ReelzChannel sat down recently with Viggo Mortensen to talk about Appaloosa. In the Western, he plays a deputy hired along with marshal Ed Harris to save the town from a corrupt rancher (Jeremy Irons).
ReelzChannel: Your character in Hitch with Will Smith and Evert Hitch, your character here, are completely different. Would you describe this character as being a pretty simple man?
Mortensen: No. I think he's someone that keeps his thoughts to himself.
RC: Does that make a person complicated?
Mortensen: The character I play is a West Point graduate and a well-read person. Part of the humor comes out of [Ed Harris' character] asking him the meaning of words, or "What's the word I'm looking for?" -- there's an easy-going relationship there. He's not uncomfortable asking me and I'm not patronizing telling him. It's just what we do.... [Evert is] an educated person, a well-rounded background, is someone who's from the East, who went out and was restless -- probably the black sheep of the family, I would guess. Went out West for an adventure and found it.
RC: That's some of the backstory that you developed for him?
Mortensen: It's partly there in the book and it's alluded to in the beginning -- the narration in the beginning where I say, "I was in West Point like my dad and...I got bored."
RC: Ed Harris read Appaloosa while you guys were still working on A History of Violence. Then you read the book after that, right?
Mortensen: When A History Of Violence was presented here at the Toronto Film Festival, he was here to do interviews, just like I was for that movie. He handed me this book and in his kind of quiet way said, "Here's this book. You might like it. It could make a good movie." He wasn't very forward about it but that was sort of a big step, I thought. It must mean something, being that he's such a good actor. And he did a great job directing Appaloosa. I thought that it was intriguing. I knew that was what he was driving at -- that he wanted to direct this movie.
RC: So you kind of committed to him based on the book?
Mortensen: The book, yeah. He hadn't written [the screenplay] yet.
RC: Were there things that you requested of him?
Mortensen: I figured he knew what he was doing. And he did. He and Robert Knott collaborated and wrote the script together. I think it's really faithful to the spirit of the book. But maybe he takes it even further in terms of an authentic language and the look of things -- being that, well, Robert Knott is kind of a cowboy from Oklahoma, really. So he made sure it was accurate, with people they hired as technical advisors, and the horse people, gun people, everything looked right, and it was fun to do that. When you walk into this town, or into that saloon, it feels right.
RC: The mustache is yours. You grew it, yes?
Mortensen: And the haircut.
RC: How long did it take to grow that mustache?
Mortensen: A couple months for me -- it doesn't grow that fast.
RC: That's dedication to a character, there.
Mortensen: I studied old pictures, as far as the way the hair looked...old pictures and drawings and read descriptions of characters from that time. Also, the fact that the clues I had from the book -- about him being from the East Coast, being from West Point even though he doesn't have much money. You see the remnants of suits that he has -- a pair of pants, or a vest from a suit, what he's got left. It's patched up from his kind of dandy days back East.