Penn as a veteran with a violent streak in "The Indian Runner" (1991), while Brian De Palma gave him the part of a wheelchair-bound snitch in "Carlito's Way" (1993). Mortensen also worked in less remarkable genre fare like "Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III" (1990) and "American Yakuza" (1995) before director Tony Scott came to the rescue, hiring him to play a concerned, but conflicted weapons officer in "Crimson Tide" (1995). After a turn as the Devil who battles Christopher Walken's angel Gabriel in "The Prophecy" (1995), the actor began to be considered for meatier roles. He displayed a sexy charm as one of Nicole Kidman's loyal suitors in "The Portrait of a Lady" (1996) and received respectful notices as one of the hostages in "Albino Alligator" (1997). With his breakout performance as the poetry-quoting but brutal taskmaster training recruits in "G.I. Jane" (1997), Mortensen finally began to gain audience recognition and many critics felt he stole the film from his better-known co-star Demi Moore. Gaining a reputation for his intense, magnetic portrayals, the actor was cast as the artist-lover of Gwyneth Paltrow in "A Perfect Murder" (1998), for which he lent his own paintings, before tackling the role of Sam Loomis, Marion Crane's boyfriend, in Gus Van Sant's ill-advised shot-by-shot remake of "Psycho" (1998).

In a turn in the 1969-set drama "A Walk on the Moon" (1999), Mortensen was again cast as the "other man," this time playing a hippie traveling salesman who brings excitement into the life of a frustrated housewife (Diane Lane) - a role that would leave audiences and Hollywood execs buzzing about his potential as the next big thing. The following year he came between Sandra Bullock's recovering alcoholic and her partying boyfriend Jasper (Dominic West) as a star baseball pitcher in rehab for his substance abusing, womanizing ways in "28 Days." Although this spate of films put him at risk for being typecast as a shameless homewrecker, Mortensen managed to forever remove that stigma with his next series of projects. He was tagged to co-star in Peter Jackson's long-awaited film adaptation of "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, playing the heroic Aragorn. Mortensen's dashing good looks and commanding presence would serve him well in this leadership role, and helped bring in some moviegoers - including a considerable female fan base - who may have otherwise passed on the film. With the hype surrounding the initial 2001 release "The Fellowship of the Ring," followed by 2002's "The Two Towers" and 2003's "The Return of the King," Mortensen was established as a major leading man among Hollywood's A-list ranks.

The actor put his star status to the test immediately after the trilogy as the main attraction of the old fashioned but entertaining "Hidalgo" (2004), the true story of real-life horseman Frank T. Hopkins, who participates in a 3,000-mile Arabian race on the titular mustang. Mortensen then delivered his most compelling and carefully drawn performance to date when he starred in director David Cronenberg's tautly crafted drama "A History of Violence" (2005), playing a loving, rock-solid small town husband and father who gains notoriety after skillfully foiling a robbery attempt in his diner, only to draw the attention of some shadowy figures who claim to recognize him from his heretofore unknown violent history. The actor's sensitive and convincing portrayal of a man haunted by his secret past marked this as one of the early contenders in that year's awards derby.

Mortensen flew under the radar with his next project, "Alatriste" (2006), a swashbuckling adventure that saw him play a Spanish soldier-turned-mercenary who becomes a hero during the country's 17th century imperial wars. Back in the modern world, he portrayed a slick Russian mobster who gets caught between helping a midwife (Naomi Watts) trying to find a prostitute's killer and the crime family he serves in David Cronenberg's thriller, "Eastern Promises" (2007). Mortensen's strong performance was widely hailed and earned the actor several award nominations, including nods at the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Awards. He soon followed with a nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role at the 80th Annual Academy Awards.

