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Viggo Mortensen Explains His Choice for Western ‘The Dead Don’t Hurt’ in Munich

Viggo Mortensen found himself unexpectedly stepping into a starring role for the film The Dead Don’t Hurt after another actor withdrew from the project. Initially, Mortensen was involved in writing, producing, directing, and creating the music for the Western. His addition to the cast came rather late in the preparation stages.

Speaking at the Munich International Film Festival, Mortensen shared, “I had not planned to act in the movie. The actor who had the part decided at one point late in preparation stages, after being with us for many months, to do something outside. So we tried to replace him with an actor who was younger than me, an actor the age as it was written originally, and was well-known enough for the financiers to say ok.”

After failing to secure a suitable replacement, Mortensen decided to take on the role himself. “In the end, I said: ‘I could play it.’ My co-producer said: ‘That would work.’”

Mortensen then consulted with Vicky Krieps, who plays a central character in the film, to ensure she was comfortable with the change. She was agreeable, and as a result, the script was amended to reflect Mortensen’s character, Holger Olsen, as an older Danish immigrant.

Now promoting The Dead Don’t Hurt, Mortensen has been making rounds at various film festivals, including the Karlovy Vary and Munich International Film Festival. At Munich, he was joined by Solly McLeod, who portrays antagonist Weston Jeffries in the film, for a discussion co-hosted by Christoph Gröner and Julia Weigl.

McLeod provided some comic relief to the event, recounting how he sent a video of himself horse riding to veteran horse trainer Rex Peterson after intensive training in the UK. To McLeod’s dismay, Peterson’s feedback was blunt: “We’ve gotta lot a work to do; in that video you look like a monkey f***ing a football!” Despite the harsh critique, McLeod mastered the riding skills, earning high praise from Mortensen, who commended his professionalism and strong screen presence.

Discussing his challenging character, McLeod admitted that it was tough to find redeeming qualities in Weston Jeffries. “It’s hard to find any redeeming factors with Weston Jeffries… he’s just the worst,” he noted. “But for me, as an actor trying to play him, I didn’t want him to just be a surface-level psychopath.”

To prepare for his role, Mortensen sent McLeod dozens of westerns to watch. Among those that made an impression were Bad Company starring Jeff Bridges, John Wayne’s Red River, and the 1943 film The Ox-Bow Incident.

When asked about his own movie influences, Mortensen revealed his eclectic taste, spanning from the 1928 silent film The Passion of Joan of Arc to Howard Hawkes’ Red River, and even Will Ferrell’s comedy Anchorman.

Source: Deadline, Munich International Film Festival