Date of Birth: October 20th 1958
Mortensen was born in New York City. His Danish father, Viggo Peter Mortensen, Sr. (a farm manager who worked in business), and American mother, Grace Gamble (née Atkinson), met in Norway. His maternal grandfather was Canadian. His family moved to Venezuela, Argentina and Denmark, settling in Argentina, where his father managed chicken farms and ranches. They remained there until Viggo was age eleven, when his parents divorced and his mother moved back to New York. He moved with his father to Copenhagen, Denmark. Viggo and his father eventually went back to the United States where Viggo graduated from Watertown High School. After high school, he returned to Denmark, and became a truckdriver in Esbjerg, Denmark, before, again, returning to the United States to pursue an acting career. He attended St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, earning a bachelor's degree in Spanish. He chose that subject because he could get good grades without a lot of study, leaving him free to be in a lot of plays. At his commencement, he refused to wear an academic gown because they were made by sweatshop workers. However, after the Lord of the Rings trilogy, when he was granted an honorary doctorate by his alma mater, he did appear in the appropriate robes.
Mortensen has a son, Henry Mortensen, with ex-wife Exene Cervenka of the band X. Henry and Viggo have done public father/son poetry reading together as recently as April 2006. Mortensen is fluent in English, Danish, and Spanish, and conversant in Norwegian. He also speaks French, Italian, and Swedish reasonably well. Mortensen has dual citizenship in the US and Denmark.
Mortensen is an ice hockey fan, particularly of the Montreal Canadiens. He also loves football, and is a big fan of all time Argentinean star Diego Maradona and both the Argentine and Danish national teams, as well as Argentine club San Lorenzo de Almagro. In 1993, Mortensen went to Ireland during a break in shooting without the consent of the production company, to watch Denmark play in an important match. He is also a fan of the New York Mets.
He has spoken out against militarism and U.S. foreign policy. In continuing with his opposition to the Bush administration's foreign policy he participated in a series of fundraisers for the Northern New York Congressional candidate from the Watertown, New York area, Bob Johnson, in September 2006. In Denmark, Mortensen is known for his support for the Freetown Christiania and criticism against the Danish participation in the Iraq war.
After several years of experience in live theater, he made his first movie appearance playing an Amish farmer in Peter Weir's Witness. (Mortensen had actually been cast in two prior films — Swing Shift and The Purple Rose of Cairo — but his scenes in both of these films were deleted from the final cuts.) Also in 1985, he was cast in the role of Bragg on Search For Tomorrow.