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Viggo Mortensen looks back at 'Lord of the Rings' 20 years later

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  • Viggo Mortensen
    Viggo Mortensen
    American actor

Lord of the RIngs star Viggo Mortensen talks about how he got his role as Aragorn in The Lord of the RIngs: The Fellowship of the RIng, and remembers what it was like filming his first scenes.

Video transcript

[LORD OF THE RINGS THEME MUSIC]

- You have my sword.

- And you have my bow.

- And my ax.

ETHAN ALTER: Viggo, for you, it's 20 years of "Fellowship of the Ring" this December. You came into it late though. There's another actor who was playing Aragorn at the time. Were you nervous about taking over coming into a film that was already going on?

VIGGO MORTENSEN: Well, I felt unprepared, you know, because people had not only had they started shooting, but the other actors had been there for weeks, months in some cases, preparing for this arduous task of shooting the whole trilogy. And I also felt awkward. I'd never been in a position of replacing another actor.

I understood from the filmmakers that Stuart Townsend, who was a great actor, was really perfect for the part, but he was too young because he was the same age as the actors playing the hobbits and so forth. And they just needed someone that was a little bit older, that's all. It was just a bad luck situation.

Nevertheless, I did feel a little funny about it, but I just did my best. I did run into Stuart after we finished everything just briefly on the street in LA and said hello. And he seemed like a very nice guy and he's obviously a very fine actor. So it's just one of those strange things that happen in our business.

ETHAN ALTER: The fight on Weathertop is the first scene where we see sort of Aragorn get to slash and show off his prowess. What was it like filming that scene? What do you remember about doing that?

VIGGO MORTENSEN: That was the first scene I shot. Fortunately, it wasn't a scene with dialogue. And you know, I could just get the physicality of the character established and I enjoyed that.

The first thing I did when I landed and just jet lag was to go learn how to do the sword fighting required and I enjoyed it. It was nice to do something physical first. I was grateful that I wasn't thrown right into a dialogue scene.

- You cannot give me this.

- It is mine to give to whom I will.

ETHAN ALTER: What's the legacy of that series for you now?

VIGGO MORTENSEN: What I most remember and what was most valuable in the shooting of "Lord of the Rings," because it was such a long period, was watching Peter Jackson and his team, hundreds of mostly New Zealanders who had had little and in some cases no experience working on movies, certainly none of them had had experience working on a big movie like that.

Watching them solve problems every day, all kinds of problems, inventing new ways to shoot things, it was like a big, wide open crazy film school for a year, a year and a 1/2. It was like being paid to go to school and learn how to solve problems in filmmaking. It was wonderful.

- The ring was made in the fires of Mount Doom. Only there can it be unmade.

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