Plus, we shouldn't be trying to hide things or pretty it up in any way.

I knew at times it would be awkward and vulnerable.

Tattoos serve an important purpose in the world of the Russian criminal, and with both actor and director slaves to detail, each piece of body art was carefully chosen and applied.

He is currently in talks to star in The Road, an adaptation of novelist Cormac Mc Carthy's Pulitzer Prize-winning vision of a post-apocalyptic America, to be directed by The Proposition director John Hillcoat."Who knows what I'll do in the future," says Mortensen with a smile (although a copy of The Road is peeping out of his agent's handbag as she comes to collect him).

"But I enjoy working with iconoclasts, like Gus van Sant.

In his latest film, David Cronenberg's Eastern Promises, the 48-year-old Lord of the Rings star acts out a brutal, four-minute fight sequence in the confines of a steamy Turkish bath while entirely naked.

During the bruising sequence, he's forced to show off his manhood in every conceivable sense.

I simply wouldn't have got that chance."And, truthfully, I was never worried that people would only ever see me as Aragorn.

In fact, I almost didn't even join that film, because they'd already started shooting and had been preparing for months."The original actor cast as Aragorn, Stuart Townsend, parted company with the production, leaving the door open for Mortensen.He is an iconoclast, as is David Cronenberg."One thing is for sure, though, I'll definitely work with David again. " The Big Short, the film adaptation of Michael Lewis' book of the same name about the causes of the financial crisis, opens in UK cinemas this weekend.How will the story stack up against the greatest films about business?"I hadn't read the books or anything," he continues."But when I was finally offered the chance to play Strider/Aragorn, I became curious because I thought it might be something that I could regret not doing."So far, Mortensen has no regrets, building a credible body of work that highlights his redoubtable talents."It's something that I tried to do when I went travelling in Russia.