Mortensen's solid run of high profile, acclaimed work was interrupted with the below-the-radar Western "Appaloosa" (2008), co-starring Ed Harris, and the limited release "Good" (2008), in which he starred as a 1930s literature professor in Germany who struggles with deciding whether to join the growing ranks of the Nazi party. In 2009, the actor won over critics with his leading role in the Cormac McCarthy adaptation of "The Road" (2009), a post-apocalyptic tale of a father (Mortensen) and son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) exploring a vast wasteland in search of fellow survivors. The bleak indie did not bring in big box office numbers, but earned a Golden Lion Award nomination at the Venice Film Festival, while Mortensen was nominated for half a dozen critics' society awards. Once again, Mortensen delivered a bravura performance when he immersed himself in the role of the father of modern psychiatry, Sigmund Freud, in Cronenberg's "A Dangerous Method" (2011). The historical drama, about the fragile relationships between Freud and his protégée Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) and a troubled young woman, Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley), garnered scores of critical accolades, including a Golden Globe nomination for Mortensen's supporting role.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Jauja (2014)
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
 Road, The (2009)
7.
 Appaloosa (2008)
8.
 Good (2008)
9.
 Eastern Promises (2007)
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Lived in South America from age two to age ten
1969:
Relocated from Argentina to Denmark
:
Began acting career in NYC
:
Moved to Los Angeles after studying at Warren Robertson's Theatre Workshop
1984:
Played first major TV role in the CBS historical miniseries, "George Washington" (CBS)
1984:
Had roles in "Swing Shift" (1984) and "The Purple Rose of Cairo" (1985); both cut before release of film
1985:
Acted in the ABC Afterschool Special "High School Narc"
1985:
Feature acting debut, "Witness" playing the brother of Alexander Godunov
1987:
Acted in the quirky, progressive music-infused comedy "Salvation!"; met future wife, X singer Exene Cervenka
1988:
First leading role in a feature, Renny Harlin's suspenseful "Prison"
1988:
Appeared in "Let's Get Lost" the documentary biopic of jazz musician Chet Baker
1988:
Landed a supporting role in the romantic drama "Fresh Horses"
1990:
Featured in the unimpressive horror sequel "Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III" and the slightly better faring Western sequel "Young Guns II"
1991:
Delivered impressive starring performance in "The Reflecting Skin"
1991:
Portrayed David Morse's violent tempered brother with a remarkable turn in Sean Penn's powerful directorial debut "The Indian Runner"
1993:
Cast as a wheelchair-bound snitch in "Carlito's Way"
1994:
Made a cameo with former wife Exene Cervenka as a homeless couple in the quirky comedy "Floundering"
1994:
Starred in the darkly comic thriller "The Crew"
1995:
Played an FBI agent sent to infiltrate the Japanese crime organization Yakuza in the independent actioner "American Yakuza"
1995:
Appeared as the weapons officer in Tony Scott's suspense thriller "Crimson Tide"
1995:
Played Lucifer in Gregory Widen's eerie supernatural feature "The Prophecy"
1996:
Appeared in the Sylvester Stallone action vehicle "Daylight"
1996:
Appeared as one of the suitors of Isabel Archer in "Portrait of the Lady"
1997:
Delivered strong performance opposite Demi Moore in Ridley Scott's "G.I. Jane"
1997:
Starred in the Fox TV-movie remake of the 1970 action-thriller "Vanishing Point"
1998:
With Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow, formed the third leg of the triangular romance in "A Perfect Murder"; also provided the original art used in the film
1998:
Co-starred as Sam Loomis, Marion Crane's boyfriend, in Gus Van Sant's remake of "Psycho"
1999:
Played a charming traveling salesman who seduces a frustrated housewife on vacation in the Catskills in Tony Goldwyn's directorial debut "A Walk on the Moon"
2000:
Starred opposite Sandra Bullock as a star baseball pitcher in recovery in the rehab-set comedy-drama "28 Days"
2001:
Played the dashing and heroic Aragorn in Peter Jackson's adaptation of the J.R.R. Tolkein classic "Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring"
2002:
Reprised role of Aragorn in "Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers"
2003:
Again starred as Aragorn in the third and final installment "Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King"
2004:
Starred as Frank T. Hopkins, one of the greatest long-distance endurance horse riders, in "Hidalgo"
2004:
Cast as frontiersman Jim Bowie in the historical drama "The Alamo"
2005:
Plays a nice family man in a small town who gets in touch with a not-so-nice side of himself in David Cronenberg's "The History of Violence"
2006:
Starred as Captain Diego Alatriste in "Alatriste," a Spanish film based on the series of novels written by Arturo Perez-Reverte
2007:
Re-teamed with "A History of Violence" director David Cronenberg for the Russian mob-themed "Eastern Promises"; earned Golden Globe, SAG and Oscar nominations for Best Actor
2008:
Co-starred with Ed Harris in the Western "Appaloosa"; also directed and co-scripted by Harris
2008:
Portrayed a German literary professor in the 1930s, who is enlisted in the Nazi party in "Good"
2009:
Cast as the Man in the feature adaptation of Joe Penhall's novel "The Road"
2011:
Cast as Sigmund Freud opposite Keira Knightley and Michael Fassbender in David Cronenberg's "A Dangerous Method"
2012:
Portrayed Beat Generation writer William S. Burroughs in feature adaptation of "On the Road" by Jack Kerouac
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Watertown High School: Watertown , Connecticut -
St. Lawrence University: Canton , New York -
Warren Robertson's Theatre Workshop: New York , New York -

