Film

Viggo Mortensen: "It’s good to have your world turned upside down"

Lord of the Rings and Jauja star Viggo Mortensen talks family history, living a meaningful life - and his love of Fulham FC

Can I ask about the title of your new film Jauja – specifically, how do you pronounce it?

It’s like ‘how’, as in how are you doing? And ‘ha’ as in haha.

What does it mean?

It was the name the Spanish gave to the capital of the South American part of their empire. The legend grew about the place back in Spain, basically that this was a land of milk and honey, an earthly paradise so perfect that you were punished for working and paid for taking naps, breakfast rolls grew on trees and the streets were lined with hams. Some people believed it and went.

I think that being put into an uncomfortable position helps you learn

What does that mean in relation to the film?

A father loses his daughter and all of a sudden it becomes the most important thing in the world. This search to find or recover happiness is a process. It is never something that you arrive at, none of us do.

Are all of us reaching for something that will always remain out of reach?

Yeah I think so. People do it with their gadgets. I mean computers, TV channels, the endless choice you have for distracting yourself and passing time between sleeps. You can easily get lost. You have to balance the quest for comfort and leisure with making the most of life while you’re here, which isn’t that long a time.

Cinema could be counted as a distraction. Perhaps there are two kinds, ones that make you forget about your own life and others where you gain something through watching. Do you choose projects based on wanting to do one or the other?

I hesitate always before saying yes. Each step is a choice. If I decide to go in one direction then I’m saying no to something else. I like to challenge myself. I think that being put into an uncomfortable position helps you learn. I like the idea of waking up in the middle of the night and suddenly feeling that everything I assumed about the way the world worked was completely wrong. As long as you don’t allow it to cripple you mentally, it’s good to have your world turned upside down.

How did Jauja change the way you look at the world?

I was raised in Argentina. I had a certain memory of my father who was Danish. As kids my brothers and I thought his accent speaking Spanish was funny. I saw my father differently. It wasn’t easy to be him with his northern European worldview to go down there.

Did you feel a connection to the Patagonia landscapes?

Some of these areas I had been with my family on camping trips. It’s changed a little bit, the roads are better, but the climate, the smells were very familiar. In between takes I was happy as can be, sitting on a horse in Patagonia.

Your love of football is something that has also stayed with you since your Argentinian upbringing. Do you follow any British sides?

I like to watch Premier League football, Scottish football as well. A team I like – I’ve gone to see them play a couple of times and I like their stadium a lot – is Fulham.

What led you to Fulham?

Someone invited me to go one time. I like their history. I follow their trajectory. But San Lorenzo is my team. I watch every San Lorenzo game without fail, no matter the time of day. It sometimes causes me trouble at work.

Jauja is out now

Join The Ride Out Recession Alliance

The Ride Out Recession Alliance (RORA) will develop and implement practical steps and solutions to prevent families losing their homes, and help people remain in employment.

Learn More

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Made in England: The Films of Powell and Pressburger – Scorsese's tribute to duo who inspired him
Martin Scorsese and Michael Powell, 1981.
Film

Made in England: The Films of Powell and Pressburger – Scorsese's tribute to duo who inspired him

Filmmaker Melanie Manchot explains how her drama Stephen can offer hope to addicts
Stephen Giddings in Stephen
Film

Filmmaker Melanie Manchot explains how her drama Stephen can offer hope to addicts

She-Hulk star Tatiana Maslany: 'Fear is not necessarily the worst thing to feel'
Tatiana Maslany Image: Alexei Hay
Film

She-Hulk star Tatiana Maslany: 'Fear is not necessarily the worst thing to feel'

Much Ado About Dying filmmaker on social care and why we should all be exposed to 'good deaths'
Uncle David in Much Ado about Dying
Film

Much Ado About Dying filmmaker on social care and why we should all be exposed to 'good deaths'

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know