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Viggo's 'History Of Violence'

Viggo Mortensen played a 19th century cavalry rider in a desert horse race. And he's now back on the big screen playing a small town hero who may have a hidden past with a "A History Of Violence."

"As much as it's about violence, it's about anti-violence," Mortensen tells The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith. "It's about a person's life-long struggle to reject that as a way of reacting to certain situations."

Directed by David Cronenberg ("Crash," "Spider," "Dead Ringers") the film tells the story of Tom Stall, a small-town guy who runs a café and is very respected in the community of Millbrook, Ind. But because of some violent things that happened in the past, questions are raised as to who he is and who he says he is.

"One thing that I thought was interesting about this story and how it made me look at people, at my own family, at myself, was that it makes you realize that we all have secrets," Mortensen says. "You can look at anybody, even someone you know really well, and say, 'Who are you, really?' I mean what don't I know about you? And I think that is normal. Just to keep your sanity and get along with people, you don't say everything that's on your mind. You don't act out on every impulse. If you do, you're kind of a scary person; people kind of stay away from you."

Stall seems to have two different lives. There is his public life as this very calm, centered generous person, and another life, the polar opposite.

It is possible for humans to act in different ways, he says: "If you feel it, you can act on it. It's subtle. There isn't really a transition. You realize that these are parts of a person's personality that are always there. Depends on who you're with and what's happening."

The film also stars Maria Bello ("The Cooler"), William Hurt ("The Village," "Kiss of the Spider Woman"), Ed Harris ("Pollack") and Ashton Holmes.

It's been five years since Mortensen has gotten to play a modern character. In that time he has starred as Aragorn, the man who would be king in "The Lord Of The Ring" trilogy. He followed that star-making role with the epic adventure "Hidalgo," as a 19th century cavalry rider on a desert horse race.

Some Facts About Viggo Mortensen

  • Viggo Mortensen was born to a Danish father and American mother in New York City on Oct. 20, 1958.
  • Mortensen was raised in Manhattan and South America and is fluent in Spanish, Danish and English.
  • Soon after moving to Los Angeles, Mortensen landed the role of the captain in a stage production of "Bent" and a small role in 1984's CBS miniseries "George Washington."
  • Mortensen made his feature acting debut as an Amish farmer (and younger brother to Alexander Godunov) in 1985's "Witness."
  • In 1988, Mortensen offered was a rebellious inmate in Renny Harlin's "Prison."
  • In 1991, the actor was a returning soldier in "The Reflecting Skin."
  • Sean Penn cast Mortensen as a veteran with a violent streak in 1991's "The Indian Runner."
  • In 1993, Brian De Palma gave Mortensen the part of a wheelchair-bound snitch in "Carlito's Way."
  • In 1995, director Tony Scott cast Mortensen to play the concerned, conflicted weapons officer in "Crimson Tide"; and he played the Devil who battles Christopher Walken's angel Gabriel in "The Prophecy."
  • In 1996, Mortensen displayed his charm as one of Nicole Kidman's loyal suitors in "The Portrait of a Lady."
  • In 1997, the actor earned respectful notices for his role in "Albino Alligator"; and a taskmaster training recruits in "G.I. Jane."
  • The actor was cast in 1998 as the artist-lover of Gwyneth Paltrow in "A Perfect Murder"; he also played Sam Loomis, Marion Crane's boyfriend, in Gus Van Sant's remake of "Psycho."
  • In 1999, Mortensen co-starred with Diane Lane in the 1969-set drama "A Walk on the Moon."
  • In 2000, Mortensen co-starred with Sandra Bullock in "28 Days."
  • In 2001, he was cast as Aragorn in Peter Jackson's trilogy, "The Lord of the Rings."
  • In 2002, he founded Perceval Press, an independent publishing house specializing in art, poetry, and critical writing.
  • In 2004, he played long-distance racing cowboy Frank Hopkins in "Hidalgo."
  • He is currently filming Agustin Diaz Yanes' 17th Century epic "Alatriste" in Spain.
  • When he is not filming, Mortensen is writing poetry or taking photographs. Most recently, he exhibited the photographic series "Miyelo" at both the Stephen Cohen Gallery in Los Angeles and the Addison Ripley Gallery in Washington, D.C. He has also shown his work at the Robert Mann Gallery in New York City, as well as in New Zealand, Denmark, and Cuba.