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Viggo Mortensen

Date of Birth: Monday, October 20, 1958
AGE: 60
Occupation: Actor

Biography: A Danish-American actor, poet, musician, photographer and painter. He made his film debut in Peter Weir?s 1985 thriller Witness, and subsequently appeared in many notable films of the 1990s, including The Indian Runner (1991), Carlito?s Way (1993), Crimson Tide (1995), The Portrait of a Lady (1996), G.I. Jane (1997), A Perfect Murder (1998), and A Walk on the Moon (1999).

Mortensen made his major breakthrough in 2001 with the epic film trilogy The Lord of the Rings. In 2005, Mortensen won critical acclaim for David Cronenberg?s crime thriller A History of Violence. Two years later, another Cronenberg film Eastern Promises (2007) earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. Other well-received films in recent years have included Appaloosa (2008) and the 2009 film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy?s novel The Road.

Aside from acting, his other artistic pursuits include fine arts, photography, poetry, and music. In 2002, he founded the Perceval Press to publish the works of little-known artists and authors. Mortensen is politically active. He campaigned for Dennis Kucinich in the 2008 United States presidential election, and later endorsed Barack Obama for President.

Mortensen was born in New York City. His mother, Grace Gamble (nee Atkinson), was American, and his father, Viggo Peter Mortensen, Sr., was Danish; the two met in Norway. During his early years, Mortensen moved with his parents to Venezuela, then Denmark, and eventually settled in Argentina, taking residency in the Argentine provinces of Córdoba, Chaco and Buenos Aires; there, he did his primary school and acquired fluent Spanish. His father managed chicken farms and ranches in Argentina. They remained there until Mortensen was eleven, when his parents divorced and the boys and their mother returned to New York, where Mortensen spent the rest of his childhood. He graduated from Watertown High School in Watertown, New York. After high school he went to St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, earning a bachelor?s degree in Government and Spanish. Then, driven by the need for a defining purpose in life, he went to Europe and lived in Spain, England and Denmark, where he took various jobs like a truck driver in Esbjerg, Denmark, and a flower seller in Copenhagen, Denmark, before again returning to the United States two years later to pursue an acting career.

Following his appearance in the Lord of the Rings trilogy in 2006, he was granted an honorary doctorate by his alma mater.

After several years of experience in live theatre, Mortensen made his first film appearance playing an Amish farmer in Peter Weir?s Witness (Mortensen had actually acted in at least one prior film, The Purple Rose of Cairo, but his scenes in the latter film were deleted from the final cuts). In 1987 Mortensen guest starred as a corrupt police detective on the hit series Miami Vice.

During the 1990s, Mortensen appeared in supporting roles in a variety of films. His major mainstream breakthrough came in 1999, when Peter Jackson cast him as Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. Mortensen was a last-minute replacement for Stuart Townsend, and would not have taken the part of Aragorn had it not been for his son?s enthusiasm for the J. R. R. Tolkien novel. The film?s swordmaster, Bob Anderson, has described Mortensen as "the best swordsman I?ve ever trained."

Mortensen often spent days hiking to the film?s remote locations, in costume and carrying his sword, in order to appear authentically travel-worn; he also performed all of his own stunts, and even the injuries he sustained during several of them did not dampen his enthusiasm. At one point during shooting of The Two Towers, Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, and the stunt double for John Rhys-Davies all had fairly serious injuries, and during a shoot of them, running in the mountains, Peter Jackson jokingly referred to the three as "the walking wounded." Mortensen later purchased the two horses, Uraeus and Kenny, whom he rode and bonded with over the duration of the films.

In 2005, Mortensen starred in David Cronenberg?s A History of Violence. He was nominated for a Satellite Award for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture for this role. In the DVD extras for A History of Violence, David Cronenberg relates that Mortensen is the only actor he?d come across who would come back from weekends with his family with items he had bought to use as props on the set.

In September 2007, the film Eastern Promises, directed by David Cronenberg, was released to critical acclaim for the film itself and for Mortensen?s performance as a Russian gangster on the rise in London. His nude fight scene in a steam room was applauded by Roger Ebert: "Years from now, it will be referred to as a benchmark." Mortensen?s performance in Eastern Promises resulted in his winning the Best Performance by an Actor in a British Independent Film award from the British Independent Film Awards. He was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor.

In 2009, Mortensen appeared as himself in the film Reclaiming The Blade, in which he discussed his passion for the sword and his sword-work in films such as The Lord of the Rings and Alatriste.

In 2009, Mortensen performed in The People Speak, a documentary feature film that uses dramatic and musical performances of the letters, diaries, and speeches of everyday Americans, based on historian Howard Zinn?s A People?s History of the United States.

Mortensen has a son, Henry Blake Mortensen (born January 28, 1988), with ex-wife Exene Cervenka, singer in the punk band X. Henry and Viggo have done public father/son poetry readings together as recently as April 2006.

Mortensen is a painter and photographer. His paintings are frequently abstract and often contain fragments of his poetry in them. His paintings have been featured in galleries worldwide, and the paintings of the artist he portrayed in A Perfect Murder are all his own

Mortensen holds dual American-Danish citizenship. He speaks fluent English, Danish and Spanish; he is also conversational in French and Italian, and understands Norwegian and Swedish. He has stated that he was raised speaking English and Spanish and at times feels more comfortable expressing himself in Spanish.

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