Regarding his character Captain Fantastic:
“I have to admit, I’m much lazier. I’m nothing like this character,” Mortensen laughs as he tells me about the physical preparation he underwent to play family patriarch Ben Cash. “I worked really hard and swam and ran and played soccer and watched what I was eating a lot more than I normally do. I had to make a concerted effort to get in shape for this role.”
The result is a trim, athletic frame that looks like it’d belong to a movie hero, while putting some actors half his age to shame. In reality, though he’s not as intense about fitness as his Captain Fantastic persona, Mortensen does stress his belief in the importance in staying continually active all year around.
“I think that you’re putting yourself at risk for damage to your heart and your joints and your muscles by having these sporadic on-off again fitness [routines],” he says. “If you say, ‘I’m going to really go for broke now and really do a lot of exercise, you’re going to be shocking your body by suddenly trying to get a middle-aged body to try to perform like it was 20-years-old.”
Mortensen suggests working physical activity into your daily life whenever you can, even if that simply means leaving the car at home and walking or biking to get where you need to go. At home, Mortensen keeps in shape by playing soccer and basketball, hiking and walking. “[Walking] gets your mind going too because you’re seeing things – not just watching a screen and eating a bunch of crap food. It all adds up.”
And though Mortensen showed up in peak physical shape for the role, his Captain Fantastic character has one hobby for which the actor definitely does not share an affinity.
“One of the physical skills that I had to work on, which I wasn’t happy about, was rock climbing,” Mortensen chuckles. “It doesn’t always happen but I can get a bit of vertigo. I’m very conscious of what would happen if I fell. So, given a choice, I would never engage in rock climbing. I didn’t like that at all.”
Mortensen also keeps active by travelling, noting, “I’ve crossed Canada almost as many times as I have the United States, by car and part of it by train.” The actor’s maternal grandfather hailed from Nova Scotia and, having spent part of his youth in upstate New York living near the St. Lawrence River, Mortensen not only developed a love for the Montreal Canadiens hockey team but also for the Great White North as a whole.
“What I think of when I think of Canada, is nature – forests, rivers, lakes. I enjoy the outdoors,” he says. “I suppose I have a North America affinity in terms of kinds of climate and natural environments I enjoy. And there’s no place that’s more beautiful than Canada in that regard.”
From an interview with Inquirer.Net on Green Book
Was it also easy to lose the weight? No (laughs). That was a lot harder and a lot less fun. I guess also because I am not 20 years old, so it’s a little slower to lose weight.
You gained weight. But how did you get to the essence of Tony Lip? The trickier part was getting the voice, tone and body language. I didn’t want to do a caricature.
I got a lot of help from Nick Vallelonga, one of the writers—the guy who had the story for 25 years and brought it to Brian Hayes Currie (cowriter and producer) and Peter. Nick promised Don Shirley that he wouldn’t, out of respect, tell the story in the movies until Don had passed away. Don endorsed the story and said, “Yes, it’s true and these things that Tony Lip told me about were true.”
Don added some more information, but as you see in the movie, he was a discreet person, a very private person and he was not someone who was out in a big way. He did not want these things discussed or shown until he was gone. Tony and Peter respected that.
In meeting Nick and his family, I got to talk to them and they were very generous in showing photographs and recordings, including those where Tony talked about this trip with Don Shirley. I shared many meals and I visited with them and half the family is in the movie (laughs).