Viggo Mortensen on the Importance of Actors Working Together: “A movie only works because people adjust to each other”

Actor Viggo Mortensen

Though Viggo Mortensen will always be best known for starring in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, his work in smaller, independent films both before and after playing Aargon demonstrates his true love when it comes to filmmaking — smaller, more introspective work. Though Mortensen tries just about everything to avoid the trappings of Hollywood, he admits that he’s seen his share of diva-like behavior on small film sets, too. Speaking with The Guardian, Mortensen speaks out about how bad actor behavior hurts the filmmaking process.

Mortensen describes how prima donna behavior on a film set by big-name stars simple encourages more prima donna behavior — and that unfairly pushes the budgets on films ever higher. Mortensen says, “People let themselves be infantilized. And you set the tone as an actor. Young actors see older actors behaving in infantile ways. ‘I want the biggest trailer. I want to go to the premiere in this country and take my family even though the distributor has to pay for the hotel and it’s going to make it harder for them to buy another movie.’ Having their agent fill their contract with privileges then saying, ‘Oh, it’s in my contract’, as if they had nothing to do with it. As adults these are not good excuses. And the way you behave on set, how you talk to the crew. A lot of experienced actors choose not to even stay around off camera, or do such a poor job on camera it’s obvious they couldn’t give a fuck what you’re doing. I’ve had to say to an actor in a scene where the focus was on me: ‘You know, you seem very tired, why don’t you go home? I’d rather just do this with someone from the crew.’”

He continues, “I say this without naming names. But it’s just one example of the piggishness Then there’s the sense of competition, fueled by these mushrooming award shows. Accepting jobs because you might get nominated. Trying to win scenes. They’ve decided to cry because it’s going to get them their nomination, and the other actor doesn’t matter a fuck. But that also happens in independent movies. It’s not unique to studio movies. It’s not unique to American movies. I’ve seen that working in London.”

When it comes to making movies, Mortensen says it can’t be a competition on the set. He explains, “A movie only works because people adjust to each other. And if they don’t, well, the philosopher Lao Tzu said that if you don’t change direction … then you may just end up where you’re headed.”

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