In David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method Viggo Mortensen is nearly unrecognizable. Few actors today really dive into the research the way he does and it shows in each new incarnation Mortensen delivers. He is one of the most unpredictable actors because he never gives you what you expect, and he never repeats himself. He is a character actor, a shapeshifter, someone who has the perceptive tools of a painter, a poet and a musician.
The thing about his work here is that all of his research, all of his thoughtful examination of his character’s motivations and identity is on the screen. Somehow, it shows. You look into his characters — they, as David Byrne might say, have a view. The striations of experience reveal themselves so that there is never any question that you’re watching a character and not Mortensen, who all but disappears into them.
He functions a bit as Cronenberg’s muse. Much of this, according to the director, is Mortensen’s own enthusiasm for the work. Who wouldn’t want to work with an actor who is up late emailing back and forth various things he’s thinking about and uncovering about his character? He’s someone who could have skated by on his leading man status but instead he morphed in and out of the strangest, most compelling characters in film.
That he wasn’t nominated for The Road illuminates everything that is wrong with the Oscar race; if you’re not in the business of awarding that kind of acting how can you use the word “best” in all seriousness? He’s up to bat again playing Freud in the Cronenberg film this year, this time in Supporting.
I had an email exchange with Mortensen about Cronenberg and A Dangerous Method. The questions and answers after the cut.