“Oh, did they do it again?”
After 28 Hotels Room, actor / director Matt Ross returned in October 2016 with Captain fantastic, the story of a father who brings up his children outside of society. We met him at the Cannes Film Festival in May of the same year, where the film was presented in the Un Certain Regard section. We republish this interview on the occasion of the screening of the film, this Sunday on Arte.
Premiere: Is a part of you in the character of Viggo Mortensen and like him do you dream of this life on the fringes of society?
Matt Ross: Yes, I dream a little about it. But he’s a very extreme character. Many elements of his life are part of mine: yoga, martial arts, mastery of several languages, fascination for Chomsky… And like him, I am celebrating the anniversary of Noam Chomsky’s birth!
Funny, it seemed a little big to me in the movie.
Yet this is the strict truth. I made this up because Chomsky is my hero. In short, the character of Viggo is the father that I try to be.
Are you trying to raise your children the same way he does?
I live in modern society. But my daughter was among the last of her bunch of friends to have a cell phone, for example.
This is a bit like the question posed by the film: how to live in society without being intoxicated by it.
We live either outside of society or inside. It’s easier to say “I won’t eat any sugar at all” than to moderate yourself. But at the same time it is depriving yourself of one of the pleasures of life. In my opinion, you have to succeed in making the effort to only have one cake and not eat the box. The character of Viggo evolves by realizing that he is perhaps in the extreme. And coming back to the cell phone, I find it to be an amazing object but addicting and sometimes dangerous. So I take care to instill in my children to limit themselves, to succeed in being responsible.
Cannes 2016 – Viggo Mortensen: “I would like to direct… I have already written three scripts”
And yet next to that, you play the boss of a company that parodies Google in the series Silicon Valley.
Yeah, it’s a total coincidence! I wrote the script before I knew I was going to star on the show. I would love to continue this role, I take a crazy foot to play in the series and as long as the showrunners want me, I will be. As an actor, I got to do amazing things, work with amazing directors like Martin Scorsese and learn a lot about the business. When I am hired to play, I give everything. But in fact I am passionate about writing and directing, I want to make films. This is what makes me vibrate.
Captain Fantastic is a bright road movie starring Viggo Mortensen
How do you manage so many child actors on a set? Is it hard to get what you want from them?
A kid can’t find the right tone for every take. It’s fleeting, by the time they have to say their text, they may have forgotten their line or lack rhythm. So sometimes I put the camera down in front of them and made them rehearse over and over and over and over. In fact the real problem with children does not come from the way they play, but from the fact that they are children! They have to nap often and eat regularly, otherwise they will fall asleep. And that gives great stuff, because sometimes they forget the camera is running. As in the scene around the campfire, little Charlie Shotwell began to search his nose. It wasn’t in the script at all and I kept the shot because it was great, so natural. That’s a cool example, but sometimes they just start staring at the camera or looking up! Because they forget!
I also wanted to talk to you about Visitors to America, in which you played and …
(Laughs) Yes it’s true.
Don’t get your head in your hands like that!
No no, I’m listening to you!
I am telling you about it in particular because the third film was released recently in France.
Oh, did they do it again?
Yes, and I wanted to know what are your memories of the shoot.
Well, I think there is a consensus on the quality of the film, right? So I’m going to talk about the beautiful things I remember, that is to say talking about wine with Jean Reno, and eating and drinking with him and Christian Clavier. I was delighted to play with Reno whom I admire a lot and Jean-Marie Poiré was adorable with me. The rest … I keep it for myself (Laughs.)
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