SI: Hidalgo tells the story of a U.S. cavalry rider and his
mustang competing in a 3,000-mile survival race. What do you get
out of being a horseman?
Mortensen: When you're riding horses, it's not just you against
the elements or against your own physical limitations. You are
actually connecting with this other being.
SI: Best sporting event you've attended?
Mortensen: The 1972 Olympics in Munich. I didn't have tickets,
but there was a huge glass wall at the swimming hall, and me and
some other kids illicitly climbed up to the glass to watch. I saw
Mark Spitz and Gary Hall Sr. Since I swam, that was amazing.
SI: At the 1980 Games in Lake Placid, you worked as a translator
for the Scandinavian teams. How did you that pull that off?
Mortensen: I was at St. Lawrence University in New York, and
there was a call for volunteers with language skills. I spoke the
Scandinavian languages because I'd lived in Denmark. The best
thing was, I got free passes to events, and every night I'd watch
hockey. The only game I didn't see was the U.S. final against
Finland, because I had to go back to school.
SI: You were at the Miracle on Ice against the Soviets?
Mortensen: It was unbelievable. You were kind of hoping they'd
win, but you knew there was no way it would happen. And right
before your eyes, a miracle. It was such an underdog story.
That's what fascinated me. Maybe that's why I love the Mets.
SI: How did you become such a Mets fan?
Mortensen: I came to the U.S. in 1969 and got my crash course in
baseball that October when they won the World Series. I've stuck
with them through thick and thin. When they come to L.A., I see
them play. It's not easy being a Mets fan. You're not a bandwagon
guy. When we were shooting Lord of the Rings in New Zealand in
2000, a guy taped the Subway Series games and I watched them late
at night. God, that was hard to watch. Just crushing. Horrible.
It made me want to kill some more in the next scene.
For more from Viggo Mortensen, go to si.com/siexclusive.
COLOR PHOTO: GILBERT FLORES/CELEBRITYPHOTO.COM (MORTENSEN)
COLOR PHOTO: ALBERT L. ORTEGA/WIREIMAGE.COM (MORTENSEN ON HORSE)