Viggo Peter Mortensen, Jr. gained international popularity in 2001 for his role as Aragorn in the film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s widely celebrated Lord of the Rings trilogy. His fame continued with a number of other prominent roles, including that of Frank Hopkins in Hidalgo and Nikolai Luzhin in Eastern Promises, roles for which he was nominated for and received a number of awards.
Mortensen was born in New York City on October 20, 1958 to an American woman, Grace Gamble, and a Danish man, Viggo Peter Mortensen, Sr. Mortensen lived with his family on a chicken farm in Argentina until his parents divorced when he was 11 years old. His father took him to Copenhagen, Denmark for a brief time before they moved to Waterdown, New York, where Mortensen attended high school. Mortensen completed a bachelors degree in Spanish from St. Lawrence College, participating in as many school plays as he could while studying.
After college, Mortensen continued the pursuit of his acting career. He played a number of supporting roles including his first on-screen role as an Amish farmer in Witness in 1985. While he had a number of similar support roles, he did not get his big break until he was given the role of Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings trilogy in 2001.
While he is best known for his acting, Mortensen has not placed himself in a box; he is also a successful writer, poet, musician, photographer, and painter. Mortensen used a portion of his substantial earnings from The Lord of the Rings to start a publishing house, which he used as an outlet for his own artistic pursuits. He has published some books of poetry, and collections of photography. He is also a painter. His abstract paintings have been featured in many different galleries around the world. Mortensen also experiments with poetry and music through a collaboration with guitarist Buckethead.
Among his many roles – actor, painter, musician, poet, and well-rounded artist – Mortensen is also a father. His son, Blake Henry Mortensen, was born January 28, 1988 to Mortensen’s ex-wife, punk singer Exene Cervenka. Blake Henry Mortensen shares his father’s love for the arts; the father-son duo have performed poetry readings together.
Not many actors can become well-rounded artists. Viggo Mortensen, however, has succeeded in developing his acting career as well as working on other aspects of art, such as poetry and photography. With his success, he has become a well-rounded artist, not just an actor.