Golden Globes: Viggo Mortensen discusses his methods
To get inside the mind of the famed psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud for "A Dangerous Method," Viggo Mortensen did extensive research and mulled the details with director David Cronenberg. The effort has paid off with a Golden Globe nomination for supporting actor. Mortensen spoke by phone to 24 Frames' Elena Howe about how he found out, how he feels and what else he's up to.
E.H.: How did you find out about your nomination?
V.M.: I’m in Madrid. It’s nine hours later, but they don’t show that here anyway. I was headed to work — I’m doing a play — and a friend called and told me. I’m very grateful, but I would have been even happier if [director] David [Cronenberg] had been included. I owe it to him. He made a risky decision to cast me as Freud, and I’m glad to see his hunch paid off. I’m proud to represent “A Dangerous Method” at the Globes.
E.H.: What is the play you’re doing?
V.M.: Ariel Dorfman, who wrote that play “Death and the Maiden,” he wrote one called “Purgatorio,” which is what I’m doing. It’s heavy on dialogue, like Freud, so I got that back to back. I haven’t been in a play for over 20 years, and there’s lots of dialogue. At first I regretted [signing on for it]. But it’s going well now.
E.H.: How did you prepare to play Sigmund Freud?
V.M.: I had real concerns that it wasn’t a good fit for me. I did it because it was David. Had another director proposed this, I wouldn’t have. But once I got my mind around how to present him — he had a good sense of humor and a sense of irony, which I could relate to — and I actually enjoyed having a lot of dialogue, and now doing the play, it’s like out of the frying pan and into the fire.
I always do a lot of research. I read everything I could that Freud had written and what his contemporaries had written and just informed myself about the period and Western Europe of the time.
E.H.: You’ve worked with David Cronenberg three times now. How did this production go?
V.M.: David is like-minded, so we share hundreds and hundreds of emails — we talk about Freud’s cigars, his influences, how we were going to transform me, anything to do with it, even peripherally. We do that with all of the movies we’ve done. The more we work, the more in tune we are. He’s a great artist, but I like him as a man as well, which unfortunately isn’t all that common [in this business]. He’ll listen to anybody — me, the crew. He’s just trying to make the best film possible.
E.H.: Do you have plans for another project together?
V.M.: We’re talking about a sequel to “Eastern Promises,” and a couple of other things are possible. It depends on what he gets the money for first.
E.H.: Was it hard to shake off Freud when filming was completed?
V.M.: I never have any desire to. I never think in terms of shaking anything off. We all lose our memories anyway, so I’m happy to remember what I’ve learned from playing him. I learn something from every character I play, and I like to keep that. I had fun playing Freud, so I’m not in any hurry to shake it off.
Photo: Director David Cronenberg, left, and actor Viggo Mortensen on the set of “A Dangerous Method.” Credit: Liam Daniel / Sony Pictures Classics.