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He owns a publishing company in Santa Monica, Perceval Press, which puts out volumes of his own painting, poetry, and Ansel Adams-ish photography – you name it, he dabbles in it – along with a slate of works by other artists and scholars.
(A typical new title, Dreams Before Extinction, by the Iranian artist Naeemeh Naeemaei, consists of 12 paintings of endangered species with facing text in two languages.) During Mortensen’s time in New Zealand on The Lord of the Rings, when he had already twigged that old editions of Tolkien were about to become highly prized, he would stop in at second-hand boutiques, and assembled a valuable collection.
And he’s anxious about losing his pretty young wife, Colette (Dunst), especially when a handsome opportunist called Rydal (Isaac) becomes privy to their secrets.
Highsmith wrote the novel in 1964, nine years after The Talented Mr Ripley. But it doesn’t start out nearly as interestingly, because the characters are already drawn for you.
But the problem is, he did it on a million budget. The special effects thing, the genie, was out of the bottle, and it has him.
And he’s happy, I think…” READ: Cinema's 25 best literary adaptations Mortensen himself took another road. Except for the forgettable mustang-racing adventure Hidalgo (2004), he refused almost all of them.
He has stature and an often intimidating authority on screen, so it’s a surprise to discover, when we meet in Berlin, that he’s an unthreatening 5’10” in person – and wholly hospitable.
Aragorn was a life-changing role for him – the one that made him world-famous, and a bankable star.
But he was cast very late, replacing original choice Stuart Townsend, who was fired by an unsatisfied Peter Jackson a day before filming started.
And then the screenplay for A History of Violence landed on his desk.
“It’s true, I was getting an awful lot of offers, mainly bad scripts. But now, more than ever, I was thinking I should do what I’d always done, which was to find a good story, something I wouldn’t be embarrassed to see in the cinema. It was 120-odd pages of just mayhem; kind of senseless, really.