The multilingual Danish-American actor has performed in everything from English to Elvish. Now he tackles French — as well the power of silence — in
Mortensen also learned some Arabic for the film by French director
"Lakota, Elvish — two kinds of Elvish — Dwarvish, Arabic, French, Danish, Russian," he listed. "I think I spoke Swedish one time, German, Spanish."
It's possible he may have left out one or two.
Mortensen — tanned, muscular and radiating energy while meeting reporters in
"You only can improve if you're challenged," he said. "You either learn or you fail."
In "Far From Men" ("Loin des Hommes" in French), Mortensen plays Daru, a former soldier who teaches children in an isolated Algerian mountain region.
It's 1954, and as an uprising stirs against the French colonial power, he is ordered to escort a man accused of murder to town for trial, and certain execution.
Daru would rather offer the doomed Mohamed (French actor
Based on a story by
Mortensen, who was born in
"He's denying his past, and he's running away from life on some level," Mortensen said. "He is also saying no to life, just as much as Mohamed is."
The movie has been praised in
Its theme — the fragility and importance of communication across barriers — is close to Mortensen's heart.
"The world is becoming more polarized ... even though the possibility for global communication has never been more ample, more conducive to understanding one another," the actor said. "I think people use the new means of communication for further underlining their particular way of looking at things.
"So you become more isolated ... even though it ought to be the other way around."
Talking, in myriad languages, is a feature of many of Mortensen's movies. So, the actor says, is walking.
"It's probably a coincidence but maybe not: I've done a lot of movies where I walk a lot."
Mortensen mentions "The Lord of the Rings," ''The Road" and the Argentine film "Jauja," as well as "Far From Men."
The physical thread continues in his upcoming "Captain Fantastic," about a self-sufficient family struggling to adjust to urban life.
Throughout his career, Mortensen, 55, has moved between blockbusters such as "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy — he played Aragorn — and edgier fare like
He has been admired for his ability to make independent features while retaining box-office clout.
"If I keep doing independent movies maybe eventually people won't say that anymore," he said. "But I'm not worried about that. I think good work eventually finds an audience.
"I don't look for big movies or small movies. I'm just looking for stories that I want to see in the movie theater."
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