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Viggo Mortensen Accuses Pedro Almodóvar of Being Bitter, Almodóvar Responds

Mortensen lives for drama. Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photos by Getty Images

Viggo Mortensen took a deep breath of the Cannes air and thought to himself: I’m starved for drama, I crave the rush and thrill of it, I need to say something spicy just for the cinephiles. And so, on Wednesday, Mortensen addressed the mythic 1999 Cannes Film Festival feud surrounding that year’s Palme d’Or winner. To set the scene: A jury led by David Cronenberg crowned a little movie directed by the Dardenne brothers called Rosetta the Palme champion over Pedro Almodóvar’s opus All About My Mother. Back in the day, the decision baffled journalists, who couldn’t seem to understand why the jury went out of their way to award some random movie over Almodóvar’s eventual Oscar winner. Cronenberg himself debunked those rumors in a 2014 Vulture interview, noting that journalists didn’t even see the film and the jury voted unanimously in favor it. Even so, the fabled story has gained traction in the Spanish press in recent days, which might be why Mortensen — who stars in Cronenberg’s upcoming film Crimes of the Future —chose to open his mouth. In a conversation with IndieWire, Mortensen said that he doesn’t understand why Almodóvar believes he was “deprived” of the Palme and compared Almodóvar’s alleged consternation to tactics used by our former, dusty president.

“It’s like Trump. You keep saying something and people start thinking there must be something to it, when it’s complete bullshit,” Mortensen said. “I love Pedro and he’s a great guy, but that jury, it was the fastest vote for the Palme d’Or for a movie called Rosetta. Unanimous, all nine of them. The president of the jury only gets one vote. All people voted for that movie. So how did [Cronenberg] deprive the Palme d’Or from Pedro? It’s a nonsense story and beneath a great artist like Pedro.”

Naturally, Mortensen’s comments peeved the Pain and Glory director, who, in my opinion, generally minds his business. Not one to be dragged for no reason, Almodóvar published a statement on IndieWire to clear up all this drama for drama’s sake on Friday. (You have to say something really out-of-pocket ish for Pedro Almodóvar to write more than 700 words on denouncing your comments.) He wrote that stories about his disappointment with the Cannes jury are simply misinformation. “I cannot accept to be portrayed as embittered for not receiving the Palme d’Or. You just have to go back to the press archives to find out for yourself,” Almodóvar wrote, asking Mortensen to look at the receipts. While did write in the Spanish newspaper El Paīs that he was closest to winning the Palme for All About My Mother, he insisted that the op-ed was simply a commentary on his Palme chances, not a critique of the jury. Although he believes that the French press portrays him as covetous of a Palme d’Or, he feels incredibly fortunate to have received so many honors throughout his career. But mostly, he’s “profoundly bothered” that Mortensen would compare him to “one of the most atrocious characters in the current public sphere.” Films suffer from these kinds of “distractions,” he wrote. As a person who pays attention to film culture for this kind of drama, well … sorry to the art form.

Viggo Mortensen Accuses Pedro Almodóvar of Being Bitter