"I really believe that 98% of creation is accident, one percent is intellect and one percent is logic. You have to make the accidents work for you." Viggo Mortensen
Entering the movie scene in the mid-1980s, Viggo Mortensen attracted filmgoers’ attention while portraying the title role, opposite Diane Lane, in Tony Goldwyn's directorial debut, The Blouse Man (1999, also known as A Walk on the Moon). He became a household name, thanks to the portrayal of the dashing and heroic Aragorn, in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings film trilogy: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Two Towers (2002) and The Return of the King (2003). He had appeared in such films as American Yakuza (1993), The Crew (1994), The Prophecy (1995), G.I. Jane (1997), A Perfect Murder (1998) and Psycho (1998). He will play the titular character in the upcoming film Alatriste.
5' 11" tall, brown-haired, green/blue-eyed Mortensen is also an accomplished poet, photographer, painter, horseman and jazz musician. He was one of VH1's “Hottest Hotties,” Tropopkin's “Top 25 Most Intriguing People” (Issue #100) and People Magazine’s “The 50 Most Beautiful People” (2002). The ex-husband of actress and singer Christine "Exene" Cervenka, of the punk band X, was also linked to Lola Schnabel (born in 1980; broke up in 2003), daughter of painter and film director Julian Schnabel, and once dated actress Josie D'Arby of the cop drama Merseybeat.
Childhood and Family:
"My idea of a great day is to stay home and do whatever the hell I want." Viggo Mortensen
In Manhattan, New York, Viggo Peter Mortensen, nicknamed Vig, was born on October 20, 1958, to a Danish father (Viggo) and a half Norwegian American mother (Grace). In his childhood, Viggo moved with his parents to Venezuela, Argentina and Denmark, where they ran chicken farms and ranches. Viggo has two younger brothers, Charles and Walter, both of which are geologists. His parents divorced when Viggo was 11 years old and Viggo and his brothers followed their mother back to New York.
7-year-old Viggo attended a strict boarding school in Argentina and then the Watertown High School in New York. After finishing high school in 1976, he enrolled at the St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, and graduated in 1980 with a degree in Government and Spanish. He also joined Warren Robertson's Theater Workshop in New York for two years.
While filming Salvation (1987), Viggo met actress Christine "Exene" Cervenka (also singer; member of the punk band X; born on February 1, 1956). They got married and have one son, Henry Mortensen (born on January 28, 1988). Mortensen and Cervenka separated in 1992 and finalized their divorce in 1998.
Adding to his acting career, Mortensen is also a published poet, photographer, painter and jazz musician (he has released three CDs so far). Fluent in English, Spanish and Danish (but he also speaks Swedish and Norwegian reasonably well), Mortensen owns a publishing company called Perceval Press. As for sports, Mortensen is an accomplished horseman and is a New York Mets and Montreal Canadians fan.
The Blouse Man
"It was always between me and the other guy, and the other guy always got the role." Viggo Mortensen
In the Big Apple, Viggo Mortensen found a job as a waiter and bartender while taking acting lessons at Warren Robertson's Theater Workshop. He then packed for Los Angeles, where he won a Drama-Logue award for his performance at the Coast Playhouse in the play “Bent.”
Mortensen subsequently appeared on TV in the CBS historical miniseries "George Washington" (1984, alongside Barry Bostwick), and had his scene deleted in the films Swing Shift (1984) and The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985). However, Mortensen rebounded with a role in Peter Weir's Witness (1985, starring Harrison Ford), playing the brother of Alexander Godunov's character, young Amish Farmer Moses Hochleitner. He also played a reoccurring role in the long-running drama series "Search for Tomorrow."
Two years later, Mortensen was cast to act opposite Stephen McHattie and future wife Exene Cervenka in the quirky, progressive, music-infused comedy Salvation. The next year, he won his first leading role in Renny Harlin's suspense/horror Prison (alongside Lane Smith), and had a supporting role in David Anspaugh's romantic drama Fresh Horses (starring Molly Ringwald and Andrew McCarthy). He also guest starred in an episode of the series "Miami Vice" in a March 1987 episode.
