The Talented Mr. Mortensen

I'll have a review of Eastern Promises, the new Viggo Mortensen-David Cronenberg collaboration, in the next National Review; for now, suffice it to say that I liked the movie much more than A History of Violence, and (like Chris Orr) I thought Mortensen was flat-out fantastic.

He was profiled in the most recent GQ (not online, unfortunately), and he came across (as usual) as a particularly pretentious breed of Hollywood lefty, whose research for his new film - about a literature professor in Nazi Germany - inspired him to rattle on about the parallels between Bushism and National Socialism. (His list of Nazi-style crimes committed by this administration included "replacing all the judges - and not just the federal ones"). On the other hand, he also came across as something of a badass - he's been stabbed, had his face pushed into barb wire, broken his legs in an industrial accident while working at a smelting plant - and it's hard not to be impressed with a guy who researched his Eastern Promises role by taking long train rides through the Urals, talking to Russian mobsters and taping them in order to get his character's accent just right.

And it's hard, as well, not to admire any pretentious thespian with this kind of taste in comedy:

"Happy Gilmore, of course, is flawless from start to finish," he says, utterly serious. "It's a classic. The grandmother's performance is genius. Truly a heartbreaking performance."

On a related subject (Russia, not Adam Sandler), we've just taken Paul Starobin's 2005 profile of Vladimir Putin out from behind the firewall, and with the Russian succession in the news, it's well worth your time.