‘Ottawa’ Viggo Mortensen talks ‘Captain Fantastic’ and Canadiens’ P.K. Subban Trade
TORONTO — Viggo Mortensen is famously an Oscar-nominated actor — and a major Habs fan.
The star of the moving new drama “Captain Fantastic,” which is getting rave reviews for its portrayal of a family living in isolation off the grid, has donned Montreal Canadiens garb at press conferences and on film sets, including for “The Lord of the Rings” and “A History of Violence.”
Naturally, during a recent phone interview about “Captain Fantastic” (now in theatres), the topic shifted to the team’s recent trade of star player P.K. Subban.
“I’m sick about it, I’m sad about it,” said the New York native, who got a best actor Oscar nomination for the David Cronenberg-directed “Eastern Promises.”
“But it’s a team sport, it’s not just one guy that makes your team good or bad. So I’m optimistic that maybe it will be good in some way, for the collective…. There are still a lot of strong individuals on the team and some veterans who lead by example. So I don’t think it will be as bad as a lot of Canadiens’ fans are fearing.”
Mortensen even brought a bit of Quebec to the set of “Captain Fantastic,” written and directed by Matt Ross.
Mortensen plays a father raising his six children in the forests of the Pacific Northwest, isolated from society with no cellphones or tech gadgets.
When Ben’s wife dies, the family is determined to give her the funeral she wanted — rather than the service her wealthy parents plan for her in the city.
Anti-capitalist Ben loves literature, as does Mortensen (the actor is the founder and editor of Perceval Press), and he used his own books as props. They included titles from Quebec poets as well as Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn.
He also brought his own canoe, bicycles, plants, clothing and kitchen items to the set, where he lived before shooting.
Mortensen and the actors who play Ben’s children went through a physical and intellectual boot camp of sorts a couple of weeks before shooting.
“We did rock climbing and martial arts and played a lot of music together and spent time together and did woodcraft, tracking, skinning, gutting animals,” said Mortensen.
“You name it, we did everything, and by the time we got to the first day of shooting, we knew each other really well, we had a good shorthand, we knew and appreciated each other’s strengths and weaknesses.”
Mortensen said when he first read the script, he didn’t know what to make of the title.
“And then I realized, I guess you could put a question mark after it, it’s sort of tongue-in-cheek. It asks more questions than it answers. It posits that perhaps this is the greatest father in the world and then the next minute you’re thinking, ‘This guy is a menace to society.'”
Still, he ascribes to some of Ben’s views, including his matter-of-fact approach to communication.
Poor communication is a problem in many countries, said Mortensen.
He also laments those who use new technologies not to learn more about the world but “to reinforce their pre-existing ideologies or points of view in shallow ways.”
“There’s so much more that we could do and probably will, eventually,” he added. “One thing is to go play ‘Pokemon Go,’ and I guess there’s nothing wrong with that. Another is to find out exactly what’s going on in your government and your community and what people have done in the past when they’ve come up against obstacles of society, to communication, to war, poverty. There’s a lot more that we can learn.
“So I guess this movie made me feel like it’s worthwhile, life is short, I want to find out more. That’s the way I feel anyway but it just reinforced it tenfold.”