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Unlike the Oscars, the Coolidge Awards never disappoint. Meryl Streep, Robert Altman , Jonathan Demme: each in his or her own way has shaped what's best in the movies. Viggo Mortensen joins the pantheon on March 5. He's one of the best actors of his generation. Just counting the two trilogies he's made — the mega-blockbuster Lord of the Rings epic with Peter Jackson and the three divergent but thematically interwoven films with David Cronenberg — his calm intensity and physical grace have done much to shape the breadth and depth of our movie consciousness.

Too bad he's a New York Giants fan. But he's a gracious winner, as I found out when he spoke with me on the phone from Madrid. Read the full transcript of the interview here.

CONGRATULATIONS ON THE COOLIDGE AWARD. Thanks. It was a surprise. A lot of important people received that award, so I was very honored to be asked.

AND CONGRATULATIONS ON THE SUPER BOWL AS WELL. Thanks. I watched it here [Madrid] late at night. The last one [the first time the Giants beat the Patriots] was a surprise. Nobody expected them to win. This time it wasn't such a big upset.

YOU'RE GETTING JADED. AND COCKY. ON THE OTHER HAND, YOUR PERFORMANCE INA DANGEROUS METHOD, AND THE MOVIE IN GENERAL, GOT ROBBED BY THE ACADEMY. I've seen that happen before, not just with movies I've been involved with but others. I suppose if I believed that those kinds of awards — critics' awards, all the different academies, Golden Globes — were meant to reward excellent work or rewarded degree of difficulty I would be upset. But since that doesn't happen, I don't take it too hard. Except on a business level it would be helpful.

WHEN FREUD COLLAPSES AND JUNG COMES TO HIS SIDE AND FREUD SAYS, "HOW SWEET IT MUST BE TO DIE," I CHOKED UP. BUT MAYBE I SHOULD SAVE THAT FOR MY SHRINK. I also felt that it was moving at the time. A very vulnerable moment, and David shot it very well. I think it's a movie that will wear well. I would say that about most of his other movies; they get better each time you see them, revealing more layers. David's movies are, to a certain degree, an acquired taste. It takes a while to realize what is really great about them.

YOU DID GET A NOMINATION, THOUGH, FOREASTERN PROMISES. I did. It was quite surprising. I don't know if it was because it was a stretch or it was the naked knife fight. I don't know why people vote for what they do. But I was honored.

AND NOW YOU ARE CO-STARRING WITH MICHAEL FASSBENDER [AS JUNG], WHOSE NUDITY INSHAME SOME FIND GROUNDBREAKING. I finally just got around to seeing it. Honestly, I don't understand what the big fuss about it is. I don't know what taboos are being broken. It's not that groundbreaking, all due respects to the movie. Can you explain it?

NO. . . . AFTER SMOKING 20 OF THEM A DAY PORTRAYING FREUD, DO YOU THINK THAT SOMETIMES A CIGAR IS JUST A CIGAR? I think a cigar is always a cigar. Just like a gun is always a gun. But all kinds of things can happen with cigars and guns. Sometimes a cigar tastes terrible and sometimes it tastes great.

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  Topics: Features , Movies, Lord of the Rings, A History of Violence,  More more >
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