Road Rules

Viggo Mortensen returns to Sandpoint for a good cause, and with a good movie to share

Viggo Mortenson lives part time in Sandpoint.
Viggo Mortenson lives part time in Sandpoint.

At Sunday's glittering Golden Globes ceremony, Viggo Mortensen sat among the Hollywood elite. With his black tuxedo and pale blue eyes, he didn't look out of place. But Mortensen is the kind of man who prefers the wilds of North Idaho to the glamour of being a famous actor. He tolerates the limelight because he must for his job, but when not acting in films with director David Cronenberg (A History of Violence, Eastern Promises), or some other indie movie like Captain Fantastic, a film shot mostly in Washington that earned him a nomination at this year's Globes (he lost to Casey Affleck for Best Actor, Drama).

Mortensen, who lives in Spain, Denmark and Argentina, also spends time near Sandpoint, where he'll be introducing a screening of Captain Fantastic this weekend. He keeps a low profile, and he's often able to slip through the world unrecognized. In looking back at Mortensen's career, here are some of his apparent tried and tested rules to live by:


In many of Mortensen's film he plays the antihero, or at least a deeply flawed character. While Aragorn, the King of Gondor's heir apparent from Lord of the Rings, is far from perfect, he is the sort of traditional strong, lead male role one finds in tales of good versus evil. It is this part that brought fame and fortune to Mortensen. Because of the successful franchise, he was able to start his own publishing company and have enough of a nest egg to not be bothered with big blockbuster movies. Now he can do what he wants.


For the recent Esquire cover story on Mortensen, the actor/artist/poet picked up his interviewer at the airport and proceeded to take her on a road trip to his childhood home in upstate New York. This wasn't out of the ordinary for him. Not only has he taken many solo road trips throughout his 58 years, Mortensen also takes to the road in many of his films. Obviously, there's LOTR, but there's also the postapocalyptic The Road, as well as a film version of Jack Kerouac's On the Road, and then his most recent film Captain Fantastic, where he takes his brood of children raised in the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest on a cross-country road trip for their mother's funeral. Clearly, in both art and life Mortensen, isn't afraid of the journey ahead.


This isn't Mortensen's first time helping out Sandpoint's Panhandle Community Radio (FM 88.5 KRFY). A few years back he came through the Panida Theater for a screening of A Dangerous Method. This weekend, he's back at the historic theater for another radio benefit show, where he'll host an audience Q&A after a viewing of Captain Fantastic. As a longtime North Idaho resident, Mortensen has made it a priority to help small arts programs, too, even if that means going out in public and talking to people. The show also benefits Team Autism 24/7. ♦

An evening with Viggo Mortensen • Fri-Sat, Jan. 13-14, at 7:30 pm • Sold out • Panida Theater • 300 N. First Ave., Sandpoint • • 208-255-7801


Now that the Washington State Legislature has convened for its 2017 session, film industry professionals across the state are urging lawmakers to maintain a statewide film incentive program that's set to expire in June.

Since 2007 (except for a year-long lapse in funding in 2011-12), Washington has supported the Motion Picture Competitiveness Program, which offers financial incentives for filmed projects taking place within the state that meet certain qualifications. It's because of this program that major motion pictures like Captain Fantastic saw Washington's diverse landscape as a viable option, instead of shooting in other more film-friendly states.

With a $3.5 million annual pool, the MPCP works like a cash rebate. Films, commercials and episodic series that can show they've spent a set minimum in the state for goods, services and labor can apply for 30 percent back after an audit, and if there's any money left when they apply. The program's coffers are funded by businesses who choose to contribute to it; for doing so, they get dollar-for-dollar credits against owed state business and occupation taxes, up to $1 million.

While Washington's incentive program is small and funds are often depleted early in the year, it's helped bring projects like Syfy's ongoing series Z Nation to our region. Supporters say the rebates are justified because projects, in turn, have spent an estimated $116 million here since 2007. Still, Washington's film incentive cap is one of the lowest in the nation. Arguably, we lose lots of projects to Oregon — its program is now capped at $14 million annually — and Vancouver, B.C., among many other places offering more lucrative discounts.

For more legislative updates on the MPCP, visit; to get involved in lobbying efforts to maintain the fund, head to


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About The Author

Laura Johnson

Laura moved to the great Inland Pacific Northwest this summer. She is the Inlander's new music editor.