Cannes Flashback: Viggo Mortensen and David Cronenberg’s History Began at the Fest

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Director David Cronenberg first met Viggo Mortensen at a party at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival, where Mortensen was celebrating the unveiling of preview footage from The Lord of the Rings, in which the actor starred as Aragorn. Striking up an immediate rapport, the two vowed to work together one day. They returned to the festival four years later with Cronenberg’s A History of Violence playing in competition, and it was clear that a lifelong professional love affair had begun.

At a photocall for the film, in which Mortensen plays a family man who is forced to kill two men in self-defense, triggering revelations about his mob-connected past, Cronenberg gave his leading man a playful smack on the lips.

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The duo followed Violence with two more films, 2007’s Eastern Promises and 2011’s A Dangerous Method. And now they have reunited for Neon’s body-modification thriller Crimes of the Future, the competition entry premiering on Monday, May 23, that Cronenberg had originally developed under the title Painkillers, at one time hoping to film it immediately after Violence (as THR reported on May 16, 2005).

In the press notes for Violence provided to festivalgoers, Cronenberg proclaimed, “Viggo’s my kind of actor,” explaining that he combined the aura of a leading man with the versatility of a character actor. For his part, Mortensen testified, “I don’t think I’ve ever felt more like I was on the same wavelength with a director as I am with David. I like his way of telling a story.”

At the film’s press conference, Cronenberg bristled when the panel’s moderator, Cannes veteran Henri Béhar, suggested that the movie’s violence was “poetic.” The director objected: “I didn’t want it to be poetic and balletic. The things that you’re saying make me cringe because I don’t want that to be true. It’s very efficient. It’s quick in the movie. It’s quite brutal, the aftermath is quite brutal, and, I have to say, it’s a subjective thing.” 

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