Thirteen years since the release of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, star Viggo Mortensen isn’t holding back in expressing his true feelings for the Peter Jackson trilogy. In a candid interview with The Telegraph, the 55-year-old actor calls the process of making the epic films an epic disaster.
Mortensen, who portrayed Aragorn in the trilogy, says Jackson and producers “were in a lot of trouble” before the first film proved to be a massive hit with both critics and moviegoers. “Officially, [Jackson] could say that he was finished in December 2000 — he’d shot all three films in the trilogy — but really the second and third ones were a mess,” Mortensen says. “It was very sloppy — it just wasn’t done at all. It needed massive reshoots, which we did, year after year. But he would have never been given the extra money to do those if the first one hadn’t been a huge success. The second and third ones would have been straight to video.”
All three LOTR films were nominated for best picture at the Academy Awards, with the final installment, The Return of the King, taking that top prize, as well as a best director statue for Jackson. But Mortensen has a decidedly different take on the quality of the films. He believes The Fellowship of the Ring is the best movie in the franchise, in part because Jackson relied less on special effects for that outing.
“Peter was always a geek in terms of technology but, once he had the means to do it, and the evolution of the technology really took off, he never looked back,” Mortensen says. “In the first movie, yes, there’s Rivendell, and Mordor, but there’s sort of an organic quality to it, actors acting with each other, and real landscapes; it’s grittier.”
Mortensen says the “ballooning” of Jackson’s reliance on CGI began with the second film, The Two Towers, and has increased with each subsequent project. “It was grandiose, and all that, but whatever was subtle, in the first movie, gradually got lost in the second and third. Now with The Hobbit, one and two, it’s like that to the power of 10,” Mortensen says.
Mortensen has deliberately chosen more character-driven fare since LOTR launched him into global superstardom, and had hopes that Jackson might return to his small-film roots as well.
“I was sure he would do another intimately scaled film like Heavenly Creatures, maybe with this project about New Zealanders in the First World War he wanted to make,” Mortensen says. “But then he did King Kong. And then he did The Lovely Bones — and I thought that would be his smaller movie. But the problem is, he did it on a $90 million budget. That should have been a $15 million movie. The special effects thing, the genie, was out of the bottle, and it has him.”
Mortensen does not appear in Jackson’s Hobbit films, the final of which is set to hit theaters Dec. 14. The actor’s newest film, The Two Faces of January (co-starring Kirsten Dunst and Oscar Isaac) premiered at the 2014 Berlin Film Festival in February.