The stuff that made me

Viggo Mortensen

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He’s about to play Sigmund Freud in David Cronenberg’s new film, but has an intrepid mind of his own. 

BOOKS
I learned to read in Spanish and English as we moved to Argentina when I was young. I had a leather-bound copy of Martín Fierro, a classic verse account of the life of a gaucho. For A Dangerous Method, I read everything I could: Freud’s writings, but also satellite works. Stefan Zweig wrote a great book about the period in which Freud grew up in Vienna called The World of Yesterday.

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THEATRE
Right now, I’m doing this play in Spanish by Ariel Dorfman called Purgatorio. The characters are initially based on Jason and Medea
— who killed her children in revenge for him leaving her for another woman — so I re-read some of the Greek tragedies. The last time I did a play was 24 years ago. So there’s extra terror.

TV
When I was 11 my parents split up and I moved to where my mother was from, the United States. I was shocked that the cartoons I’d seen on television were actually American: hearing them dubbed I’d had no idea. TV is different now, there’s a different quality to The Wire, Deadwood or In Treatment. More so than in the Seventies.

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POETRY
I’ve had a publishing company, Perceval Press, for about 10 years now. We have a new collection by a Russian poet called Georgy Ivanov. He’s little-known among English readers but he is a pretty key figure in 20th-century Russian-language poetry — a controversial figure, too, in a lot of ways, and an unhappy person.

MUSIC
As a teenager, I was upfront about the fact I liked David
Bowie. The first records I got were Diamond Dogs and Ziggy Stardust and then I started finding some of the old 45s. I was a closet fan of The Carpenters. I loved the way Karen Carpenter sang. Her songs are so sappy, but she had an amazing voice — and a tormented life, as it turns out.

FILM
I like to go and see silly movies sometimes. I’ve seen Happy Gilmore 20-something times. I see Elf every Christmas. Some of my earliest recollections are from going to movies with my mother: Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago, Ben-Hur. She loved them. I did a movie called Hidalgo in 2004, which Omar Sharif was also in. I invited my mother to the premiere and she got to meet him. He kissed her hand and she was done.

A Dangerous Method is out on 10 February