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The greatest Viggo Mortensen roles: from Aragorn to Green Book's Tony Lip


If you haven't heard of the critically acclaimed, Oscar-nominated Green Book, then where have you been?

The movie explores the 1960s road trip undertaken by black musician Don Shirley and Italian-American driver Frank 'Tony Lip' Vallelonga. (Check out why Cineworld Unlimited fans loved it.) And both Mahershala Ali who plays Don Shirley and Viggo Mortensen who plays Tony Lip have been critically praised.

In fact, Mortensen (along with Ali) is nominated for Best Actor at both the Oscars and BAFTAs, and was nominated for a SAG and Golden Globe too. Green Book got us thinking of all the other incredible Viggo Mortensen roles, so here's a run-down of his best.

1. Crimson Tide (1995) – Lieutenant Peter "Weps" Ince

Mortensen started acting in the 1980s – his first appearance was in Peter Weir's 1985 drama Witness starring Harrison Ford. But one of his first big films was Tony Scott's riveting submarine thriller Crimson Tide, where he more than held his own opposite the formidable duo of Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman.

2. G.I. Jane (1997) – Jack Urgayle

Before he became a famous face after his role in a certain landmark fantasy trilogy (more on that imminently), one of Mortensen's most famous roles was Master Chief John James Urgayle in Ridley Scott's G.I. Jane. He starred alongside Demi Moore as Lieutenant Jordan O'Neil and was convincing in the role of tough boot camp master.

3. Psycho (1998) – Sam Loomis

In the Gus Van Sant-directed remake of the Alfred Hitchcock classic, Mortensen takes over from John Gavin as Sam, the boyfriend of the ill-fated Marion Crane (Anne Heche).

4. The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-2003) – Aragorn

Easily Mortensen's most popular role is Aragorn aka Strider in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy, heir to the throne of Gondor. The role was originally set for someone else, but owing to Jackson's dissatisfaction, it was eventually recast with Mortensen.

He famously performed most his own stunts and became a natural at swordplay. He also brought some of the horses he rode in the film, having developed a bond with them. Mortensen brings quiet gravitas to one of the most popular characters in J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings saga.

5. A History of Violence (2005) – Tom Stall

Mortensen and director David Cronenberg established a formidable partnership with this thought-provoking graphic novel adaptation. To date, it's the first of three films they've made together (the others being Eastern Promises and A Dangerous Method), and it taps into a far more dark and dangerous side of the actor's screen persona.

He plays deceptively all-American, small-town diner owner Tom Stall, whose skilled intervention in a violent attack raises questions about his past. Is Tom who he says he is, or is there a reason why he's so good at killing people?

6. The Road (2009) – The Man

Director John Hillcoat's post-apocalyptic drama, based on Cormac McCarthy's lauded novel, depicts a bleak, post-apocalyptic journey between an unnamed father (Mortensen) and his son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) as they travel in search for food and shelter. Mortensen's unashamedly gritty performance is a harrowing yet ultimately rewarding watch.

7. On The Road (2012) – Old Bull Lee

Even though the title On the Road suggests it's a sequel to The Road, it is in fact an adaptation of Jack Kerouac's freewheeling road trip odyssey. While Mortensen's role as Old Bull Lee (based on hedonistic Naked Lunch author William S. Burroughs) isn't a major one, he nevertheless steals the show with his bravura depiction of Lee's gun-toting, hard-drinking lifestyle.

8. Captain Fantastic (2016) – Ben Cash

Touching drama Captain Fantastic follows the Cash family who have been living in the wilderness, brought up by their father Ben (Mortensen) in a technology-free environment. They've also been taught how to hunt, and have been educated with left-wing politics and philosophers like Noam Chomsky.

After Leslie, Ben's wife, passes away, the Cash family are compelled to make contact with the outside world they fear so much. Mortensen was Oscar and BAFTA nominated for his complex performance as the grieving Ben.

What do we need to know about Green Book?

Green Book is directed by Peter Farrelly (oddly enough, the man behind broad comedies Dumb and Dumber, There's Something About Mary and Shallow Hal).

It follows Tony Lip as he looks for a new job after being fired from his role as a bouncer. After interviewing for a driving position, he is hired by Dr Shirley, a piano player going on tour – the thing is, Vallelonga is a working-class Italian American and Shirley is an African-American classical musician. At first they don't have much in common, but they learn to bond during their trip as they come face to face with the ugliness of American racial segregation.

Both Mortensen and Mahershala Ali have been Oscar nominated for their performances in this heartfelt true story. The pair had already bonded and became friends during the 2016 award season, when Mortensen was nominated for Captain Fantastic and Mahershala Ali for Moonlight. A year later, they were making the film.

Vallelonga's son, actor and screenwriter Nick Vallelonga, wrote Green Book and has audio recordings of his late father saved, which Mortensen studied in prep for the role.

Click here to book your tickets for Green Book, out now in Cineworld. Got some favourite Viggo Mortensen roles of your own? Tweet us your choices @Cineworld.

Nadine Shambrook is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.