After appearing in Tripwire and the TV movie Once In a Blue Moon, Mortensen was featured in Jeff Burr's horror sequel Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III and Geoff Murphy's Western sequel Young Guns II (starring Emilio Estevez and Kiefer Sutherland, all in 1990). He delivered good performances as Cameron Dove in writer-director Philip Ridley's The Reflecting Skin (1990) and as the hell-raiser brother of David Morse's character in Sean Penn's powerful directorial debut The Indian Runner (1991).
More significant roles rolled in. Viggo was seen in such 1993 suspenseful thrillers as Danny Cannon's crime drama The Young Americans (opposite Harvey Keitel), James B. Harris' adaptation of Gerald Petievich's novel, Boiling Point (starring Wesley Snipes) and Graeme Clifford's thriller Ruby Cairo (a.k.a. Deception, played Andie MacDowell's husband). He appeared as a wheelchair-bound snitch in Brian De Palma's film, based on Edwin Torres' novels, Carlito's Way (starring Al Pacino), and starred as an American FBI agent sent to infiltrate the Yakuza's American branch in Frank A. Cappello's wall-to-wall action film American Yakuza. Mortensen also had a cameo as a homeless man in writer-director Peter McCarthy's quirky, independent comedy Floundering, alongside former wife Exene Cervenka.
Director Carl Colpaert cast Mortensen to star in his thriller The Crew (1994, as Phillip). He then appeared as the weapons officer in Tony Scott's suspense thriller Crimson Tide (starring Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman) and portrayed Lucifer in Gregory Widen’s eerie supernatural feature The Prophecy (both in 1995). Mortensen was then cast as one of the patrons of a bar held hostage in Kevin Spacey's feature directorial debut Albino Alligator (with Matt Dillon, Faye Dunaway and Gary Sinise) and became one of the suitors of Isabel Archer (played by Nicole Kidman), in Jane Campion's adaptation of Henry James' novel, The Portrait of a Lady (1996).
Mortensen costarred with Sylvester Stallone in Rob Cohen's Daylight (1996), starred as ex car racer and former Army Ranger James Kowalski in the Fox TV-movie remake of the 1970 action-thriller Vanishing Point (1997), and acted opposite Demi Moore in Ridley Scott's G.I. Jane, playing Master Chief John James 'Jack' Urgayle. In 1998, Mortensen costarred with Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow in Andrew Davis' adaptation of Frederick Knott's play, A Perfect Murder, in which he also provided all of the original art.
The late 1990s saw Mortensen portraying Anne Heche's boyfriend in Gus Van Sant's horror film, adopted from Robert Bloch's novel, Psycho, and play a charming, seductive, free-wheeling traveling blouse salesman, who has affair with Diane Lane's character, in Tony Goldwyn's directorial debut A Walk on the Moon (a.k.a. Blouse Man). He also starred opposite Sandra Bullock in Betty Thomas' rehab-set comedy-drama 28 Days (2000), playing Eddie Boone, a baseball star in recovery.
The new millennium marked Mortensen with his big breakthrough role. He nabbed the role of the dashing and heroic Aragorn in Peter Jackson's wide screen adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's novel, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001, with Elijah Wood and Ian McKellen). He continued to reprise his role in its following installments: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003). His performance later won National Board of Review, MTV Movie and Broadcast Film Critics Association awards.
"People say Lord of the Rings will make Viggo Mortensen a big star. I nodded and smile, but I know that fame is the last thing on Viggo's mind." Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson
Now a household name, Mortensen starred as Frank Hopkins, a former cowboy and dispatch rider for the U.S. cavalry traveling to Arabia to compete with his horse, in Joe Johnston's Hidalgo (2004), and played the lead role of a loving family man and well-respected citizen of a small town who gets in touch with the dark side of himself, in David Cronenberg's The History of Violence, based on the graphic novel by John Wagner and Vince Locke. An accomplished horseman, Mortensen narrated the 8-minute film Wild Horse Preservation (2005). He will soon complete the upcoming film Alatriste by playing the title role of the Spanish heroic figure Captain Alatriste. The film, helmed by Agustín Díaz Yanes, is adopted from the novel by Arturo Pérez-Reverte.
"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