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Viggo Mortensen Explains How His Family History Influenced Directorial Debut ‘Falling’ (Video)

TIFF 2020: TheWrap’s Sharon Waxman talks with actor-director and main cast

While the events depicted in “Falling,” Viggo Mortensen’s directorial debut, are entirely fictional, as the actor told TheWrap’s editor-in-chief Sharon Waxman, he drew from his own personal history for many elements of the story.

“Falling” tells the story of a conservative, aging old man (Lance Henriksen) who is diagnosed with dementia and must move from his rural farm in the country to live with his gay son’s family in Los Angeles. Mortensen wrote the film after his mother’s funeral, when he began recalling incidents from his own childhood, and the first card in the end credits reads “For Charles and Walter Mortensen,” his brothers.

Speaking along with Henriksen and co-stars Laura Linney and Sverrir Gudnason as part of a virtual panel for the 2020 Toronto Film Festival, Mortensen explained that for many of the plot elements drew from “certain events, somewhat difficult I guess, and somewhat humorous as well.” And so, to show respect to his brothers and their “shared past,” he dedicated the film to them.

“Although it’s a fiction, the story and the family, by and large, there are certain memories that the three of us brothers share, certainly the dynamic between the parents, the characters that Sverrir and [co-star] Hannah Gross play,” Mortensen said. “Their dynamic, and certain events, somewhat difficult I guess, and somewhat humorous as well, that are taken from real events in our family story. So out of respect for my brothers since we have that shared past, I guess I just wanted to dedicate it to them.”

However, despite the relative distance between real life and the movie’s story, Mortensen made it clear it still had a very “personal” impact on him. “It’s funny in a way that by inventing most of it … I felt more free in exploring what I wanted to explore, which was my feelings for my parents, and what I feel I’ve learned from them — for better and for worse,” He said.

In addition, Henriksen discussed the challenges of playing such an unlikable character, Linney talked about her experience during the film’s Los Angeles shoot, and Gudnason explained how he approached playing the younger version of Henriksen’s character. Watch the whole interview above.