PARK CITY, UTAH — Viggo Mortensen is back to his ranging ways, living off the land and keeping an eye on trouble in his new film “Captain Fantastic.” TORn spoke with him on the red carpet at the film’s world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival.
Mortensen plays a father who, along with his wife, decided to raise his children off the grid — way off. He wants to raise his six children to be self reliant in a way that LOTR character Aragorn would be proud of. His offspring can stalk and kill deer with knives, they climb mountains, harvest edible food, learn to make their own clothes and are self reliant in every way. And along the way read the best books.
They are, in short, philosopher kings.
So the actor did look back at that character and filming experience on “Lord of the Rings,” with Peter Jackson?
“I thought of it,” he said. “But I also thought of my time as a father in Idaho.”
He spent time with his son there and in the film he has more, but in both he said he was teaching to be aware of nature.
“You are only as good as the team you are working with,” said Mortensen. “It is about a family. And made by a family.”
He said the cast spent time before filming getting to know each other and learning the skills needed to be authentic on screen. They camped and learned how to grow food and skin a deer and learned to play music together, all of which were important to the film.
The children’s performances are all excellent, as is Mortensen’s. The film captivated Sundance audiences and good news for Mortensen and film fans, it was also picked up for distribution by Bleeker Street. It specializing in specialty cinema and has this year’s “Trumbo” (Bryan Cranston of “Breaking Bad” fame as lead actor) and should hit audiences in July. UPDATE: The film is slowly rolling out in theaters across the U.S. in July.
The audience at its premiere at the Eccles Theater, the largest venue Sundance offers with over 1,300 seats, responded mightily the film’s opening night. Director and writer Matt Ross, who you might know as Alby Grant from HBO’s “Big Love,” received a standing ovation, as did the children. But it was Moretensen who received the hottest reception. He is a pillar of the film. His character is sympathetic and yet outside societal norms.
Mortensen is perfect for the part and it is difficult to imagine the film working as well without him.
“Good movies ask a lot of questions but don’t necessarily answer them,” Ross told TORn just before the premiere.
In “Captain Fantastic,” Mortensen’s family must leave its forest paradise and journey into the highly-populated world with all its social expectations and demands. They all must face traditional society and family bonds and the children’s unconventional education are tested — to the limit.
“I am a dad and there is no such thing as a perfect father and mother. This character is doing the best he can,” Mortensen said.
The film wasn’t rated at Sundance but the unconventional cast isn’t afraid to use unconventional language that may earn it an R rating. And, Mortensen having a cup of coffee in his birthday suit probably erases any chance of it being anything else. Yes, Mortensen gives the film everything he has to offer.
“Captain Fantastic” is full of ideas, exploring family and fatherhood. Some parents will leaving feeling horribly inadequate but audiences will be fulfilled by the intelligent ideas and questions the film asks.
Fans of Mortensen will not want to miss yet another fascinating role in a fascinating film.