Viggo Mortensen says new movie is a salute to Upstate NY, family dementia battle (interview)


Former “Lord of the Rings” star Viggo Mortensen has a very private story to inform in his directorial debut.

The Watertown High School graduate writes, directs, produces, scores, and stars in “Falling” as John Peterson, who lives along with his accomplice (Terry Chen) and their daughter (Gabby Velis) in California, removed from the agricultural life he left behind on the family farm in Upstate New York. Worlds collide when John’s father Willis, fighting dementia, comes to keep and refuses to change.

“Aliens” actor Lance Henriksen performs the older model of Willis, a codger who angrily calls his ex-wives “whores” and infrequently makes homophobic feedback in entrance of his homosexual son. Viggo lookalike Sverrir Gudnason, finest identified for enjoying tennis legend Bjorn Borg in “Borg vs. McEnroe,” performs the youthful model of Willis, driving John’s mom away. Scenes flash forwards and backwards between the previous and current, to illustrate Willis’ struggles with reminiscence and his many failed relationships.

The movie was largely shot in Ontario, however many scenes are set in Northern NY with areas resembling the place Mortensen spent his youth.

“Southern Ontario looks a lot like the other side of the St. Lawrence river,” Mortensen, 62, defined in an interview with syracuse.com | The Post-Standard.

“Just a landscape that I’m familiar with, which is why I set it in that place,” he added. “I used things that I knew very well. Landscapes, seasons, what things looked like in the ’60s and ‘70s up around there: Cars, clothes, people, houses, farms, and to some degree what they look like now.”

“In an indirect way it is a salute to the North Country and to New York state. You’ll see it when you watch it.”

The movie will likely be particularly compelling to those that know somebody with dementia, which afflicts greater than 50 million folks worldwide. The World Health Organization tasks thrice as many individuals will likely be residing with dementia by 2050, with signs that embrace forgetfulness or getting misplaced and confused.

Falling movie by Viggo Mortensen

Viggo Mortensen writes, directs, produces, scores and stars in ‘Falling,’ a new movie impressed by his experiences in Upstate New York and his mother and father’ battles with dementia. Pictured: Lance Henriksen, Viggo Mortensen.Brendan Adam-Zwelling / Perceval Pictures

“We’ve had a lot of that in our family,” Mortensen stated. Both Mortensen’s mom and father had dementia, in addition to his stepfather and grandparents on either side of the family.

Mortensen at present lives in Spain however nonetheless has family within the North Country and returns usually. He was noticed on the Mustard Seed Natural Market and Cafe in Watertown round Christmas 2019 and he made prolonged stays serving to handle his mom, Grace, when she died in 2015 and his father, Viggo Sr., when he died two years later.

On his web site, Mortensen stated his father began to confuse Viggo along with his personal father, “slipping now and then into the distant past of his childhood and adolescence, speaking to me in Danish instead of English.”

But whereas the movie’s dementia battle and John’s hometown — the Watertown Daily Times newspaper is even featured in some scenes — are based mostly on actual experiences, the remainder of the story is largely fictional. Mortensen began writing “Falling” shortly after his mom’s funeral.

“When my mom died, I just wanted to remember everything about her. I loved her and I still love her and… I just wanted to write them down, these ideas, these memories,” he instructed Stephen Colbert on “The Late Show” final week. “I started writing and it became a story, a fictional story. Which I guess I felt freer to write than the documentary thing where I would have to call my brothers and say ‘Did this happen? When did that happen? Who said that?’ I said, ‘I’m just going to make it up and use the feelings, a few memories, a few incidents, but it’s a made-up story.’”

One scene that’s drawn from a actual expertise is a quirky flashback the place younger John shoots a duck on his first time looking along with his father, however needs to maintain the animal for a bathtub toy or a stuffed animal, not dinner. Mortensen says he did simply that when he was four years outdated, although he wasn’t in Watertown on the time.

A notable fictional scene exhibits teenage John angrily knocked off his horse by his father, main to a scar on John’s higher lip in maturity. Mortensen has a scar in actual life, however really go it whereas attending faculty at St. Lawrence University.

“That was a stupid thing. I had just turned 18. It was Halloween 1976, my first year of college and I was out partying with friends… I got shoved into a barb wire fence (in a) stupid accident. But it did sever my lip badly and I had to get it sewn up,” Mortensen recalled to syracuse.com. “And I thought, well, I’ll use it. I’ll make a story about that.”

Falling movie by Viggo Mortensen

Viggo Mortensen writes, directs, produces, scores and stars in ‘Falling,’ a new movie impressed by his experiences in Upstate New York and his mother and father’ battles with dementia. Pictured: William Healy, Sverrir Gudnason.Brendan Adam-Zwelling / Perceval Pictures

“Boonville’s the ugliest town in New York state”

Mortensen additionally needs viewers to know that he doesn’t imply something unwell in direction of the Oneida County village of Boonville, which is referenced in considered one of Willis’ ornery rants: “Boonville’s the ugliest town in New York state,” Henriksen snarls, a lot to the chagrin of John’s sister (performed by Laura Linney).

“Apologies to Boonville,” Mortensen stated. “Sometimes people watch a movie and think, ‘This guy’s saying all this and that and that must mean the director thinks that or the writer’ — in my case, both. But no. Boonville is beautiful. I know it really well, having spent my adolescence in the area. It was just one of those random things that gets stuck in (the character’s) head. Ridiculous…”

“It’ll probably get a rise out of people from Boonville,” he chuckled. “But I don’t think that (it’s ugly). That’s the character that thinks that.”

Boonville, Lowville and Utica are thanked within the credit for “Falling.” The movie is additionally devoted to Viggo’s brothers Charles and Walter Mortensen; he doesn’t have a sister, one other level the place the story deviates from actuality.

