Sort of like Clive Owen, Viggo Mortensen didn’t start getting big roles until relatively later in his career. A lot of Viggo’s characters are strong men living in a world of violence, and he does a great job of presenting their idiosyncracies. He’s not type-cast by any means – as evidenced by his scumbagish role in A Perfect Murder – but nobody plays the silent tough guy with a heart of gold better than Viggo. The guy is over 50 years old, but seems at least 10 years younger. Plus, he’s one of the few guys with a butt chin that I don’t have the urge to smash in the face with a cinder block. Here are 6 amazing Viggo Mortensen movie roles.
Aragorn – Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, Return of the King
Aragorn, the King of Men, slices and dices orcs and Uruk-hai like a velociraptor let loose in a petting zoo. As deadly as Aragorn is, though, it was he who had enough sense to tell Frodo to leave the Fellowship and thus take away any temptation to obtain the Ring of Power. Viggo plays the role of Aragorn perfectly, portraying reluctant leadership, courage, sympathy, and a penchant for decapitations. There’s a great scene in the extended version of Return of the King where Aragorn beheads the Mouth of Sauron. I don’t know why it was edited out of the version released in theaters; it’s a lovely scene.
Nikolai – Eastern Promises
Viggo earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for his role as Nikolai, and he probably would have won if he didn’t have the bad luck of going up against Daniel Day Lewis that year. Nikolai is a driver for the Russian Mafia and also helps perform some of the mob’s “clean up” work. Viggo became a very, very scary dude for this role – Nikolai is covered with symbolic tattoos and participates in a knife fight to the death in a bath house, his dong swinging around for all to see. I didn’t know much about the Russian Mafia before seeing this movie, and if Cronenberg’s portrayal of it is anything close, I don’t want anything to do with it. If Nikolai did that two-fingers-pressed-against-the-throat gesture, I’d crap my pants right there. Basically, I’d rather blow Nikolai than fight him. In front of my dad, too; I don’t give a sh*t.
Tom Stall/Joey – A History of Violence
Tom Stall isn’t as scary as Nikolai, but that’s only because Tom has done his best to escape his violent past. Posing as the owner of a coffee shop, Tom managed to keep his family in the dark concerning his wilder days when he’d remove eyeballs with barbed wire. The front only lasts for so long, though, and “Joey” makes one more bloody mess at the expense of his brother and his brother’s henchmen. Viggo is great as Tom Stall/Joey, and his switch from the humble, quiet Tom to the lethal Joey over the course of A History of Violence is quite impressive. I’m not a big Maria Bello fan, by the way, but you’ve got to love how she looks in that little cheerleading uniform.
Command Master Chief John James Urgayle – G.I. Jane
Viggo’s Urgayle seems to relish running “hell week” for the soldiers trying to become SEALs, but you can’t fault him for that too much. After all, Urgayle himself completed hell week, became a hard-assed soldier, and grew one of the sweeter mustaches I have had the honor of seeing on the big screen. Lt. O’Neil (played by Demi Moore) clashes with Urgayle throughout G.I. Jane, ultimately earning his respect when she proves she can hang with the men. Helping rescue his injured ass didn’t hurt, either. Urgayle is memorable because he held O’Neil to the same standard as his male soldiers, ensuring that her becoming a SEAL wasn’t some type of fluke or exercise in novelty.
Frank Hopkins – Hidalgo
I liked Hidalgo, and a lot of that was because of Viggo as Frank Hopkins. He’s up front and center thoughout the film, so if the character is off or unbelievable, the entire movie crumbles – sort of like Juno. Yes, Juno – Ellen Page is adorable, but wow, was she unlikable in Juno. Not a terrible movie, but Best Picture nominee? Please. Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, Hidalgo. I loved the 3,000 mile race across the Ocean of Fire, and Viggo creates a relationship with the horse that isn’t zoophilic in nature, despite what the above picture suggests. I managed to make only three Mr. Hands jokes during this movie, and if someone else had played Hopkins, I imagine it could have been dozens.
Lucifer – The Prophecy
The Prophecy is kind of a bizarre movie, but playing Lucifer in any context has got to be pretty cool for any actor. Viggo’s Lucifer is creepy and manipulative, just how a manifestation of the Devil should be. The role of Lucifer isn’t a big one in The Prophecy, but with lines like, “I can lay you out and fill your mouth with your mother’s feces; or, we can talk,” it’s one you won’t soon forget. Mom always made the best feces!
Honorable Mention – David Shaw – A Perfect Murder
Nailing someone’s wife while conspiring to kill her and scheming to make some major paper deserves a mention. Also, David’s paintings in A Perfect Murder were actually those painted by Viggo himself.
Have you read The Road? I have a feeling Viggo is going to be brilliant as The Man. It wouldn’t surpirse me if this role gets him another Best Actor nomination come Oscar time.