t appears Viggo Mortensen's time has finally come. Hot off the success of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Mortensen returns this Christmas as human warrior Aragorn/Strider in The Two Towers.
  The road to the Ring, however, has been a long one. Mortensen made his feature film debut playing Alexander Godunov's Amish brother in Witness (1985). The suave, handsome actor has subsequently portrayed a wide variety of characters, often unapologetic bad boys, opposite some of Hollywood's most popular actors, including Sean Penn, Sylvester Stallone, Demi Moore, and Nicole Kidman.
  Born in New York City on October 20, 1958, to an
American father and a Danish mother, Mortensen
spent his first years in Manhattan and the rest of his youth living in Argentina, Venezuela and Denmark. Returning to Manhattan in the early '80s, he studied acting at Warren Robertson's Theater Workshop and then embarked on a stage career before moving to Los Angeles.
  Following his debut in Witness, Mortensen found steady work in a number of diverse films, becoming a familiar but not instantly recognizable face to filmgoers. Some of his more memorable work came as a series of louts and villains in such films as The Indian Runner (1991), which cast him as Sean Penn's morally ambivalent brother, and in Carlito's Way (1993), in which he played a paraplegic ex-con who tries to snitch on Al Pacino.
  Mortensen finally attained a greater measure of face recognition with his smoldering portrayal of one of Isabel Archer's (Nicole Kidman) suitors in Jane Campion's 1996 adaptation of The Portrait of a Lady. He then made another strong impression as Demi Moore's rough, tough, and buff training instructor in G.I. Jane (1997) and, the following year, he was one of the few redeeming features of A Perfect Murder, in which he supplied sexy menace (as well as his own art work) as Gwyneth Paltrow's murderous artist lover. His more romantic side was again in evidence in the romantic drama 28 Days (2000), in which he played recovering party girl Sandra Bullock's rehab honey.
  Mortensen's career took a huge leap forward when he was asked to replace Irish actor Stuart Townsend in the pivotal role of Aragorn shortly after production had already begun on director Peter Jackson's eagerly anticipated film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.
  "Viggo embraced the character so completely it's difficult to imagine the two being separate now," Jackson has said about Mortensen.
  As the second installment begins, Aragorn realizes that he must accept responsibility for uniting and leading the disparate tribes of men against the power of Sauron while dealing with the separation from his beloved elf princess, Arwen.
Here's what Viggo Mortensen had to say about being part of the trilogy.

Were you familiar with the books?
Viggo Mortensen: Before I got the part, no. I got a phone call and was on a plane the next day with this big book in my lap trying to get through as much as I could before I had to go in front of the cameras.

Did you have to think at all about not doing the movies? After all, it was a commitment of almost two years.
V.M: Oh yeah. When they called I was at home with my son and I was shocked and flattered. I said, 'I don't know. It's a great opportunity, but to leave tomorrow for that long and I haven't read the books and I know that some of the players have been there for months, rehearsing and horseback riding and doing swordplay, getting familiar with the place, the crew, the costumes, everything. Now they've been shooting for two weeks.' It was, you know, I just felt professionally that I was at a disadvantage and I didn't want to let the side down. You want to make a good contribution.
  But I decided to do it because I felt that always, in the back of my mind, it would be one of those things where I'd always know I had looked away from a challenge. It didn't have anything to do with, 'Oh, you'll miss out on being a part of a big project,' because I don't look at movies that way and I never really have.

What were some of the intangible rewards for committing 18 months of your life to the project?
VM: New Zealand and the New Zealanders are incredible people and there was a fantastic crew and a great team of actors. I mean, it was really roll up your sleeves time and no room for prima donnas or the usual thing that you sometimes see, certainly on big movies. This was a real group effort.

What do you think is the best part of your job in general and what's the worst?
VM: The best part is what you learn if you want to. I mean, if you stay in your trailer and you're on your phone and you're thinking of results, then you're going to miss out. For me, it's the process that's the best thing.
  I get to go these countries, I get to meet people, I get to know thoroughly, as thoroughly as I want to, the character that I'm playing. So, it's like I'm always going to school in a way, that pleases me.
  The worst thing is that unlike, say, if I'm making a photograph or a painting or a poem, the result is not as directly connected to me as the process. Your vision of what you're doing is always compromised because it's in someone else's hands, no matter how well they handle it and how much you might appreciate their point of view. It's not my work, fully. That's the worst of it, but that's the nature of it.

The role was very physical. Did you get hurt?
VM: Yeah, but it's amazing that a whole bunch of people didn't get killed on this movie, the way we were going, the pace that we were going and the amount of battle scenes at night, in the rain, when people were tired. I mean, we shot one sequence for over three months of night shoots, which you never do. You usually only do a couple of weeks and then go to days and then go back.

Are you being offered more action roles now?
VM: I haven't noticed yet.

Are you willing though?
VM: To do all that again - if it's a good story or if I've run out of money [laughs].

- Robin Lynch