Viggo Mortensen says he was fired from classic 1980s film without being told

Viggo Mortensen has shared the brutal way Oliver Stone dropped him from Platoon – despite already being cast in the film.

When asked if he had come close to starring in any big Hollywood films of old, the Lord of the Rings star revealed he had been cast in Platoon, telling The Independent series Go to Bat. “I auditioned on video tape and I got the role that eventually Willem Dafoe ended up playing. I assumed I had that role.”

The actor, whose new film The Dead Don’t Hurt is in cinemas now, was hired by the JFK filmmaker to play the role of Sergeant Elias Grodin, Dafoe’s character in the 1986 Vietnam War drama.

However, a year after successfully auditioning for the film, while Stone was raising money for the production, Mortensen discovered he had lost the role in a rather unexpected manner.

He told Go to Bat: “I kept saying, ‘When are we shooting?’ [Stone] said, ‘Well, we have to raise the rest of the money.’ Nobody told me it wasn’t happening, so I spent a year reading every possible thing about Vietnam. I even thought, ‘Can I join the army for a short while?’ I got as much experience as I could. I really filled notebooks. I had this character – I was ready, you know?

“And then one day I read in the newspaper, ‘Oliver Stone’s making this movie with Tom Berenger and Willem Dafoe.’

Mortensen said he immediately called Stone to ask him “what’s going on?” – and the director told him the film now had “a bigger budget” and that a more famous star was wanted.

Viggo Mortensen was unceremoniously dropped from ‘Platoon’ (Getty Images)
Viggo Mortensen was unceremoniously dropped from ‘Platoon’ (Getty Images)

“Willem Dafoe was just in, I don’t know what – To Live and Die in LA or whatever it was,” the actor continued. “I don’t know how [Stone] explained it, but he was just basically saying, ‘No, it’s not gonna happen with you.’”

Mortensen, not wanting his year’s worth of research to go to waste, asked Stone to reconsider. “I said, ‘Oh, ‘cause I thought... you know, I’m really ready. Could I do another audition to prove it? ‘Cause I know even more now than when I got the part.’ He replied: ‘No it’s not gonna happen.”

However, Mortensen, who made his debut in Peter Weir’s 1985 drama Witness, starring Harrison Ford, is not fussed with how the situation played out.

Willem Dafoe ultimately played Viggo Mortensen’s role in ‘Platoon’ (Orion Pictures)
Willem Dafoe ultimately played Viggo Mortensen’s role in ‘Platoon’ (Orion Pictures)

He stated: “I wouldn't have done the other things I’d have done if that had happened – and if I had that sort of initial success, maybe I’d have go tired of the whole thing and quit.”

The early 1990s would see Mortsenen break into the film scene in a big way, with roles in Tripwire, Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III and The Reflecting Skin.

Other roles that decade included Crimson Tide, Portrait of a Lady and Gus Van Sant’s Pyscho remake. The next decade saw him achieve global recognition after scoring the role of Aragorn in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Viggo Mortensen in his new film ‘The Dead Don’t Hurt (Scanbox Entertainment)
Viggo Mortensen in his new film ‘The Dead Don’t Hurt (Scanbox Entertainment)

Mortensen has written, directed, starred in and composed his new Westerrn The Dead Don’t Hurt, which co-stars Vicky Krieps. The film is in cinemas now. Watch the full interview with Mortensen here.