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Category: Viggo Mortensen

Golden Globes: Viggo Mortensen discusses his methods

December 15, 2011 | 11:28 am

Viggo Mortensen

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.

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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?

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'Dangerous Method': David Cronenberg on Freud, Jung and hysteria

November 22, 2011 |  3:08 pm

David Cronenberg

David Cronenberg, director of blood-soaked dramas like “A History of Violence” and cult genre pictures like “The Fly,” detours into the life of the mind with his new film, “A Dangerous Method,” opening Wednesday. Adapted from Christopher Hampton's play “The Talking Cure” and John Kerr's “A Most Dangerous Method,” the film depicts the early years of psychoanalysis on the eve of World War I, as Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) and his protégé Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) clash over the treatment of Sabina Spielrein, a beautiful young patient (Keira Knightley). The director recently sat down for an interview with 24 Frames' Rebecca Keegan to discuss his attraction to the subject matter, his theories about analysis and how he set about casting historic figures.

R.K.: Why Freud?

D.C.: Some people have said, “This is a departure for you.” My first film is a seven-minute film called “Transfer” and it was about a psychiatrist and his patient. The relationship between a psychoanalyst and a patient had not existed before Freud. It's uniquely intimate, very clinical and yet emotional. It's interesting that we can invent a new kind of human relationship that needs to be explored artistically as well as clinically.

R.K.: Have you undergone analysis yourself?

D.C.: No. I think psychoanalysis does on a personal level what an artist does in general. You're presented with an official version of reality …. And then you say, “OK, but what's really going on underneath the surface? That's not the total story.” There are hidden things, things that are misunderstood. What drives people? Why do people do what they do? When they go off the rails, it's very intriguing. When something goes wrong it's usually much more revealing than when things are going perfectly right. You don't want to see a movie about people living this great life where everything's nice. That's boring. You might want to live that, but you don't want to see it as a drama. In that sense, it's kind of a perfect subject for an artist.

R.K.: How did you and Keira Knightley discuss how to portray her character in her hysterical state?

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David Cronenberg: The detail-obsessed Viggo Mortensen

November 19, 2011 |  1:30 pm

Whether he's playing a small-town man hiding a secret past in "A History of Violence" or the Viennese psychoanalytic pioneer Sigmund Freud in the upcoming "A Dangerous Method," Viggo Mortensen seems to come alive in David Cronenberg movies. The two have what the Canadian auteur describes as "that strange old thing we call chemistry."

What is it that makes the actor so unique? Cronenberg describes Mortensen's preoccupation with detail before he even arrives on set. On "Method," for instance, Mortensen exchanged dozens of emails with Cronenberg about Freud's personal habits, including questions about the type and quality of cigars he smoked.

Check out Cronenberg describing the actor's meticulous work habits as he sized up the actor at The Times' Envelope screening series.


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-- Steven Zeitchik



Venice Film Fest: Buzz (good and bad) for Keira Knightley

September 2, 2011 |  9:23 am

Keira Knightley and Michael Fassbender in David Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method
David Cronenberg's "A Dangerous Method" premiered Friday at the Venice Film Festival, and already Keira Knightley's performance seems to be becoming a topic of buzz. Depending on whom you believe, it's either Oscar-worthy, or a bit of an embarrassment. The film centers on the friendship between Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung (played by Viggo Mortensen and Michael Fassbender, respectively) and the brilliant female patient-student, Sabina (Knightley), who came between them.

Cronenberg is known for his passion for gore, but "A Dangerous Method" seems to steer clear of that in his new film. Justin Chung, writing for Variety, praises the movie overall as "elegant" and "coolly restrained" -- but zeroes in on Knightley's performance as a possible trouble spot.

 "Rather less assured, and initially the film's most problematic element, is Knightley, whose brave but unskilled depiction of hysteria at times leaves itself open to easy laughs," he said. "The spectacle of the usually refined actress flailing about, taking on a grotesque underbite, and stammering and wailing in a Russian accent is perhaps intended to clash with her costars' impeccable restraint, but does so here in unintended ways. But as Sabina's condition improves, so does Knightley's performance." 

Xan Brooks, in a negative review for the Guardian, says that, nevertheless, "Knightley provides the Oscar bait," while David Gritten, writing for Britain's Telegraph, says Cronenberg "has coaxed a performance from Knightley so ferocious in these early scenes that it seems likely to become the film's main talking point. It’s also a risky strategy, as Sabina’s behaviour is extreme to the point of being alienating."

But the Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy has praise for "Knightley's excellent work as a character with a very long emotional arc," saying: "Screaming and alarmingly jutting out her jaw in extremis, Knightley starts at a pitch so high as to provoke fear of where she'll go from there. Fortunately, the direction is down; as her character, under Jung's fastidious care, gradually gets a grip on her issues and can assess herself with a measure of intellectual composure, the performance modulates into something fully felt and genuinely impressive." 

More reactions to come -- the film will roll out at next week's Toronto International Film Festival.


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-- Julie Makinen

Photo: Keira Knightley and Michael Fassbender in "A Dangerous Method." Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

Viggo Mortensen looks to team up with 'Drive' screenwriter for Patricia Highsmith adaptation

June 22, 2011 |  3:51 pm

EXCLUSIVE: Hossein Amini is one of the hottest screenwriters around -- his Ryan Gosling-starring "Drive" has been getting some enthusiastic notices on the festival circuit, and he's penned big upcoming releases such as "47 Ronin" with Keanu Reeves and "Snow White and the Huntsman" with Kristen Stewart. Now Amini has written a new movie, and it unites him with a well-regarded actor, Viggo Mortensen, and an equally acclaimed novelist.

Amini and Viggo Mortensen are developing an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's "The Two Faces of January," according to a person familiar with the project who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to talk about it publicly. The idea is for Amini to make his directing debut with the film  and Mortensen to star, the person said.

Highsmith's 1964 suspense novel centers on an American con artist, his wife, and a stranger they meet while traveling in Athens. After one of them kills a Greek police officer, the trio enter a high-stakes game with the authorities and one another as they attempt to cover up the crime and flee the country.

Highsmith's book has plenty in common with one of her most famous novels, "The Talented Mr. Ripley," another murderous story of Americans abroad (and whose film adaptation, of course, became a hit in 1999 for Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow). Highsmith, who died in 1995, also wrote the novel on which Alfred Hitchcock based his "Strangers on a Train."

Mortensen would star as one of the two male leads in "January," with the other two roles still being cast. The movie had initially been set up with the production company of the late Anthony Minghella (who directed "Mr. Ripley"). Financing is currently being put together for the independent production. A Mortensen spokeswoman did not immediately reply to a message seeking comment.

"January" would bring Mortensen together with Amini after the actor opted not to star in "Huntsman."  The eclectic-minded performer hasn't been on the screen in nearly two years -- he was last seen as a troubled father caring for his son in the apocalyptic "The Road" in 2009.

Mortensen's fans, though, won't have to wait for "January" to see him on screen again. He stars in David Cronenberg's upcoming biopic of Sigmund Freud and has a supporting role in Walter Salles' adaptation of "On the Road."

With Ryan Gosling's 'Drive,' a different Dane gets his moment

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Viggo Mortensen. Credit: Peter Tym/For The Times



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