The Lord of the Rings - Cannes Coverage

Last Update: 27 June 2001

English translation of Interview with Sean Bean and Viggo Mortensen from
El Senor de los Anillos (the Spanish LOTR website)

Translated by Jera

Interview with Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn) and Sean Bean (Boromir)

Interviewer: What has the relationship between the actors been like?

Viggo Mortensen: I will always feel something very special for my friends in the cast. I will not be able to forget their small eccentricities, already you know... stories of what has been happening. The relationships have been much closer than that I have had with other casts in previous projects. I like to work with actors and get acquainted, but perhaps the fact that we have spent so much time together has caused a much deeper friendship. Also for our own story that we lived, I don't know, I believe that we do not have to forget that, for some reason, we all understood each other. Peter Jackson had much to do with this; he created between us a very particular form of relationship. I'm sure that Peter not only chose each of us because we fitted with the character, but that he also looked for people who were compatible, who could form a true "community" of actors. Everyone's personal experiences, their good and bad events, were shared. There were good days and bad days, and always there was somebody ready to lend a hand when the day was bad.

Interviewer: Was the shoot difficult?

Viggo Mortensen: Yes, it was difficult, I missed my family. Not that I don't like to get to know new places, I enjoy discovering wild places, in the United States, Canada, Europe or New Zealand. New Zealand is really incredible, it has been a great chance to travel to the depths of the country, to reach the most remote and inaccessible sites. But this has meant travel in a helicopter for more than half an hour and required work in the hardest of conditions.

Interviewer: A great experience, I imagine...

Viggo Mortensen: It was an enriching experience for an actor, because of learning how to feel at home anywhere. And that was indeed where we were working, the essence of history. To learn to live with what you have, to be tolerant, really to commit oneself and much more, fighting against evil. Evil is always watching the weak one and the Community knows it. Others are protected and they don't allow anyone to succumb to the dark of Sauron.

Interviewer: Sean, what can you tell us about your character?

Sean Bean: Well, I'm the only one of the Community that, somehow, is corrupted by the ring. In fact it also happens to Frodo and whoever enters the surroundings of the ring. And, I don't know, I can understand why it doesn't have to be used to fight against the forces of evil, why we must corner it and look after it outside our surroundings. But as time passes, I realize that all this is not as simple as was thought. My character has more layers, he's more prudent than it seems in the beginning. There are other forces which are involved, it's not only a question of brute force and ability.

Viggo Mortensen: It is understandable that Boromir (Sean Bean) doesn't realise that, if one has as powerful a device as a nuclear weapon or something, one cannot use it, no?

Sean Bean: Of course. He would not want to destroy it, that is to say, why destroy the ring when you can use it against evil.

Viggo Mortensen: That is the temptation. The ring makes you stronger. And in fact you are losing your identity, you lose yourself, I don't know how to explain it myself... The Community is strong based on how they are all and each one of the individuals that form it. Any one of the companions of the Community, or Boromir or Frodo, must assume the load of that temptation all along.

Interviewer: Then how is it that...

Viggo Mortensen: If you lose your strength and covet the ring, that is to say, if anyone of the comrades falls into the temptation and it is lost to themselves somehow, then the Community becomes weaker. The others must then take care of what this person recovers in way of sanity and it surrenders. It'is something very interesting. Really, neither Frodo, nor Gandalf, nor Aragorn, nor Boromir are the heroes. No one is the star, as happens in other films where everything has been simplified. The Community is an entity, you know, not a person. For that reason discussions and disagreements occur, they want to do this and others that, and problems appear...

Sean Bean: Yes, the conflicts within the group arise...

Viggo Mortensen: Of course. Well yes, that is my burden, to say it somehow. My character also takes a burden from long before, an inheritance that must be accepted.

Interviewer: And he will take that burden since then?

Viggo Mortensen: Yes, most of the time.

Interviewer: You were the last one selected, how did you feel?

