By John H. Foote
At an American Film Institute screening of the superb film Green Book, Actor Viggo Mortensen, a genuinely compassionate, kind man uttered the dreaded “N” word. He did so in explaining that the word was commonly used in the sixties, particularly in the American South.
I have interviewed Mortensen and liked him at once. Good handshake, looked me in the eye, answered everything honestly, and when finished embraced me for being “one cool film critic”.
Mortensen has given an array of brilliant performances since becoming a major actor as Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings (2001-02-03), A History Of Violence (2006), Eastern Promises (2007), A Dangerous Method (2011) and Captain Fantastic (2016). His performance in Green Book is a hugely enjoyable, broad piece of acting that had him on track for an Oscar win, and a much-deserved win it would be.
But now the Politically Correct maniacs, the zealots who look for any type of slip in public are calling for the Academy to ignore him, to treat him like a pariah, which he most certainly is not. When does this madness stop?
Can we deny that there was a time good African American people were called that terrible word? NO!!! And it still happens!
What I fail to understand is that Quentin Tarantino writes scripts filled with that word, constant use. Yet Mortensen attempts to use it in a historical context and he is an instant leper. He said this word with his African American co-star, Mahershala Ali sitting beside him, and Ali had no issue, he understood exactly what his friend was saying.
Have we really gone back to the fifties? Guilt by accusation? Is that where we are right now?
Mortensen could be hurt by this, irreparably, which I am not sure these Politically Correct zealots understand.
It is shamefully irresponsible, and an attack on a decent man.
John H. Foote is a well-recognized Canadian film critic/historian who has been an active critic for 30 years. His deep love for the movies began at a very young age. He began his career as co-host of the popular TV show Reel to Real where he remained for nine years. While on TV he began dabbling in education, eventually ascending to Director of the Toronto Film School, where he also taught film history. After leaving the college to care for his wife, he returned to teaching at Humber College where he taught both Film History and Method Acting Theory. John has written two books: “Clint Eastwood – Evolution of a Filmmaker” and the upcoming “Spielberg – American Film Visionary”. He is currently working on two books, one about the films of the seventies and another on the films of Martin Scorsese. Through his career he has worked in TV, radio, print and the web. John has interviewed everyone in the industry (more than 300 interviews) except Jack Nicholson, he says sadly. Highlights include Martin Scorsese, Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep Robert Duvall, Jane Fonda, Francis Ford Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow.