Stephen Colbert did get around to asking Viggo Mortensen a round of Lord Of The Rings questions on Thursday’s Late Show. But, credit to Tolkien mega-fan Colbert where it’s due, the host did tamp down his wonted fanboy glee for the most part, even though he had Aragorn, Son of Arathorn, 16th Chieftain of the Dúnedain, and eventual King Elessar (Strider to his friends) in the house. Or, the virtual house, as not only is there that pandemic that all good and smart people are working to prevent, but Mortensen was video-calling in from an initially undisclosed location in Europe.
“Do you speak the language of the country you’re in?,” Colbert asked, turning the interview into a quiz show after Mortensen assured him that everyone where he is has been able to go out to the movie theater for a while now. Sadly, as Colbert realized, that was of nearly no help at all, since Colbert stated that noted polymath Mortensen speaks seven languages. (Viggo’s in Spain, which, not to question Mr. Mortensen, should not be going out to movie theaters at this point.)
But, wherever Stephen Colbert corrals a cast member or self-professed expert of Peter Jackson’s The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, questions will follow. And, if Colbert didn’t exactly spring a surprise test on his guest this time, he did still get everything he could have hoped for, as Mortensen, praising Colbert’s Tolkien acumen by quoting Aragorn’s final line in the series, told Colbert, “My friend, you bow to no one.” You can practically feel Colbert’s goosebumps through the screen. Mortensen also shared one harrowing anecdote about filming the Battle Of Helm’s Deep, when his theretofore-dormant vertigo really kicked in just as he was preparing to do another take of that fight scene up a long, narrow stone stairway. Telling Colbert about his decidedly un-Aragorn-like panic attack, Mortensen described his posture pretending to simply rest and contemplate the New Zealand night sky when he was, in actual fact, clinging to the battlements on his back “like a spider.” (The actor confirmed that he did finally overcome his fear to kick some orc ass one more time.)
Technically there to promote his directorial debut, Falling, Mortensen could only nod in accustomed modesty as Colbert added director to the list of Mortensen’s thrice Oscar-nominated “Renaissance man” cred. (A partial list: poet; artist; publisher; musician; photographer; guy who still affectionately calls his LOTR costar quartet “the hobbits.”) Regrettably inspired by his family’s history of dementia and the death of his mother, the film sees Mortensen’s adult son trying to re-engage with his difficult elderly father (a career-capping turn from Lance Henriksen, according to the buzz) as the domineering old man succumbs to the effects of his waning mental capacities. With characteristic thoughtfulness, Mortensen told Colbert that the process of making such a truthful film about a subject he knows all too well was one of keeping “that flame alive, or that wound open.”
Falling hits streaming services on February 5.