Mortensen on ‘The Dead Don’t Hurt”

Viggo Mortensen has played characters in Westerns before but his new film posits him as a multiple talent writing, directing, composing, producing, and starring in the oater The Dead Don’t Hurt.

Mortensen has previously been nominated for a Best Actor Oscar® three times for Eastern Promises, Captain Fantastic, and Green Book.

“When you talk about the scope of the story we had a tight schedule,” says Mortensen in a zoom interview with Screen Reflections. “It may look like we had a lot more time to make the film than we did, but we shot the entire film in starting in eastern Canada for two days, the forest, the childhood home, and then we went to western Canada and shot the ending, more forest scenes, the river crossing. Then we went to Mexico and shot for 26 days, which is not very much,” says Mortensen.

The Dead Don’t Hurt observes the relationship between two immigrants in American in the middle of the 19th century. Holger Olsen (Mortensen) and Vicky Krieps as Vivienne Le Coudy bond as foreigners in a new land. Garret Dillahunt and Danny Huston co-star. 

Despite their peaceful homesteader lifestyle Olsen and Le Coudy find themselves compromised by small town corruption.

“Olsen has a code of honor, you get to know him as someone who may be occasionally clumsy, a man of few words,” says Mortensen.

Olsen joins the Union army in the newly started Civil War as a way to assimilate into his new country. When he returns the emotional landscape between him and his wife has been altered by circumstance. It’s a lyrical view of the Old West where cliche notions of vengeance are turned on their head.

“I suppose in the first half of the movie when you see violence and you see Olsen trailing someone you assume its about revenge,” says Mortensen. “Maybe it’s not about what you expect so much as a sense of forgiveness and a certain acceptance and ability to adapt and evolve.

I was open to what the crew had to say, that’s something I’ve learned from some of the directors I’ve worked with,” adds Mortensen. “A good idea can come from anywhere and you want to take the opportunity to tell the story by taking advantage of the people trying to help you.”

The Dead Don’t Hurt finished a day early and under budget.

“It was all a challenge,” says Mortensen about his sophomore outing as a director. His previous film Falling came out in 2020.

“Directing is my current aim, but it is a business, You need to find someone willing to take a risk on your vision. So far we’ve opened in France and Spain and done extremely well. The film appeals to people who don’t like westerns as much as fans of westerns.”

The Dead Don’t Hurt opens this weekend in theaters.

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