“Oh sh-t. It’s the middle of winter and I’m in Watertown, New York.”

Viggo Mortensen was born in Watertown, N.Y., on Oct. 20, 1958. His mom was from Watertown and met his father, a Danish farmer, on a journey to Norway. Young Viggo spent a part of his childhood in Argentina, however moved again to Watertown at age 11 when his mother and father divorced. He graduated from Watertown High School in 1976 and St. Lawrence University in 1980.

Today, he’s finest referred to as the Oscar-nominated actor who performed Aragorn in Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, in addition to roles in “Eastern Promises,” “Captain Fantastic,” “A History of Violence,” “Hidalgo” “The Road” and “Green Book.” He’s additionally a poet, photographer, painter, writer (by means of his personal Perceval Press), and has launched greater than 20 albums that includes collaborations with guitarist Buckethead.

He turned down taking part in Wolverine within the first “X-Men” movie (a half that later went to Hugh Jackman) due to a scheduling battle, and reportedly got here shut to roles within the 2013 Superman movie “Man of Steel,” 2012′s “Snow White and the Huntsman,” and as Batman’s dad, Thomas Wayne, in 2019′s “Joker.”

But Mortensen’s classmates in all probability wouldn’t have predicted that the captain of the swim staff at Watertown High School would someday be world well-known.

“I always kept to myself,” Mortensen instructed syracuse.com. “I had friends, but… I wasn’t so big on going to parties or dances. I would never have thought public speaking would be in my area of activities as an adult.”

Viggo Mortensen

In this picture supplied by Bill Wallace, actor Viggo Mortensen is pictured on the Watertown High School swim staff within the 1970s. Mortensen is within the entrance row, on the far proper.

Bill Wallace, who was Mortensen’s swim coach at Watertown High School, says he by no means imagined little Viggo would someday be a movie star.

“Never crossed my mind,” Wallace instructed syracuse.com | The Post-Standard. “He was quiet around me, but the other kids said he could raise a little hell now and then.”

Mortensen did check out for a musical as soon as in junior excessive after somebody beneficial he attempt performing, however the audition didn’t go very properly.

“You just had to go up and read something… and I think I was reading the opening page of Dickens’ ‘David Copperfield’ and they kept saying ‘Louder! Louder!’ And I just freaked out. They couldn’t hear me because I was mumbling, and I just closed the book and ran out and said that was the end of that,” Mortensen recalled.

“I never would’ve thought (I’d become an actor), but I always loved movies. My mom took me to movies all the time… in Watertown, we went all the time. I was always fascinated by moving stories and I wanted to be sort of involved in that world somehow,” he continued. “You watch a movie. It transports you or takes you somewhere, and the lights come up at the end. You walk out on the street and you’re like ‘Oh sh-t. It’s the middle of winter and I’m in Watertown, New York. I’m not in Arabia on a camel.’”

Mortensen additionally speaks seven completely different languages — no, Elvish is not considered one of them — which helped him land a job as an interpreter for the Swedish and Danish hockey groups on the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. He noticed the “Miracle on Ice” in particular person and included a reference to U.S. velocity skater Eric Heiden, who received 5 gold medals that yr, in “Falling.”

Viggo Mortensen

In this picture supplied by Bill Wallace, actor Viggo Mortensen (along with his identify misspelled “Mortenson”) is pictured, second from the left, on the Watertown High School swim staff within the 1970s.

Lord of the Rings

“Falling” marks Mortensen’s first foray into directing and he’s been nominated for 3 Academy Awards for performing, however he’s properly conscious that he’ll all the time be related to “The Lord of the Rings.” Jackson’s diversifications of “The Fellowship of the Ring,” “The Two Towers” and “The Return of the King” are among the many prime 75 highest-grossing motion pictures of all time, and led to one other movie trilogy based mostly on J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit.”

An Amazon tv collection is at present in manufacturing that may reportedly discover the Second Age of Middle-earth’s historical past, and should embrace Sauron’s forging of the One Ring and the autumn of the Nine Kings into changing into Ringwraiths. Mortensen’s Aragorn received’t be in it, however he nonetheless plans to watch.

“I’m curious as to what they’re doing with it. I mean, Tolkien has so much material – not just ‘Lord of the Rings.’ Those worlds and mythology and stories” are attention-grabbing, he instructed syracuse.com.

Lord of the Rings

Viggo Mortensen performs Aragorn in 2003’s “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.”New Line Productions

Mortensen additionally briefly mirrored on his favourite scenes from “Lord of the Rings.”

“The relationship I had with the actor Sean Bean, who plays Boromir. I like that relationship. There’s a scene where he dies… towards the end of ‘The Fellowship of the Ring.’ That’s an important moment for both those characters,” Mortensen stated. “It’s beautifully done and it’s very true, it’s really in the spirit of how the books were written by Tolkien.”

He additionally had fond recollections of scenes that weren’t within the unique theatrical cuts of the trilogy. Mortensen was glad to see them in Peter Jackson’s prolonged variations, and extremely recommends followers watch them.

“Falling,” launched by Mortensen’s movie firm Perceval Pictures, is obtainable to hire or purchase on Video On Demand (VOD) and digital beginning Friday, Feb. 5.

The Hollywood Reporter known as the movie “As intelligent and sensitive a directing debut as you’d expect, and a highlight of Henriksen’s career,” and The Guardian gave it a four-star evaluate: “Really valuable work, beautifully edited and shot, with a wonderful performance by the veteran actor Lance Henriksen.” The New York Times’ critic applauded the temporary comedian cameo by Mortensen collaborator David Cronenberg taking part in a proctologist, serving to stability a movie “keenly aware of the effort involved in reconciling the parent we have with the one we might have wished for.”



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