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How Viggo Mortensen ate his way to a 45-pound weight gain for acclaimed role in 'Green Book'

·Senior Correspondent, Yahoo Entertainment
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When it comes to the prodigious amount of food — the pizza, the hot dogs, the fried chicken — that he consumes in the new film Green Book, you could say that Viggo Mortensen “went method.”

Director Peter Farrelly points to one scene in which his character engages in a hot-dog eating contest. “He ate 15 hot dogs that day. Because we’re [filming it] from different angles. He’s [eating] two or three at a time,” Farrelly told Yahoo Entertainment (watch above). “He had a spit bucket which he could use, but he’s not gonna use it, because he’s the real deal. He’ll swallow everything.”

Mortensen packed on 45 pounds — 25 in preproduction, and another 20 after they started shooting — to play Tony Lip, a real-life Bronx bouncer who, despite initial racist tendencies, chauffeured African-American piano virtuoso Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) on a perilous road trip through the Jim Crow South.

“By the time we started the movie, I got to a level that I could only maintain by continuing to eat more than I wanted to every day and every night before going to bed,” Mortensen (The Lord of the Rings, Eastern Promises) explained. “So I got to kind of a ceiling. Could have I gone further? I don’t know, but it was right.”

While most of us tend to overindulge with food and drink on the weekends, for Mortensen, the opposite was the case.

“And I was reminded on Mondays, because I would eat sort of normal on the weekends, then the wardrobe department or costume people would say, ‘Hey, your pants are loose. You better get back to it.’ I’m like, ‘Oh, God.’ So it’s like three helpings, not two. And three desserts.”

Tony’s ferocious appetite is one of many endearing qualities that ultimately play in his redemption, and his role in the crowd-pleasing comedic drama could land the two-time Oscar nominee Mortensen on the Academy Awards ballot once again.

But as he says about the weight gain, “That was the easy part of doing the character, and certainly a lot easier than losing the weight afterwards.”

Green Book opens in select cities Wednesday.

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