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Canadian Connection: Famed actor Viggo Mortensen talks about the benefits of working with Sheridan-trained film talent

Mar 25, 2021
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In an illustrious career that spans nearly 40 years and features several accolades, including three Academy Award nominations, Hollywood actor Viggo Mortensen keeps finding ways to work in Canada.

From a grandfather who was born in Nova Scotia, to spending his teenage years in upstate New York just across the St. Lawrence River, to a celebrated fandom of the Montreal Canadiens hockey team, Mortensen has roots that reach across the Canada/US border.

“I’ve always had an affinity (for Canada),” he said. “I’ve been there a lot. I like the landscapes, not just in the east but the west - I know the country fairly well.”

Mortensen revealed how his personal and professional connections have influenced his appreciation for the nation during a recent virtual Q&A session following a screening of Falling , co-hosted by the Sheridan Alumni department and the Oakville Festivals of Film and Art (OFFA).

Falling marked Mortensen’s feature-length directorial debut. He also penned the screenplay, produced the film, played the role of a lead character, and composed the score. The film tells the story of John (played by Mortensen), a gay man whose present clashes with the past when he must care for his aging father.

During the screening, Mortensen noted that while it hasn’t always been an intentional effort to seek roles that were filming in the Great White North, fate has kept bringing him back. A large portion of Falling was shot in Ontario, which was a point of excitement for Mortensen, as he was familiar with the area and knew it was brimming with an experienced and technically-proficient labour force.

“In the Toronto area there’s a lot of great crews that work a lot, and so you have a lot of choice,” he said. “At the time, we were lucky - I met a lot of really talented people and we were able to put together the great team we had”

One of those highly-skilled individuals was Advanced Television and Film alumna Elizabeth Lee, who served as the third assistant director on Falling and also participated in the screening. She said that it’s a regular occurrence to come across fellow alumni on the set of just about any production filmed locally, and ultimately that is a testament to how prepared Sheridan grads are to make an impact once they arrive in the industry.

“In the Toronto (film) scene it’s remarkable to see how many people actually are Sheridan grads that you come across on set every other day, every other show,” Lee said. “So that’s always a fun experience. I think Sheridan’s program is so hands-on that when you do your first day on a union show or a movie, you’re not surprised at what’s coming at you.”

Written by Ryan Kelly

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