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Viggo Mortensen

Viggo Mortensen Films

Lord of the Rings


Biography of Viggo Mortensen

young Viggo MortensenViggo Mortensen was born October 20, 1958, in Manhattan, New York. He has two younger brothers. His parents, Viggo P. Mortensen from Denmark and Grace from New York, met in Europe. They settled initially in New York, but while Viggo was still very young, the family moved to South America. There Viggo's father managed farms and ranches in Argentina and Venezuela. His parents divorced in 1969, after which Viggo's mother took her three boys back to Watertown, New York. Viggo keeps a fondness for South America, and is a great fan of the Argentine soccer team San Lorenzo.

Viggo was a good student at Watertown High School. He played on the tennis team, and was captain of the swim team. While in high school, he took up photography and spent many hours taking pictures. After graduating in 1976, he went to St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, where he earned degrees in Government and Spanish. With no career immediately presenting itself, Viggo moved to Denmark, where his father's family still lives. He began writing poetry and fiction, supporting himself with odd jobs including dock worker and flower seller.

Viggo followed a girlfriend back to New York City in 1982, where he found work as a bartender and waiter and took two years of acting classes from Warren Robertson. After acting in several plays, he moved to Los Angeles, where he had a part in a television mini-series (George Washington) and started landing film roles. His scenes were deleted from the first two films, but the director of Witness liked Viggo well enough to expand his small role as Daniel Hochleitner's brother into a speaking part.

Viggo continued to work at his craft, with a guest spot on television's Miami Vice and a role in the Search for Tomorrow soap opera. In 1987, he met Christine "Exene" Cervenka, lead singer for the punk rock band "X," on the set of Salvation!. They were married soon after, and their son, Henry Blake Mortensen, was born January 28, 1988. The couple moved to Idaho for several years. In 1997 they split up, moving back to Los Angeles, where they share custody of Henry.

Over the past 20 years, Viggo has had roles in over 35 films. (See Viggo's Filmography.) He has continued to explore and create in the fields of photography, poetry, art, and music. A few years ago, Viggo Mortensen and Pilar Perez started Perceval Press, a small, independent publisher specializing in art, critical writing, and poetry. The intention of the press is to publish texts, images, and recordings that otherwise might not be presented. Viggo and Perceval Press have also taken a strong stand against the war in Iraq. See the Viggo Politics page for more information.

Partly as a result of his international upbringing and travels, Viggo is fluent in English, Spanish, and Danish, and can get by in French, Italian, Swedish and Norwegian. He worked as a translator for the Swedish hockey team during the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. He also learned some Maori while filming Lord of the Rings in New Zealand, and studied the language of the Lakotah for his role in Hidalgo.

Viggo Mortensen Biographies

These sites offer what seem to be the best-researched and written biographies of Viggo Mortensen that are available on the Net.

IMDb: Viggo Mortensen Biography - Movie site features two "mini-biographies" by different authors, plus a list of Viggo trivia.
Viggo Chronicles: Viggo Mortensen Biography - In-depth article provides details about Viggo's art, music, poetry and politics in addition to his film career.

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Articles & Interviews about Viggo's Life & Family

Wanted: AliveWanted: Alive - Interview magazine, February 1992

Scarred for life - Calgary Sun, April 12, 1999
Viggo explains the origin of the scar on his upper lip, and comments on steamy sex scenes with Paltrow and Walken. Excerpt: "It was a combination of a fist and a barbwire fence on a particularly bad Halloween night. I was 17 and so drunk that I didn't even need an anesthetic when the doctor sewed me up."   [Viggo-Works]   []

Pop StarsPop Stars - InStyle, June 2001
Feature on actors and their children includes a page about Viggo Mortensen, with photographs taken by his son Henry and quotes from both. "What's the most special thing about being a father? Everything," says Viggo. And Henry echoes, "What's special about my dad is... everything."   [scans at TORN]

I Still Ask WhyI Still Ask Why - Parade, February 29, 2004
Viggo Mortensen talks about his youth and how felt he was affected by it, and about the paths he followed before becoming an actor. He concludes, "We each have only a limited amount of time here. We have to do more with it—pay attention, explore, be open to all of life. Because we have only one chance, we have to make life seem longer than it really is."   []

Viggo is KingViggo is King - GQ, April 2004
The photographs are fun, and the article includes a biography and extensive interview about Viggo's film career, family, the challenges of stardom, and philosophy of life. "However simple the task, I always turn it into an ordeal."   [Chronicles]   [scans at other]

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Photo Gallery - Early Viggo

No papparazzi photos here, just a few widely-published photographs of Viggo as a youngster.

Photo Gallery - Exene Cervenka

Some public photographs of Viggo Mortensen's ex-wife Christine "Exene" Cervenka.

Photo Gallery - Henry Mortensen

Photographs of Viggo and Exene's son, Henry Blake Mortensen.

Photo Gallery - Other Family

More of Viggo Mortensen's family.

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