Viggo Mortensen has made his directorial (and compositional) debut with one new feature film that centers on a vexing topic.
“Falling,” which Mortensen penned as well, follows a father and son reunited under strenuous circumstances. Willis, played by Lance Henrikson, is an 80-year-old independent farmer with old-school views, who has to stay indefinitely with his son (Mortensen) and his husband and family after a mentally debilitating diagnosis. Two worlds collide when this happens, when progressive actions meet antiquated views and family issues come to the surface.
Henrikson had quite a feat to tackle playing a character that is slowing losing his grip, but still remembers enough to invoke emotions from his son and daughter (Laura Linney), but this film struck a chord on a personal note for the 80-year-old actor.
Henrikson sat down with Metro to discuss what went into his latest role.
What was it about this particular film that made you want to sign on?
There’s a certain kind of actor that I really respond to, that is people that are authentic and searching because I really think of myself with every movie I do as an apprentice. There’s something to learn by taking a movie on. When the funding finally came, [Viggo] asked, ‘Do you want to do it? Because you don’t sound enthusiastic.’ I said to him, in order to play this role, I’m going to have to go back for my childhood and stuff. I went through a lot as a kid from New York, we were broke. I had to use a lot of real things and perceptions and really go over things in my mind about how I was going to play this character, [because] this guy is a very complicated character. But Viggo, he had written every word, and it was so original. I’m celebrating, I feel very happy about it at all because I’ve seen it a few times and I’ve talked to a lot of people and realized that they’re getting what the movie [is about.] But it’s the authenticity of his story and the boldness of his story that really captured me.
Would you say that this role specifically was different for you than past roles since you did have to do that?
I never had to do it to this extent, but there’s an element of life damage in Willis—he made a lot of mistakes. He was a farmer, he loved his horse, he loved the land. It was very simple for him, but he also made a lot of mistakes, and relationship mistakes and now he’s alone and he’s being faced by his son who is saying, I want to fix you. Of course his dignity and all of his simpler life experiences will make him want to fight that. You know what I mean? You don’t need to fix me, I’m not broken, which is delusional a little bit because he is he’s slipping into dementia. The structure of the whole thing was so incredible. I’ve done a lot of movies, some good, some bad, some to pay the bills, you know, that kind of thing. This was something different.
How was it getting to act alongside Mortensen in this while he also directed?
It was great. Cause I completely trusted him, which gave me the freedom to go into places. It was a process because when it started, I was really a little scared. I don’t want to fail and I liked Viggo so much. And it was really, you know, difficult at times to be tough on him [in the scenes] but it had to be done, but I think it’s the best work I’ve ever been involved in.
Was this role cathartic for you in a way as well, even after all these years?
It was, as I’m concerned and it’s changed me, it’s changed my life. I’m talking about the amount of courage I feel, that’s to put it boldly. It’s opening in a few days and we did it, and it wasn’t easy either. Viggo’s feeling is that the idea of people making their own decisions about what they’re seeing and what the ramifications are. But I think this film might really invoke the idea of trying to communicate. He describes dementia as being something that everybody implies that they don’t know what they’re doing, or know what they’re seeing. Well, the truth of it is they do, but in you feel obligated to, to call them out. Do you know what I mean? We’re in a world right now because of Trump and, the COVID virus where we’re all isolated. This may be timely.
Falling opens in theaters, on digital and on demand Feb. 5