Mortensen was born in Watertown in northern New York State on October 20, 1958, the son of Grace Gamble (née Atkinson; July 8, 1928 – April 25, 2015) and Viggo Peter Mortensen Sr. (May 8, 1929 – March 2, 2017). His mother was American, while his father was Danish. They met in Norway. His maternal grandfather was a Canadian from Nova Scotia. His paternal grandmother was from Trondheim, Norway.
The family moved to Venezuela, then Denmark, and eventually settled in Argentina. They lived successively in the provinces of Córdoba, Chaco, and Buenos Aires. Mortensen attended primary school and acquired a fluent proficiency in Spanish while his father managed poultry farms and ranches. He was baptized Lutheran, the tradition of his father.
When Mortensen was 11 and his brothers 8 and 6, their parents divorced. The three boys returned with their mother to the US, where Viggo spent the rest of his childhood in New York State. He graduated from Watertown High School in Watertown in 1976. He attended St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, earning a bachelor's degree in 1980 in Spanish studies and politics.Viggo Peter Mortensen Jr. (/ˈviːɡoʊ ˈmɔːrtənsən/; Danish: [ˈviko ˈmɒːtn̩sn̩]; born October 20, 1958) is an American actor, author, musician, photographer, poet, and painter. Born in the State of New York to a Danish father and American mother, he lived in Argentina during his childhood. He is the recipient of various accolades including a Screen Actors Guild Award and has been nominated for three Academy Awards, three BAFTA Awards, and four Golden Globe Awards.
Mortensen made his film debut in a small role in Peter Weir's 1985 thriller Witness, which starred Harrison Ford and was set in Amish country. He appeared in several notable films, including The Indian Runner (1991), Carlito's Way (1993), Crimson Tide (1995), Daylight (1996), The Portrait of a Lady (1996), G.I. Jane (1997), Psycho (1998 remake), A Perfect Murder (1998), A Walk on the Moon (1999), and 28 Days (2000).
Mortensen received international attention in the early 2000s for his role as Aragorn in the epic fantasy adventure trilogy The Lord of the Rings. In 2005, Mortensen won critical acclaim for his acting in David Cronenberg's crime thriller A History of Violence. Two years later, Mortensen earned acclaim in another Cronenberg film, Eastern Promises (2007); he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor. A third teaming with Cronenberg in A Dangerous Method (2011) resulted in a nomination for the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture for his portrayal of pioneer psychiatrist Sigmund Freud. Other well-received films include Appaloosa (2008) and Far from Men (2014). He gained additional Academy Award nominations for his leading roles in Captain Fantastic (2016) and Green Book (2018), the latter of which won for Best Picture.
Aside from acting, Mortensen has explored fine arts, photography, poetry, and music. In 2002, he founded the Perceval Press to publish the works of little-known artists and authors.