Viggo Mortensen: Well, I had to perform something to make me more with the character. I also didn't know much about the story. Later, when I had read the book, I found that it had something of the old tales of the Vikings, of Celtic myths, and that made the job easier for me, helped me to fit into the story. In many ways I felt like a stranger as I was selected later. Never have I been a character who, at first, was intended for another actor. Well, as an actor, you're able to imagine, it is rare that you feel. But well, as I didn't meet with the other actor and I didn't know him either... In a way I felt very grateful for the part of Aragorn. I suppose that I would have felt worse if the role had been taken to my best friend. In any case I don't believe that being better or worse than him was why they gave the part to me.

Interviewer: Why do you think they chose you?

Viggo Mortensen: Of course Stewart Townsend is a great actor. I believe that he has all his life ahead of him to do great projects. It is more a problem of age than anything else. Aragorn is older, it was a small mistake in casting. They put him there and felt that he was not absolutely right, you know. The character is clearly older, and also of a different race than Boromir for example.

Interviewer: Boromir has a life like ours...

Sean Bean: Yes he is a man, like us...

Viggo Mortensen: Sure he is a human being. I am of a species of average humans. That is to say, I am human but my life is much longer. For that reason I am older than I really appear. Aragorn has many years, you know, and to look like this was easier for me than for Stewart.

Sean Bean: You can live many more years, yes?

Viggo Mortensen: That's right.

Interviewer: Then it is genetic?

Viggo Mortensen: Yes, because I descend from the Numenóreanos.

Interviewer: Did you look for Aragorn in yourself, that is to say, during the filming did Viggo look to feel like Aragorn?

Viggo Mortensen: I always try to get a feel for it as much as possible. But the truth is that I did not have the free time, so, I walked and dressed like Aragorn and, as Peter always encouraged us to look for the realism within the story, without worrying about the fantastic thing that could be in the scene that we were filming, the clothes or weapons that we had, because we were dirty, freezing cold or dying of heat, and we were really uncomfortable. That is indeed the beauty of this project. It is a very real performance, although obviously the story is in another time. But it is very real, at least I felt like it was true. Did the same happen to you as me?

Sean Bean: Well yes. There are tons of special effects and incredible scenes, and the surroundings... the sites in which we filmed; frightening cliffs, ancient forests, places where nobody had been before. Well, what can I say? It has been wonderful.

Viggo Mortensen: Yes, the truth is that the film is not just what you see, the thrill of special effects, that... it goes so much further. The film is an adventure.

Sean Bean: And the relationship between the characters.

Viggo Mortensen: It is drama and adventure on a grand scale.

Sean Bean: Exactly, it's a study on humanity. I believe that this is the base of the film. The special effects and the action add to the story, complete it.

Interviewer: How do you feel after working with the same character for so long?

Viggo Mortensen: We're still working! Some odd takes and things like that.

Sean Bean: And we continue to talk about it... I think that you always have something left, that you take something of the character with you.

Viggo Mortensen: Yes.

Sean Bean: You keep the character and you can return to work and bring him out after some time. It's there, within you.

Viggo Mortensen: Now, for example, I'm looking at you and some things come to me at once, like difficult scenes that we did, in which our characters worked closely together. They will remain in my memory forever.

Sean Bean: Yes, yes.

Viggo Mortensen: And when I see you in other films, I know that there are things that I have had the fortune to share with you which others have not.

Sean Bean: I agree.

Interviewer: Have you read the book?

Sean Bean: Yes, I read the book a long time ago, some twenty-odd years...

Interviewer: What a memory. It is a book that is not forgotten then?

Sean Bean: I have certainly always preserved it, I have remembered it. There is a cartoon version of "The Lord of the Rings" isn't there?

Interviewer: Yes.

Sean Bean: As I told you, I read the book a long time ago. And well, when I found out that a new version was being made, the project interested me and I did everything possible to be a part of it. When this happened it almost gave me a heart attack. Imagine, this is something that I've always wanted to do, something in which I wanted to participate in one way or another. It is a classic, something that you don't always have the opportunity to do, you can hardly cope nor even imagine given the characteristics of the project. It is something that is quite complicated to carry out. It has been incredible to participate.

