This summer, the quintessentially un-Hollywood Viggo Mortensen stars in a film about a father of six who rejects the world to raise his kids completely off the grid. How much does this character resemble the actor himself? Let’s start with his flip phone.
Viggo Mortensen has come bearing pancake mix. We are curbside at the tiny airport in Syracuse, New York, on a truly dreary day (even by Syracuse standards), and within seconds of hopping into his rented Ford Fusion, I learn two things about him: He’s the kind of guy who picks you up at the airport, and he’s the kind of guy who brings presents. Pancake mix is a delicacy in upstate New York. “Do you like maple syrup?” Because he brought me some of that, too. He’s prepared a gift bag.
“You can smoke in the car,” Mortensen says, gesturing with his own smoldering American Spirit. “There’s an ashtray.” It’s a cardboard cup from the airport Best Western, where he got his coffee this morning, that he has filled with an inch of water. For us.
Is he always this chivalrous?
He smiles. “I try.”
Clooney, I tell him, probably never picks anyone up at airports.
He laughs. “He’s probably a lot busier than I am.”
We’re here to talk about Mortensen’s new movie, a subversive and surprising family drama called Captain Fantastic, and we’re here here, in upstate New York, because Mortensen has taken some time off from his life in Madrid to care for his dying father. To see him to the end, same as he did for his mother, Grace, who passed away a year ago. Grace was a saint. His father, also named Viggo Peter Mortensen, not so much. But you do what you have to do. The old man is in Watertown, an hour and a half from the Syracuse airport, where Mortensen went to high school and where we are headed now.