Viggo Mortensen changed himself completely to embody tough-talking Italian bouncer Tony Lip for his film Green Book.
In a PEOPLE exclusive behind-the-scenes look, Mortensen’s portrayal of Lip caused awe in many of his colleagues. The film follows Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), a world-class African American pianist who embarks on a concert tour in the Deep South while accompanied by Lip, who he hires as his bodyguard.
“When we wrote this script, my first thought was Viggo Mortensen,” Peter Farrelly, who co-wrote the script and directed the film, said.
Mortensen’s costar Linda Cardellini, who plays Lip’s wife Dolores, revealed acting opposite the star was easy.
“I remember coming in and reading with Viggo and you can’t see the acting at all,” she said. “You just feel like you’re in the story.”
Executive producer Octavia Spencer said Mortensen “embodied [Lip] in such a beautiful way.”
His costar, Mahershala Ali, also agreed, saying, “Viggo has been brilliant.”
“You’d be hard pressed to find another actor who pays that type of attention to detail,” Ali added.
“I was attracted to playing Tony in part because it was a different kind of character, but the main thing I liked about him was his heart,” Mortensen revealed.
Both Ali and Mortensen have been nominated for Oscars for their roles as Dr. Don Shirley and Lip, respectively.
Green Book will be released on Digital 2/19 and Blu-ray March 12.