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Viggo Mortensen Wrote And Directed His New Western ‘The Dead Don’t Hurt’ And The First Trailer Is Incredible

March 31, 20245 Mins Read

Post updated on March 31st. See update below.

I think we might be in the early days of a revival of the Western film genre. Then again, every time I think this I’m left empty-handed. Deadwood seemed like the perfect vehicle for a Western revival, but it didn’t lead to one despite its popularity.

Now, we have Taylor Sheridan making excellent TV shows like 1883, which has been one of the best Western series I’ve seen in a very long time. Kevin Costner has left Sheridan’s other semi-Western show, Yellowstone, to make the incredible looking Western epic Horizon: An American Saga. And when I say epic, I mean its going to be four movies long, two of which come out this year. Then there was Emily Blunt’s The English on Amazon Prime Video, which I realize I never finished. (Quickly adding this to my watch-list!)

And now we have Viggo Mortensen returning to the director’s chair for The Dead Don’t Hurt, which he also directed and stars in across from Vicky Krieps. Krieps plays Vivienne Le Coudy, a woman who meets Mortensen’s character—Danish immigrant Holger Olsen—in San Francisco and then journeys with him to his homestead in Elk Flats, Nevada.

Things take a turn for the worse when Olsen enlists with the Union army to help preserve the union and fight against slavery. Vivienne is left alone among bad men, including Elk Flats mayor Rudolph Schiller and rancher Alfred Jeffries, played by Danny Huston and Garret Dillahunt, two men well-known for their roles in Westerns and as villains. Dillahunt was cast as two different characters in Deadwood, played a villain in Justified, and played the best character in Fear The Walking Dead’s second half, John Dorie, a show that featured many Deadwood alumni. Huston, meanwhile, was an antagonist in Yellowstone and plays a character in Kostner’s upcoming Horizon films. Jeffries’ son Weston (Solly McLeod) turns up after Olsen leaves and, well, if you don’t want spoilers don’t watch the trailer. Things get ugly.

Early reviews of the film are quite positive. Deadline’s Pete Hammond wrote that “John Ford and Howard Hawks would love this movie.” It’s part survival, part romance, part traditional Western.

Mortensen is such a talented actor that I have really high hopes for this one. I have high hopes for this Western genre revival, too, though I know how badly hope can poison the mind’s well.


I left out one important detail that I think deserves mention and that I simply didn’t realize when I first published this piece: Viggo Mortensen not only wrote, directed and starred in this film, he was also its composer. Not content to just write the script, star as one of the main leads (though Vicky Krieps plays the central character) and direct the film, he went and composed its score as well.

Stop it, Viggo. It’s too much! Too much talent!

It’s funny. While it wasn’t his first role by a long shot, I wasn’t familiar with Mortensen until he landed the part of Aragorn in The Lord Of The Rings. I won’t lie: At first I didn’t like the casting. He just didn’t look like Aragorn to me—or to the version of Aragorn I pictured in my head while reading Tolkien’s novels as a kid. Then again, neither did the cartoon version of Aragorn from 1978. (Not a very good movie, but I do like the animation).

Of course, Tolkien himself was very critical of film adaptations, writing once “the canons of narrative in any medium cannot be wholly different; and the failure of poor films is often precisely in exaggeration, and in the intrusion of unwarranted matter owing to not perceiving where the core of the original lies.” It’s always hard to replace the image of a character you have only ever imagined with a celebrity (and while Elijah Wood did a great job as Frodo, I am still a little sad that my version of the brave Hobbit has all but been replaced).

I think Peter Jackson did a solid job on The Lord Of The Rings trilogy (I cannot say the same for the monstrosity that is The Rings Of Power) and Mortensen won me over instantly. He played Aragorn with such depth, in some ways he elevated the character even above book Aragorn. Since then, some of my favorite Mortensen films include The Road, Captain Fantastic, and Green Book. I have yet to watch his directorial debut, Falling, however. One of these days!

What do you think? Will you go see The Dead Dont Hurt on May 31st when it hits theaters? Let me know on Twitter and Facebook.

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