Viggo Mortensen was a last-minute addition to the "Lord of the Rings" franchise, replacing Stuart Townsend in the role of Aragorn just days before shooting began on "Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring." Upon being hired, did Mortensen think he had scored the role of his life?
"Anybody who says they knew it was going to be the success it was, I don’t think it's really true," Mortensen told Tim Robey in a new interview with The Telegraph. "They didn't have an inkling until they showed 20 minutes in Cannes, in May of 2001."
According to Mortensen, before that footage preview, "The Fellowship of the Ring" had become a money pit, with director Peter Jackson having spent "a lot" to finish the film. "Really, the second and third ones were a mess," Mortensen said of the "Two Towers" and "Return of the King," which followed "The Fellowship of the Ring. "It was very sloppy –- it just wasn't done at all. It needed massive reshoots, which we did, year after year. But he would have never been given the extra money to do those if the first one hadn't been a huge success. The second and third ones would have been straight to video."
Mortensen has always been measured when discussing the filmmaking process on Jackson's blockbuster franchise. Back in 2004, just before the Academy Awards ceremony that would see "The Return of the King" win 11 total Oscars, the actor told ESPN that "a great effort was made by everyone" to produce the films.
"Peter did his best with this material and obviously audiences have embraced this material to the tune of billions of dollars by going and seeing it again and again and becoming mildly obsessed with it," Mortensen said at the time.
Speaking to Robey, however, Mortensen criticized Jackson for one thing: an over-reliance on digital effects work following "The Fellowship of the Ring."
"The second movie already started ballooning, for my taste, and then by the third one, there were a lot of special effects," Mortensen said. "It was grandiose, and all that, but whatever was subtle, in the first movie, gradually got lost in the second and third. Now with 'The Hobbit,' one and two, it's like that to the power of 10."
Mortensen was not involved in "The Hobbit" trilogy that Jackson produced for Warner Bros., but not because of any bad blood.
"Before they started shooting, back in 2008, one of the producers did ask if I would be interested," Mortensen told The Guardian last year. "I said, 'You do know, don't you, that Aragorn isn't in The Hobbit? That there is a 60-year gap between the books?'"
As for Jackson, Mortensen said he had hoped the director would go back to the smaller films he had made early in his career, like "Heavenly Creatures"; instead, Jackson's post-"Rings" resume is filled with big budgets.
"He did 'The Lovely Bones' –- and I thought that would be his smaller movie," Mortensen said. "But the problem is, he did it on a $90 million budget. That should have been a $15 million movie. The special effects thing, the genie, was out of the bottle, and it has him. And he's happy, I think ..."
For the full interview with Mortensen, head to The Telegraph.