Viggo Peter Mortensen Jr., famous for his roles in the movies "The Lord of the Rings," "A History of Violence," and "Eastern Promises," made his film debut in Peter Weir's 1985 thriller "Witness." Here are some very interesting facts about the American actor:
Mortensen is well-known as an actor, who ventured into the field of production, music, and writing apart from being an accomplished poet, photographer and painter.
He was born Viggo Peter Mortensen Jr. on October 20, 1958, New York, U.S. He is the eldest of three children to Grace Gamble and Viggo Peter Mortensen Sr. He has two brothers Walter and Charles.
His father was Danish, his mother is American, and has English, Scotish ancestry. His maternal grandfather was from Nova Scotia, Canada, and his maternal grandmother was from New York.
His father managed chicken farms and ranches in Venezuela and Argentina. After his parents divorced at the age of eleven, he along with his mother and brothers moved to New York.
He went to Watertown High School in Watertown and later attended St. Lawrence University, Canton. He graduated in 1980 with a degree in Spanish Studies and Politics.
He can speak fluently in English, Spanish, Danish, and French. He is also proficient in Catalan, Swedish, Italian and Norwegian.
He writes poetry in his spare time and had a book of poetry printed titled ‘Ten Last Night’ before he was known. Since then he has published more than fifteen volumes of poetry, photography and painting and owns a publishing company Perceval Press.
On graduating, he spent some time in England and Spain, before getting a job in Denmark. He did various job among driving trucks in Esbjerg, selling flowers in Copenhagen, before moving back to U.S to pursue career in acting.
On September 13, 2013, he along with Federico Bossert and Diego Villar, published a book titled ‘Hijos de la Selva/ Sons of the Forest, related to ethnography of South American natives specifically in Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.
On July 08, 1987, he married actress and singer Exene Cervenka, before divorcing her in 1997, after being separated for five years. They have son Henry Blake Mortensen.
A good athlete in his youth he follows soccer, ice hockey and baseball. He is a fan of Montreal Canadiens and New York Mets. He wore a Canadiens shirt underneath his costume throughout the filming of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Mortensen started his acting career in TV series, ‘George Washington’ as Lieutenant at LeBoeuf in 1984 and in ‘Search for Tomorrow’ as Bragg in 1985.
He made his first feature film appearance in the 1985 crime thriller film ‘Witness’ as Moses Hochleitner. He had actually landed a role in an earlier film ‘The Purple Rose of Cairo’ but his scenes were deleted during the final cut.
In the 1987 horror thriller film ‘Prison’ he did most of his own stunts. The stunt coordinator Kane Hodder gave Mortensen an honorary stuntman’s shirt at the completion of the shooting.
While filming the fight scene between Benny and Tex at the Truck in the 1990, movie ‘Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre,’ Ken Foree accidentally broke Mortensen’s ribs. The scene was left in the movie.
During 1990s he was cast in supporting role in variety of films, including ‘Young Gun II’ ‘The Indian Runner’ ‘The Reflecting Skin’ ‘The Young Americans’ and ‘Carlito’s Way.’
In the Andrew Davis film ‘A Perfect Murder’ he sang a couple of love songs to Gwyneth Paltrow, before filming of intimate love scene, to create a perfect atmosphere. This is his first of two Alfred Hitchcock remakes.
Mortensen replaced Stuart Townsend in the role of Aragorn/Strider in the film ‘The Lord of the Rings’ after filming began. At first he was reluctant, for it would mean time away from his son but accepted on his son’s insistence. The success of the film made him a household name.
As always he did his own stunts and insisted on using only the real steel sword, instead of light aluminum or safe rubber sword. He would often get carried away with the intensity of his character so much so that he would go after them and leave the other combatants in bruises.
Since he was proficient in several languages, he asked the writer, director Peter Jackson to revise script so that his character Aragoran, would be speaking in the Elvish language in several scenes of all the three movies.
During filming of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, he very nearly got drowned when he was dragged underwater for many seconds. He managed to kick himself back up off a rock before the safety team rescued him.
As the character Nikolai Luzhin, in the gangster film, ‘Eastern Promises,’ Mortensen, went to a pub without changing his costumes nor did he wash off his tattoo which indicates their criminal status and frightened some of the patrons assuming he was a member of Vory v Zakone.
He lived the character the film ‘Eastern Promises’ by spending five days in Russia, driving around Ural Mountain region of Siberia. He read books on the gangs, prison culture, perfecting his Siberian accent and learned lines in Russian, Ukrainian and English. He even used worry beads made in prison from melted-down plastic cigarette lighters.
True to his nature, to live the role in the 2009, film ‘The Road’ he sleep in his clothes and deliberately starved himself. At one point, he was thrown out of a shop in Pittsburgh, because they thought he was a homeless man. He lost around 30 pounds in weight.
Mortensen worked as translator for the Swedish hockey team during the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid and was at the ‘miracle’ game between the Soviet Union and United States.
He is a painter and his paintings have been featured in galleries worldwide, and many of the paintings of the artist he portrayed in ‘A Perfect Murder’ are his own.
Following his appearances in the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy, he was granted an honorary doctorate by his alma mater, St. Lawrence University in 2006.
For his portrayal of Ben Cash, in the 2016 film ‘Captain Fantastic’ he received his second Best Actor nomination in the 89th Academy Awards. Previously he was nominated for ‘Eastern Promises’ in 2008.
Starting his career in show business in 1984, with couple of TV series and going on to feature as an actor in 58 films. He has also scored music for the 2014 film ‘Jauja’ apart from starring in it.
He has two projects, ‘Unabomb’ and ‘Green Book’ under production. As an FBI agent Jim Freeman, in Unabomb, he is on the unsolved case of 16 bombings which terrorized Americans.