Viggo Mortensen on How His Family Influenced Directorial Debut 'Falling'

TIFF 2020: TheWrap’s Sharon Waxman talks with actor-director and main cast

While the events depicted in “Falling,” Viggo Mortensen’s directorial debut, are entirely fictional, as the actor told TheWrap’s editor-in-chief Sharon Waxman, he drew from his own personal history for many elements of the story.

“Falling” tells the story of a conservative, aging old man (Lance Henriksen) who is diagnosed with dementia and must move from his rural farm in the country to live with his gay son’s family in Los Angeles. Mortensen wrote the film after his mother’s funeral, when he began recalling incidents from his own childhood, and the first card in the end credits reads “For Charles and Walter Mortensen,” his brothers.

Speaking along with Henriksen and co-stars Laura Linney and Sverrir Gudnason as part of a virtual panel for the 2020 Toronto Film Festival, Mortensen explained that for many of the plot elements drew from “certain events, somewhat difficult I guess, and somewhat humorous as well.” And so, to show respect to his brothers and their “shared past,” he dedicated the film to them.

“Although it’s a fiction, the story and the family, by and large, there are certain memories that the three of us brothers share, certainly the dynamic between the parents, the characters that Sverrir and [co-star] Hannah Gross play,” Mortensen said. “Their dynamic, and certain events, somewhat difficult I guess, and somewhat humorous as well, that are taken from real events in our family story. So out of respect for my brothers since we have that shared past, I guess I just wanted to dedicate it to them.”

However, despite the relative distance between real life and the movie’s story, Mortensen made it clear it still had a very “personal” impact on him. “It’s funny in a way that by inventing most of it … I felt more free in exploring what I wanted to explore, which was my feelings for my parents, and what I feel I’ve learned from them — for better and for worse,” He said.

In addition, Henriksen discussed the challenges of playing such an unlikable character, Linney talked about her experience during the film’s Los Angeles shoot, and Gudnason explained how he approached playing the younger version of Henriksen’s character. Watch the whole interview above.

10 Buzziest Movies for Sale in Toronto, From Idris Elba's 'Concrete Cowboy' to Mark Wahlberg's 'Good Joe Bell' (Photos)

  • What the Cannes virtual marketplace proved earlier this year is that even without the in-person meetings, the red carpet galas and all the press hype, there’s still room for a lucrative sales market surrounding these virtual events. While that’s true of this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, the hybrid physical and virtual fest is operating on a slimmed-down lineup of movies. And with Oscar eligibility requirements pushed back to 2021, there isn’t the same need for all of these movies to make a splash. That said, we are looking forward to quite a bit at this year’s TIFF, and so are buyers.

  • “Bruised” 

    Halle Berry takes a beating as a washed-up MMA fighter looking to make her redemption fight in “Bruised,” which is also Berry’s directorial debut. The film is set in New Jersey and explores her fight to get back into shape and win back her child. It also stars Adan Canto and Sheila Atim.

    Romulus Entertainment/Thunder Road Pictures

  • “Concrete Cowboy” 

    Idris Elba and “Stranger Things'” Caleb McLaughlin play father and son in this family drama from Ricky Staub that draws on the history of Black cowboys in its adaptation of a novel by Greg Neri. McLaughlin is a troubled teen who is sent to live with his quiet, absentee father and is taught to work at his father’s stables. Jharrel Jerome, Byron Bowers, Lorraine Toussaint and Clifford “Method Man” Smith also co-star.

    Lee Daniels Entertainment/Tucker Tooley Entertainment

  • “Good Joe Bell” 

    Mark Wahlberg is getting early hype for his performance based on a true story of a father who takes a cross-country trip to honor his son and educate people about the dangers of bullying. The movie flashes back to show Wahlberg’s conflicted and grudging relationship with his son’s homosexuality and how he grows, even as it becomes too late. “Monsters and Men” director Reinaldo Marcus Green directs the film from the writers of “Brokeback Mountain.”

    Endeavor Content

  • “I Care a Lot” 

    Rosamund Pike, Eiza González, Dianne West and Peter Dinklage star in this thriller about two women who use loopholes in the legal system to defraud elderly retirees of their family fortunes, only for them to end up angering a crime lord with their latest mark. J Blakeson wrote and directed the film.

    Black Bear Pictures

  • “MLK/FBI” 

    This documentary from Oscar nominee Sam Pollard is based on recently unclassified FBI documents and examines the surveillance and harassment the FBI used against Martin Luther King Jr. over years, including how J. Edgar Hoover hoped to discredit him and break his spirit. The film includes a discussion of how filmmaking and historians should use official materials from the FBI and other sources and how those sources color history.

    Field of Vision

  • “New Order” 

    Mexican filmmaker Michel Franco’s film first played Venice and is a drama set amid a violent protest in Mexico City. The film draws on sociopolitical themes and the class divide to show how the wealthy unwittingly empower an encroaching military rule in their attempt to keep power.  

    The Match Factory

  • “Penguin Bloom” 

    Naomi Watts is said to give a stellar performance in this true story based on the life of Sam Bloom, a woman who suffered a traumatic accident who finds an inspiring road to recovery after befriending a magpie bird as her companion. Glendyn Ivin directs the film that also stars Andrew Lincoln, Jacki Weaver and Rachel House.

    Getty Images

  • “Pieces of a Woman” 

    Hungarian filmmaker Kornél Mundruczó directs Shia LaBeouf and Vanessa Kirby in this film inspired by ’70s character dramas about a couple expecting a child who winds up grieving over a tragedy in two different ways. Kirby steals the show, but the film also includes a stand-out moment from Ellen Burstyn as Kirby’s mother.

    BRON Studios

  • “Shadow in the Cloud” 

    As part of the Midnight Madness section, Chloe Grace Moretz in “Shadow in the Cloud” is like “Alien” on a WWII bomber. Moretz is a fighter pilot on a mission to carry a piece of classified information and is sequestered from her sexist male counterparts but soon discovers a mysterious presence that threatens the safety of everyone aboard. Roseanne Liang directs the film.

    Four Knights Films

  • “The Water Man” 

    Another actor making their directorial debut, David Oyelowo’s “The Water Man” is a mythical family film with an homage to the family movies of the 1980s. It’s the story of a man who looks for a mystical creature with the secret to everlasting life in an effort to rescue his ailing mother. Oprah Winfrey executive produces the film that stars Oyelowo alongside Rosario Dawson, Lonnie Chavis, Amiah Miller, Alfred Molina and Maria Bello.

    Photo Credit Karen Ballard

  • There are still some other movies playing as part of the festival that already have homes, including Chloé Zhao’s “Nomadland” at Searchlight, Regina King’s “One Night in Miami” at Amazon, the Kate Winslet-Saoirse Ronan drama “Ammonite” (pictured) at Neon, and Dawn Porter’s documentary “The Way I See It” at Focus Features. Amazon Studios also recently acquired director Matthew Heineman’s “The Boy From Medellín” about musician J Balvin.

    Neon

TIFF 2020: “Pieces of a Woman,” “The Water Man,” “I Care A Lot” and more are getting attention from buyers

What the Cannes virtual marketplace proved earlier this year is that even without the in-person meetings, the red carpet galas and all the press hype, there’s still room for a lucrative sales market surrounding these virtual events. While that’s true of this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, the hybrid physical and virtual fest is operating on a slimmed-down lineup of movies. And with Oscar eligibility requirements pushed back to 2021, there isn’t the same need for all of these movies to make a splash. That said, we are looking forward to quite a bit at this year’s TIFF, and so are buyers.

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