In the eccentric family drama Captain Fantastic, Viggo Mortensen may star as an off-the-grid, anti-capitalist, Noam Chomsky-quoting patriarch, but the actor — who just scored a Golden Globe nomination for his role — says that in the wake of this year’s U.S. election, the family adventure story feels more poignant than ever, no matter which side of the political spectrum you fall on.
“It’s a movie that continues to prove that it’s relevant and it’s timely,” Mortensen says. “Since I read the script, I’ve thought it talked in many ways about the problems that come when you don’t communicate with others who are different. In a way, I guess it serves as a post-election antidote, regardless of what your politics are or who you voted for or whether you voted or not. It speaks to the problem we have talking to each other and listening to each other.”
On Monday, Mortensen landed his third Golden Globe nomination (after Eastern Promises and A Dangerous Method) for his role as Ben Cash, a father raising his six children in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. There, he and his brood — named Bodevan, Kielyr, Vespyr, Rellian, Zaja, and Nai — spend their days hunting and foraging for their own food, scaling cliff faces, and hosting lively debates over ancient political theory. To prepare for their survivalist roles, the seven actors teamed up for a pre-filming boot camp, where they learned how to rock climb, skin animals, and even play the bagpipes.
The result is a frequently touching, occasionally harsh story of a man who loves his kids and wants what’s best for them, even if that doesn’t always align with his own anarchist tendencies. Matt Ross (who Silicon Valley fans know as Hooli’s narcissistic CEO Gavin Belson) wrote and directed Captain Fantastic, and Mortensen says it was Ross’ impeccable script and the story’s themes that made him fall in love with the project.
“I think being honest is never something that should be overrated,” Mortensen says. “Our family model is extreme, but it’s just common sense. Encourage curiosity. Encourage open dialogue. And encourage people to think for themselves and not only form their own ideas but be able to defend those ideas. And be open to changing those ideas if someone comes along with a better one.”
Mortensen added that the actors who play his children were some of the first people to reach out about his Globe nomination and that he’s looking forward to reuniting with all six to celebrate. And although Mortensen’s nomination may have been a bit of a surprise for most awards prognosticators, it was just business as usual for his young costars, who’ve watched the film debut to rave reviews at the Cannes Film Festival and Sundance.
“I remember walking up the red carpet in Cannes back in May, where we got this incredible reception from the audience, and the youngest kids were saying, ‘This is great! I like this red carpet stuff. We get all these standing ovations, and this is so cool. I’m coming back next year!’” Mortensen recalls, laughing. “And I said, well, you may not get invited next year. You have to get a movie that gets invited to Cannes, and even if you do, it’s very rarely you get people standing for 10 minutes after your movie, clapping and clapping. So just be really happy. It may never happen again.”
“And the youngest ones were like, ‘Oh, it will,’” Mortensen continues. “And I’m like, ‘Well, positive thinking is great.’”