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Viggo Mortensen On Playing Twins in his latest film, His Love of Argentina, and Soccer

This article has been republished from IndieWire, with the permission of our resident film writer Vanessa Erazos.

Viggo Mortensen, best known for his roles in Eastern Promises and The Lord of the Rings, is a huge soccer fan. He almost got thrown out of an airport once after loudly celebrating a goal by his favorite Argentinian club team, San Lorenzo. Coincidentally, it’s his love of soccer that brought him to his newest role—playing twins in the Argentinian thriller Everybody Has A Plan.

Writer-Director Anita Piterbarg

Writer-Director Anita Piterbarg

First time writer-director Ana Piterbarg was taking her son to swimming lessons at the San Lorenzo sports club in Buenos Aires when she ran into Mortensen. She introduced herself and told him about a screenplay she was writing about two twins who were estranged and that took place in the Tigre Delta, a maze of islands not far from Buenos Aires. Mortensen, intrigued, asked her to send him the script. It was the story he had been waiting for. Finally, he could return to the country of his childhood and shoot a film. (Mortensen grew up in Argentina, living there until he was eleven.)

It’s a moody noir film. After the death of his twin brother Augustín (Mortensen) travels back to the islands where he grew up. He hasn’t been back in years. Augustín is trying to escape his frustrating, boring existence as a well-off straight-laced doctor living in Buenos Aires. He decides to take on his brother’s identity, he pretends to be Pedro. As he rides in a boat along the misty, cold river towards his brother’s rickety log cabin he has a run in with some locals. He gets roughed up, gets called a liar, and is told that people are looking for him. Slowly he begins to realize that his brother was wrapped up in something very dangerous but he isn’t quite sure what it is.

LatinoBuzz sat down with Mortensen to talk about the challenges of playing identical twins, his love of Argentina, and what it’s like to support the same soccer team as the pope.

Viggo Mortenson, in 'Everybody Has a Plan'

LatinoBuzz: Your family is American, Canadian, and Danish and you were born in New York but grew up in Argentina. What drew your family to South America?

Mortensen: My dad got work down there, working in agriculture, managing farms so we moved when I was an infant and lived there until I was eleven. The first decade of your life is really important, it’s formative. I never lost the feeling for the country, for Argentina and for the language spoken there. I still have that inside me. This is the fourth movie I have shot in Spanish but it’s the first time in Argentina, all the other movies were shot in Spain. I’ve always wanted to make a film in Argentina. I had been looking for the right story, something challenging and interesting. Argentina has a long tradition of producing good movies and producing really good actors and directors. I always hoped I could become part of Argentine film history and with this movie now I am.

LatinoBuzz: Do you identify as Latino, Latin American, or Argentinian? Do you use these terms to describe yourself?

Mortensen: I’m not a big fan of pigeonholing people or labeling people. I just don’t look at things that way but I do feel comfortable in the country. It’s like going home when I go there, every time I go to Argentina. But I also feel that way in other countries like in Denmark where my family is from, where I have spent a lot of time. I guess it’s also part of moving around a lot, being around a lot of different cultures. I have a multicultural background so I tend to have an open mind about things and I find other cultures interesting. I really enjoy my job and part of my job is looking at the world in a way that is different from my own.

LatinoBuzz: What was the process of preparing to play twins like? How is it different from preparing for just one role?

Mortensen: With any character I have played there’s infinite possibilities for how they might behave, depending on who they are talking to or how they react to things. My major concern was how to make two twins who look very similar, in this case identical twins, seem like two distinct people. Often times in other movies when a person is playing twins or playing multiple characters or like Eddie Murphy who sometimes will play the whole cast, sometimes it doesn’t work very well. It seems like a stunt. It’s a push-pull thing. I looked for differences in them, body language, their way of speaking, their posture, their point of view. And I looked for what they have in common. They are two brothers with not much love between them but they have a common memory, they grew up together.