an evening with Viggo Mortensen

an evening with viggo mortensen
You'll never know everything about anything, but it's worth trying. —Viggo Mortensen
I've mentioned before that we're members at the Coolidge Corner Theatre. We get $3 off tickets every day, and get in free on Sundays after 6 p.m. Not to mention local stores offer discounts to members (though I am always kicking myself for forgetting to flash our card at our most frequented stops: DoradoThe Regal BeagleZaftigs, and Brookline Booksmith). It's a pretty sweet deal. And it got even sweeter last Tuesday.

Members get advanced purchase to special events, which meant we got first dibs on the tickets for this year's Coolidge Award events, honoring award recipient Viggo Mortensen. Strider. Aragorn. King of Gondor. So we bought tickets to the Q&A with Robin Young of NPR's Here and Now.

We ate a quick dinner at Paris Creperie next door before hopping in the line, which already wrapped around one side of the theater. After a 30 minute wait, we walked into the theater and snagged decent seats in the middle of the left section (more than half of the theater was reserved for the ticket holders who had paid $250 for the VIP reception beforehand).

Ten minutes later they began the introductions, and suddenly Viggo stood up from the front row and took the stage.

viggo chats with robin

Robin kicked off the interview by disclosing some of her prep work for the event: a day of watching Eastern Promises, A History of Violence, and The Road. Which led into her first question: "What was it like to do a full frontal nude fight scene with knives?" (scary.)

The next hour and a half was a journey of meandering conversations that covered everything from his suit (10 years old, made in Finland, purchased for $1.50, blue threads with a little bit of red woven in) to, with a bit of encouragement from Robin, a sing-along of Aragorn's Coronation Song (he sounds just the same live).

Ian and I had a few distinct impressions of him from the evening. First, the New York Times Magazine article Robin referenced nailed his description as "your older brother’s hippie friend from childhood." Second, he loves tangents, which Robin indulged (he did say when he listens to interviews or reads transcripts, he's surprised how much he does this). Third, Ian said, "he's tall." I said of course: he's the king.

We also have a new sense of respect for him. He takes his craft very seriously, and spoke at some length on his frustrations about how the business is all about business. Actors find coaches solely to help them win awards, which in turn get them more work to earn more awards. It is not enough about the art, and too much about the celebrity. In contrast Robin asked him about his methods for preparing for roles, which involve intense immersion into the culture and character he will be portraying. For Eastern Promises, he spent several months in Russia observing, to make sure he got everything just right.

The evening finished up with the award presentation: a fancy award for his shelf, and a sizable honorarium. Which he promptly gave back to the theater, to "put my money where my mouth is."

viggo accepts the award

Because they didn't have an official autograph signing afterwards, we headed home. It seemed fitting, as he's not crazy about celebrity culture. Instead, we'll be adding a Viggo movie to our queue. And maybe brushing up on our Elvish...