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One man with myriad roles

He was beautiful in The Lord of The Rings (with Liv Tyler in picture right), though we missed his dimpled chin, covered as it was, under Aragorn's beard. But there is no missing it in Hidalgo, releasing in the city on Friday.

Viggo Mortensen (picture left) stars in the film about a legendary horse race in Arabia, alongside Omar Sharif. The Ocean of Fire is a race that was held in the 19th Century. Frank Hopkins was the first American invited by a wealthy sheikh to participate in the prestigious event. He was believed to be one of the best riders in the west, and the Arab chose to challenge the cowboy and his mustang Hidalgo.

This film, like LOTR, allowed Viggo the chance to marry two of his main loves ' horses and acting. In the Rings trilogy, director Peter Jackman included more footage of the earthy actor on horseback than he intended, as Viggo is known as a fine equestrian. At the end of both films, he bought the horses he worked with.

But don't confuse the half-Scandinavian Viggo for the rugged characters he plays on screen. The father of a teenaged boy is an artist in more ways than one. He is a painter, and you can see his work in A Perfect Murder, where he has painted his character's studio walls caught on film. He is a photographer, and a good one at that. The latest issue of Premiere magazine has printed a spread of his behind-the-scenes shots on the sets of LOTR.

The man who you have also spotted in Jane Campion's A Portrait of a Lady, another Hitchcock remake Psycho, Crimson Tide and Carlito's Way had started his career with aspirations of becoming a writer. So it is no surprise that when he could afford it, Viggo started his own publishing house, Perceval Press. Not only does this star write poetry, one of his volumes, Ten Last Night, was printed before he became famous. He is also a jazz musician with three CDs till date.

Viggo is a bit of linguist as well. The Danish citizen speaks his native tongue, as well as Spanish, possibly because he lived in South America for a number of years as a child. He put these skills to use too, working as a translator during the 1980 Winter Olympics.

While Viggo is currently working on Alatriste, slated for 2005 completion and A History of Violence, when he has needed to he has donned less plush hats. He has roughed it out as a truck driver while living in Denmark, waited tables and bartended, been a dock worker and flower seller.

This is a man not ashamed of wearing his heart on his sleeve, either. He has made many an appeal for peace, at the risk of being labelled fashion victim (he really did wear appaling outfits to protest the US-led war in Iraq). But this man, comfortable in many hats, is not likely to care one jot.

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