Viggo Mortensen: The idea of having participated in a story of this scope, I don't know, it 's something that you have to think on and digest. It is not just any job.

Sean Bean: Frankly it is a huge project. It is creating a lot of interest, I didn't expect that it would create so much anticipation when we began this.

Viggo Mortensen: I, however, had not only not read the book, but not even heard of the subject. I bought it when I was already on the way, at the last moment.

Sean Bean: You read it in one go - it was hard work, yes?

Viggo Mortensen: Yes. I read it on an airplane. I felt like a kid. It's not something invented solely by Tolkien, I mean, when I was young I read stories of the Vikings, Celtic myths and I remembered many things when reading "The Lord of the Rings". In the West, there is so much of these old stories in our own culture. Even if you have not read the book you understand the approach and the characters of the film.

Viggo Mortensen: I believe that many people are going to benefit from this and now read the book themselves. In Germany or England it is a classic of necessary reading. It has a very lively following in the literary culture. Many are going to want to know what it is about.

Interviewer: Why don't you describe one to the other?

Viggo Mortensen: What, describe his work?

Sean Bean: His work... Okay, to tell the truth the other day I saw him in jeans for the first time... I believe that nobody saw him in street clothes during the filming! (laughter).

Viggo Mortensen: He always wore short trousers... whether it was hot or cold (more laughter).

Sean Bean: Careful, Viggo did not dress coarsely, he was in `hobbit' dress, yes, but he had a special hobbit " look ". Yes?

Viggo Mortensen: I think he is calm and easy and fairly relaxed. Sean was incredible. He was very concentrated. I could not imagine anyone to be more centred on his work, on all the details, the surroundings (the scenes) and everything what he referred to in the film for so long. What stamina...

Sean Bean: Viggo didn't sleep more than four hours a day, yes? But, I don't know, I saw he was so enthusiastic with everything, well, I suppose that he didn't need to sleep more.

Viggo Mortensen: I believe that Sean was as enthusiastic on the last day or filming as on the first.

Interviewer: It seems that Mr. Bean is a rock, and the others?

Viggo Mortensen: Well Sean has greater ability to put on a poker face than I, of course. Sometimes I felt that the situation was beating me, in truth I was a little amazed. But Sean or the Community as much as the rest of the filming crew were always there supporting me.

Sean Bean: All of us helped each other, it was hard sometimes...very hard.

Viggo Mortensen: Everybody is great.

Sean Bean: Everyone was very deeply involved in the world of "The Lord of the Rings". From the wardrobe department to lighting, all were fascinated with the story. This is something that does not happen usually.

Viggo Mortensen: Of course.

Sean Bean: I believe that nobody ignored the subject. Everyone had a passion for "The Lord of the Rings".

Viggo Mortensen: There is nothing like feeling that every last one of the members of the crew is living what they are doing to the maximum. Each scene, you saw them watching, passionately.

Sean Bean: It is that everyone knew the book perfectly, down to the electricians, or the people who don't normally read the script.

Viggo Mortensen: Yes.

Sean Bean: They knew at any moment in what part of the story we were.

Interviewer: Has this ever happened to you before?

Viggo Mortensen: Well, I have worked on films where the crew was very involved, but is not the usual thing. And less when the project is so long. There have been many days, that have had everything; good and bad, and everybody has been very involved, very interested.

Interviewer: Did you know Peter Jackson before the filming?

Sean Bean: Well, I was with him a couple of years, yes, in his office in London. We were preparing my role, working it together. And, then, on location.

Interviewer: Have you already seen something of the film?

Viggo Mortensen: Well, we have seen some special effects, a few panoramas and things like that. But the story itself, our story, not yet. But it has a fascinating look, It feels like everything is as it is.

Sean Bean: What I have seen has left me in awe. When filming you cannot see all the special effects that they will add later and so on, so when you see some finished scene for the first time, it makes an impression on you.

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