Notes

His first name is pronounce VEE-go

"I don't want to use any corny words, but you commit yourself to really being there, and you have a lot of fresh, eccentric ideas." --Patricia Arquette, Mortensen's co-star in "The Indian Runner", interviewing him for an article in Interview, June 1995

"I'm a control freak about wanting my character to be faithful to where I think they're coming from. But I don't think that I try to control anyone I'm working with." --Viggo Mortensen to Patricia Arquette in Interview, June 1995

"When I started out I couldn't try out for anyone even remotely shady because I looked sort of boyish. But once I did [a villain] reasonably well . . . good luck getting the part of the nice small-town druggist." --Viggo Mortensen to People, June 22, 1998

Mortensen on filmed love scenes: "It's always strange when you're lying there in bed naked with someone you don't know very well. In my opinion, actors who say that is an unpleasant thing are all full of s***." --quoted in Chicago Sun-Times, May 31, 1998

"He's very intense. He's a real true artist. By that, I mean he lives to create his art and be possessed by it." --Gwyneth Paltrow to Chicago Sun-Times, May 31, 1998

Mortensen on the culture shock of returning to the United States after living for years in South America: "I was 11 when we moved back to the States. I couldn't believe the swear words, the slang, the music--all the kids were into Blue Oyster Cult and Grand Funk Railroad. I was a closet Carpenters fan. I'd sing "Top of the World" to myself on the way to school, but when I got close to campus I'd shut up." --quoted to Movieline, August 1998

"Acting is as much an art form as painting, music or writing. You can't do and see everything, but you can try to observe what you do see. If your eyes see it, it's in you --one way or another. For some people, it comes out in how they interact with other people or deal with their job or drive their car. It doesn't always have top be a movie or a poem, painting or a photograph." --quoted to Los Angeles, December 1998

"I've been told I've 'arrived' so many times, I don't know where I ever went." --Mortensen to USA Today, April 21, 1999

"There is something beautiful and quiet about Viggo, but the more I got to know him, the more I realized how insanely brilliant and crazy he is...how he has this insane wild side."---Elijah Wood on his co-star in "Lord of the Rings"Vanity Fair January 2004

"I'm the one who's said yes to these movies, and now I'm having to pay the price for it. I mean, if I had my druthers, I wouldn't do any movies anymore, frankly."---Viggo talking about his frustration with his busy schedule GQ April 2004

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Exene Cervenka. Singer. Member of the punk band X; met while making the film "Salvation!"; married 1987; divorced 1997.
companion:
Josie D'Arby. Actress. Reportedly dating as of December 2003; joined Mortensen at the premiere of "Lord of the Rings: Return of the King".
companion:
Lola Schnabel. Actress. Daughter of painter-filmmaker Julian Schnabel; dated in 2001-2002.

Family close complete family listing

son:
Henry Mortensen. Born c. 1988; mother, Exene Cervenka.
brother:
Walter Mortensen. Younger.
brother:
Charles Mortensen. Younger.
father:
Viggo Mortensen, Sr.. Farmer. Born in Denmark; divorced Viggo Mortensen's mother in 1969.
mother:
Grace Mortensen. Divorced Viggo Mortensen's father in 1969.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"Ten Last Night"

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