In keeping with my promise to take advantage of what Los Angeles offers, I found myself at a great event on Thursday, December 6th. Focus Features had a screening of Eastern Promises at the Laemmle theater for free. Even cooler was that after the movie, Viggo Mortensen would be on hand for a Q & A. How cool is that?
Not wanting to go by myself, I cajoled Cathy, my friend who is a member of the DGA into going with in case credentials were needed. Plus, it was a good excuse to have a girl's night out with her which was way overdue since I'd gotten back. She came, DGA card in hand and we were through the door. Most of the people who were there were SAG. I'd spoken to the publicist a few days earlier to make sure my name was on the RSVP list. Cathy hadn't seen the movie before, and I'd warned her that it was violent. Turns out that she did much better than I did during some of the scenes.
It was weird watching the movie knowing that the person I was watching on screen was going to materialize in the room afterward, all Purple Rose of Cairo style. Shannon and I had been to a similar event with the Nick Drake documentary. Of course, the late Nick Drake didn't appear, but his sister and colleagues did and answered questions. What is so neat about events like these is that it gives you a deeper appreciation for what you have just seen on screen and the people who put it together or were a part of it.
In this case, Viggo Mortensen appeared as himself after we had just watched his character Nikolai, the Russian "driver/undertaker" for the mob. It took a couple seconds to adjust from the tattooed, heavy-accented, intimidating and mysterious character to the understated man who walked into the theater holding a plastic bag from his purchase at the Virgin Megastore, which was at the same complex. The theater in which it was held was small, as it is an independent art house theater, so it was an intimate setting. (This Wireimage picture was taken at the event.) Also interesting was how soft spoken Viggo Mortensen is. He seemed intelligent though, and handled it well when an obvious uber-fan stood up to congratulate him on a few of his personal projects outside of the movie and offered him a gift. It was awkward for the rest of us in the theater, as you don't want her or the actor to be embarrassed. She was a really big woman, first to thrust her hand into the air when the moderator took the questions to the audience. She went on for a couple minutes, and Cathy whispered to me that she thought they were supposed to ask questions about the movie. I agreed. Time and place, people. When you are attending an event in this sort of forum that is clearly geared toward a group, the event isn't about your moment, but about enhancing the experience for the group. Luckily, she was able to walk up and give him the gift and got a kiss on the cheek from the actor. It could have gone south, but thankfully it didn't. It was one of those thick syrupy moments where you're just rooting for both sides to come out ok.
Afterward, many people went up for meet and greet but Cathy and I headed out of the theater, starving. On our way out we passed a woman who looked in her 40's, standing and clutching what looked like a box of chocolates, waiting for Viggo Mortensen to make his way back up the aisle. He had another screening to go to at a much bigger venue after ours and his people were encouraging him to keep moving. I thought about both women and the other grown adult women who had plopped themselves in the first row in order to be close when he was being interviewed. I wondered what they were looking for and hoped they got it. A moment of acknowledgment, to leave a piece of themselves with the object of their admiration and maybe just for one moment, to register with and matter to them. It was completely fascinating and a little unsettling.
I don't know if it makes sense, but I didn't feel like attempting a meet and greet in this setting. The event wasn't really meant for one, but there was a short window of opportunity for it. In some similar situations, I do, but in this case I felt I'd gotten what I'd come for. I knew that was okay with Cathy, as she works with stars of huge caliber all the time.
If you're a creative person, I think it's beneficial to see creative people speak about their work in person. Or, to see their works in person. So much is on television, the internet, whatever, but to see someone or like the last weekend where I went to the galleries, art in a personal setting makes much more of an impact. It makes it real, tangible and accessible, and in their words I see similarities in my own goals or creative processes. In the case of Nick Drake, hearing his sister and colleagues speak about his depression and the effects of it on others struck an uncomfortable chord with me. A necessary chord though, to know that I wasn't the only one who had traveled that road, especially when things got their darkest. Viggo Mortensen struck the creative process chord in an unpretentious, matter of fact way that for lack of a better way to put it, made the thought of taking a risk creatively not such a big deal. This was a guy that all of us had just watched naked in a bathhouse fight. Incredible scene.
Anyway, even though he's a very handsome man who looks way younger than his years, he had a very disarming personality that didn't appear fake or rehearsed. I kept having to remind myself that he'd been Aragorn in Lord of the Rings. However, in person he seemed like some guy you might end up talking to at a bohemian coffee shop.
It was a great opportunity and I'll definitely be going to more like them in the future. There are many with directors, actors, writers, the works.
And no, I won't be bringing chocolates. ;)
UPDATE: Holy referrals! Looks like the Viggo fan sites found me. You guys are quick! I posted that last night! Welcome to the blog. From what I've heard, Viggo's a good egg. My friend, who doesn't suffer fools lightly, was the sword master on Alatriste and spent months with him. He spoke very highly of Viggo.