The Road Press Conference with Viggo Mortensen, John Hillcoat and Joe Penhall | The Fan Carpet Ltd • The Fan Carpet: The RED Carpet for FANS • The Fan Carpet: Fansites Network • The Fan Carpet: Slate • The Fan Carpet: Theatre Spotlight • The Fan Carpet: Arena • The Fan Carpet: International

The Road Press Conference with Viggo Mortensen, John Hillcoat and Joe Penhall

The Road
07 January 2010

1. I was struck by the similarities between The Road and The Proposition, what drew you to the material and is there something about you that likes wide open spaces? 

John Hillcoat: Coming from Australia I love the heat, but no, they are polar opposites and extreme worlds, I’ve always been interested by extreme environments and the way extreme environments impact on people. My first film goes to this pretty cold interior prison film, it’s as simple as that, it’s a character for the other characters to react to.





2. You could choose easier shoots in a comfy studio, yours look pretty demanding and grueling, was this one?

John Hillcoat: I love travel, and I love to unwind on a cold middle of winter in Pennsylvania. It is a bit grueling logistically, I hope, and I think this is true that the performers, our amazing cast react off of the environment in a positive sense. As Kodi said, it’s easier to be a bit cold than to act cold on top of all the emotional stuff. Also for the crew, it helps to focus us on the world we are trying to enter into, where as working in a green screen studio is a much harder leap.


3. Joe, when writing a piece like this, obviously the landscape plays a huge part in Johns film as it does in Cormac McCarthys book, how do you make that clear in your screenplay and are you conscious to make it another character almost?

Joe Penhall: Yeah what drew me was this was my usual bag of tricks, where dialog and plot were not so relevant, it was really all about the environment and about the landscape and I love Johns film composition, where it is a character, it’s virtually the whole film and I kinda just really enjoyed taking my hands off the screenplay and just be guided by someone else, writing a film that relied on the landscape and environment and didn’t rely at all on dialog.


4. Your two chief characters (the father and son played by Viggo and Kodi) are in virtually every scene together, was that a filmic device?

Joe Penhall: No, I just love stories like that and the stories that I’ve done in the past were all about one person on a mission usually. I find it quite hard to write lots of characters, so this was great for me, it’s as it is in the book. I just did my best to put the book in a different structure really.



5. Where you conscious of the success of the adaptation of No County For Old Men?

Joe Penhall: No, none of it had happened yet, the book hadn’t even been published and I don’t think No Country had come out.

John Hillcoat: No, we didn’t know about any of it, we just thought what a good book – we have to do this.


6. Did you know who was going to be your father, did you have an actor in mind when writing?

Joe Penhall: Yeah, I think John wanted Viggo really early on so that made it easy for me. They say when you write that you shouldn’t have an actor in mind, but I often do. 


7. Viggo, let’s talk about getting the script and indeed the part, a part that you must have known about from reading the book, or did you come to it fresh from the script and does that help make a difference?

Viggo Mortensen: I’m a fan of McCarthy, I had read all of his books except The Road. I read the script and I thought it was a really good story, a great script and I realised it was quite an honour to be offered this role sp I went to the store and got the book – it’s one of those books that you can’t put down, so I kept reading and realised that it was a very good adaptation which only got better and better as we went onto shoot. I think, including Lord Of The Rings and anything else I know of or seen, it’s the most faithful not only in style but in letter adaptation of any book. It’s very much like the book. I was drawn to it because any character I play sooner or later want to find ways of coming out of hiding. I think the truth will come out with any character in a story in little ways and in big ways sooner or later if you allow it to. In this case, there’s a line that McCarthy has in the book ‘the frailty of everything, revealed at last’ which you can find in nature and people and everything, I liked that and I liked the journey which had to be really tough. You know there’s one thing as an actor is that you’re only as good as the person you’re with. The landscpe was so real so gritty that you had to live up to that and so you had to reflect that in your behavior, it had to be real, there was nowhere to hide at all emotionally. I was worried when I got cast cause this boy in the story just kills you and breaks your heart and I wondered how we were going to find that kid, luckily we did, he’s an extraordinary person, not just his talent but his humanity aswell.


8. How was it working with Kodi?

Viggo Mortensen: He could be joyful, and then he could just deliver what his character required you know, the sorrow, the doubt, the fear, and just that native happiness he has. I liked the dynamic between father and son because the boy doesn’t know anything of the world that was, only what I tell him and show him from picture books. It was really interesting to play, since he had accumulated a lot of doubts, regrets and nostalgia.



9. You have a son yourself, I presume you played the role in real life?

Viggo Mortensen: Yeah to a degree, Having a son was a way in initially but you don’t have to be a parent to understand this story. Like anything you might be able to do it physically but it really came down to being really naked inside and very honest. It had to be that way or it wouldn’t have worked and it wouldn’t have worked without a partner like Kodi who could pull certain things out of me. The complicity of that relationship was forged through the hardship you feel that on screen and the journey as hard as it is, has to be that difficult to earn what happens at the end which is strangely uplifting and quite beautiful, to have everything striped away. I’ve seen people at q and a’s and after screenings and they have a smile on their face but at the same time a tear in their eye, you have to be quite obstructed inside to not be moved by it.


10. Viggo, could you talk about the process of getting into character.

Viggo Mortensen: Obviously I couldn’t look well built so I lost some weight and ate less. In terms of the preparation it was much less than I had done before for any other character, yes I lost weight and we talked about the logistics and in terms of the look of it and we talked about certain economical literature so it was far less about the externals. You know, being a dad was helpful initially but in the end it was all about us being brave enough to let it all hang out, to be satisfied that we had given it our all, in my case as an actor it was with this boy, so it was much more an internal job.


11. You mentioned you are a fan of McCarthy, why are you so fascinated with his writing?

Viggo Mortensen: Mostly his prose descriptions, he has the dialog quite sparring but more so it becomes about the unspoken reactions, the emotional reactions to extraordinary events. I like his prose descriptions in the book a lot, reading them in The Road they stop you cold.


12. You mentioned Lord Of The Rings earlier, how do the two projects compare interms of the emotional and physical experience, can you compare them?

Viggo Mortensen: On some level you can, Lord Of The Rings was another story where the crew had a book, people would go ‘tomorrow we shoot the scene where Eli (Robert Duvalls’ character) shows up’ and because Joe was very good with the prose description the crew were very excited and looked forward to the shooting. When people are that excited (I’m sure this is true for the director aswell) it becomes less of just a job. There was a family feeling on both projects.


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