But what happened? There's plenty of finger-pointing to go around, but none of it in Viggo's direction:
· Blame Warner Bros.: Pundits were optimistic about his supporting turn in Appaloosa, the Ed Harris-directed Western that Warner attempted to platform opposite The Duchess in mid-September. It fell off not only moviegoers' radar but the entire box-office (and Oscar-season) map a few weeks later, expanding to 1,000 screens and getting pummeled by the likes of Beverly Hills Chihuahua, Religulous and Rachel Getting Married. Expect Warner to redirect whatever Academy screeners it had whipped up into retail when the DVD is released Jan. 13.
· Blame Harvey: While a handful of unlucky staffers packed up their desks, the Weinstein Company cleared even more budget space by tossing a collection of '08 releases into storage. Among them: The much-anticipated (and arguably unfinished) Cormac McCarthy adaptation The Road, featuring Mortensen as a father struggling through an ashy post-apocalyptic wasteland with his son and a shopping cart. It was likely the actor's best shot for a 2008 nod, and now — with literally no other Viggo films in development for next year and the Weinsteins on a little more stable footing after The Reader release squabble — it becomes his best shot for 2009.
· Blame ThinkFilm: The indie distributor had the Holocaust drama Good — of which Mortensen is reportedly most proud — in its queue for the end of the year before financier David Bergstein's wheels flew off last summer. Think has battled back to the extent it can, getting Good in theaters today, just in time for an Oscar qualifying run. But despite its campaign prowess (and success) as recently as last year, the money and time aren't there to push Mortensen to the kind of visibility required in a tough year for Best Actor hopefuls. Which reminds us:
· Blame Mickey Rourke, Sean Penn, Frank Langella, Clint Eastwood, Brad Pitt and Richard Jenkins. The six front-runners for this year's Best Actor prize love Mortensen as much as the rest of us. That doesn't mean they wouldn't run him over in their crowded campaign bus before letting him on, Holocaust movie or not. There's always '09.