First time writer-director Ana Piterbarg was taking her son to swimming lessons at the San Lorenzo sports club in Buenos Aires when she ran into Mortensen. She introduced herself and told him about a screenplay she was writing about two twins who were estranged and that took place in the Tigre Delta, a maze of islands not far from Buenos Aires. Mortensen, intrigued, asked her to send him the script. It was the story he had been waiting for. Finally, he could return to the country of his childhood and shoot a film. (Mortensen grew up in Argentina, living there until he was eleven.)
It’s a moody noir film. After the death of his twin brother Augustín (Mortensen) travels back to the islands where he grew up. He hasn’t been back in years. Augustín is trying to escape his frustrating, boring existence as a well-off straight-laced doctor living in Buenos Aires. He decides to take on his brother’s identity, he pretends to be Pedro. As he rides in a boat along the misty, cold river towards his brother’s rickety log cabin he has a run in with some locals. He gets roughed up, gets called a liar, and is told that people are looking for him. Slowly he begins to realize that his brother was wrapped up in something very dangerous but he isn’t quite sure what it is.
LatinoBuzz sat down with Mortensen to talk about the challenges of playing identical twins, his love of Argentina, and what it’s like to support the same soccer team as the pope.
LatinoBuzz: Your family is American, Canadian, and Danish and you were born in New York but grew up in Argentina. What drew your family to South America?
Mortensen: My dad got work down there, working in agriculture, managing farms so we moved when I was an infant and lived there until I was eleven. The first decade of your life is really important, it’s formative. I never lost the feeling for the country, for Argentina and for the language spoken there. I still have that inside me. This is the fourth movie I have shot in Spanish but it’s the first time in Argentina, all the other movies were shot in Spain. I’ve always wanted to make a film in Argentina. I had been looking for the right story, something challenging and interesting. Argentina has a long tradition of producing good movies and producing really good actors and directors. I always hoped I could become part of Argentine film history and with this movie now I am.
LatinoBuzz: Do you identify as Latino, Latin American, or Argentinian? Do you use these terms to describe yourself?
Mortensen: I’m not a big fan of pigeonholing people or labeling people. I just don’t look at things that way but I do feel comfortable in the country. It’s like going home when I go there, every time I go to Argentina. But I also feel that way in other countries like in Denmark where my family is from, where I have spent a lot of time. I guess it’s also part of moving around a lot, being around a lot of different cultures. I have a multicultural background so I tend to have an open mind about things and I find other cultures interesting. I really enjoy my job and part of my job is looking at the world in a way that is different from my own.
LatinoBuzz: What was the process of preparing to play twins like? How is it different from preparing for just one role?
Mortensen: With any character I have played there’s infinite possibilities for how they might behave, depending on who they are talking to or how they react to things. My major concern was how to make two twins who look very similar, in this case identical twins, seem like two distinct people. Often times in other movies when a person is playing twins or playing multiple characters or like Eddie Murphy who sometimes will play the whole cast, sometimes it doesn’t work very well. It seems like a stunt. It’s a push-pull thing. I looked for differences in them, body language, their way of speaking, their posture, their point of view. And I looked for what they have in common. They are two brothers with not much love between them but they have a common memory, they grew up together.
LatinoBuzz: The movie was shot on the islands of the Tigre Delta. What was it like to shoot there? Had you been there before?
Mortensen: I had been there when I was a kid and I enjoyed it. But shooting a movie there, it was technically challenging. It was very cold, it was during the winter. And we had to transport everything by boat, the cast, the crew, the equipment. We had to deal with tide changes, it was tough. But, it ended up being a good idea to shoot in the winter. It really accentuated things, the mood of the story. And the landscape ended up playing an important part.
LatinoBuzz: Alright, one last question. Since you grew up in Argentina you must be a soccer fan. What’s your favorite team?
Mortensen: San Lorenzo, a club team in Argentina.
LatinoBuzz: Oh, like the pope?
Mortensen: Yeah, having the pope support the team is a big help. Everyone outside of Argentina, they know about Boca Juniors, they know about Messi and what a great player he is but they don’t always realize where San Lorenzo is from or even know about the team. So, I have always tried to talk about the team. I even give away lots of team jerseys. But now with the pope, he’s a lifelong unabashed supporter like I am, he’s taken a big load off my shoulders (laughs).
LatinoBuzz: And now you have God on your side!
Mortensen: (laughs) But the flipside of that is if we can’t win now, we’ll never win. San Lorenzo is kind of like the New York Mets. Once in while we have a great run but most of the time we’re just hanging in there. The last time we were champions in the league was 2007 but it doesn’t happen very often. So, when it does it makes it even more sweet.
Todos tenemos un plan (Everybody Has a Plan) opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday, March 22.
Written by Juan Caceres and Vanessa Erazo, LatinoBuzz is a weekly feature on SydneysBuzz that highlights Latino indie talent and upcoming trends in Latino film with the specific objective of presenting a broad range of Latino voices. Follow @LatinoBuzz on Twitter and Facebook.