G`Day and happy B`Day, Mr. Mendelsohn

Wherever he goes, he is going to have fun. No matter how serious the role is, there will be singing and dancing behind the scenes, and possibly some stage property will be missing. This gentleman has a superpower: special charm, massive as unconventional weapon, also attributed to cats only. So, this is about the guy who will never grow up. About Ben Mendelsohn.

At this point many will exclaim ‘Hey, Director Krennic!’, others will rather call Danny Rayburn, while some will name Talos of Captain Marvel, or Sheriff of Nottingham, or Nolan Sorrento, or King George, or even Lewis of Cosi, or Dave of Lost River. There surely will be some who will ask ‘Who`s the guy?’, and there is no surprise, since being a close-to-Hollywood-A-lister Mendelsohn still has few lead parts, he is mostly into villains. However such description of his stage image would not be completely correct – he has naïve boys, laid-back bone heads, good guys, desperate losers, cowboys and brave officers under his belt. Anyway, I`m here not for listing his films or telling the biography of our hero.

So what to write about the worldwide famous Aussie boy? Like, he is a geek and a gamer, a smoker, equally well at getting along with cats and dogs, and a boyishly busy smiley. Or that he is not much about rehearsals, preferring improvisation – that`s a well-known fact too. He is always friendly and respectful with his fans, I have seen him with my own eyes, apologizing to a bunch of teens for not having enough time for signing due to being late in traffic. And he is also quite immune to a star syndrome, although his early career stemmed from co-working with Alan Rickman (Quigley Down Under) and Anthony Hopkins (Spotswood), having further path in DC, Marvel и Star Wars universes.

By the way, taking his co-workings: while in Australia he has frequently shared the set with such acclaimed actors as Joel Edgerton, Russell Crowe, Toni Colette, Noah Taylor, Hugh Jackman, Kylie Minogue, Nicole Kidman. When gained a worldwide fame, Ben has developed filming cooperation with Ryan Gosling (as an actor in The Place Beyond The Pines and a director in Lost River), Christian Bale (New World, Exodus: Gods and Kings, The Dark Knight Rises), Jude Law (Black Sea, Captain Marvel), Riz Ahmed (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Una), and Gary Oldman (The Dark Knight Rises and Darkest Hour). Recalling the discussion over Darkest Hour at SFFilm special screening long before it premiered and Oldman got his historic Oscar, Mendelsohn referred to working with him as to having great fun:

«I was very fortunate to be on set with Gary before at The Dark Knight Rise, so when we met I think it would be great time, were not?»

And it turned to be more than great: despite both had serious roles of Winston Churchill and King George VI they, according to their own words, found it hard to refocus and stop kidding around. Anyway, mischievous temper and Aussie humor have not distracted Ben from portraying His Royal Highness, and from joking about it at Q&A as well:

«Yep, and for those of you who doubt if I am actually an Australian to go play the monarch, and you know in Australia if an actor from another country comes and play an Australian it will cause general strike!»

Don`t be surprised, it is not about the Australian national peculiarity, it`s more for Mr. Mendelsohn`s own signature style: he usually mashes up dirty words with poetry and local idioms with unhacked phrases. It always goes along with gestures of different amplitude and direction, like it was back there with my question about British royal feedback to his portrayal of King George VI at SFFilm Q&A:

«First of all – no, there is no (feedback). And I don`t need the Queen`s permission, he said standing right in front of me, waving his hand carelessly, like a joyful cat, It should be like that if you`re living in a democracy»

«The second part – the first part of your question, what was the main features of him. He was a man who was not meant to be king. His brother meant to be king, but one of your (American) fillies took off with him, and then it was to the man that I had the great fortune to play to continue war. His features were… well, I don`t know him, I can only extrapolate from the way he presented it, Ben Mendelsohn told me, He was a person with a deep shyness, a person who had to concentrate into the role that he was assigned and to do the best that he could». Then he added, «And if you look at his daughter (Queen Elizabeth II) you can see the embodiment and perhaps the apex of that kind of characterism. That`s the way I like it»

Theatrical experience and professional hunch for acoustics allowed Ben to answer my question without a mic (that he gave back to me, don`t know why) in a hall with capacity of 1400. In his movies he does voice modulations equally impressive, making it suave or gruff, harsh or velvet. Same thing with accents, while making interviews he tries not to fall into Aussie pace and dialect, for films he employs the whole palette from Oxford British to Cali American. Mendelsohn speaking Irish – that`s still a dream.

Sometimes he loves to fill in the blanks in his characters` background far beyond the screenplay limits. For example he was intended to make Director Krennic speaking in classic British, like a BBC newscaster, but director Gareth Edwards managed to talk him out of ignoring James Luceno`s book with the character`s story, and the Rogue One screenplay itself. Mendelsohn seeks individuality in all his characters, even in notorious antagonists, finding it interesting to reveal their motivations.

Director Krennic in his view is “different, he’s an Australian kind, we do villainy very well. He is smarter I think than most of his predecessors, he’s more inventive, he’s perhaps a little sexier” (Star Wars Celebration panel, 2016). Nolan Sorrento is “the guy with wounded vanity who ended up finagling his way into becoming a master of the universe and wants everyone else to pay for it, basically, you know, just a dickhead, a f*cking idiot, just some punk who is thing to suck up to the guy who made the internet” (Daily Telegraph Australia, 2018). An alien warrior Talos “has more of a gangsta roll but I have also talked about them (the Skrulls) as the heavy metal or punk or thrashy villains of the Marvel Universe, but I also think that AC/DC are far too stately for the Skrulls” (News Com Au, 2019).

It is a common knowledge that Mendelsohn is too good at badass villains, since he knows the trick how to wrap them in charming and attractive cover, in this field he may compete with his friend and colleague Gary Oldman. His good guys performances however should not be left aside – take Eddie of Mullet or the above-mentioned King George, or Captain Emmett Dutton of Australia – the latter is a slight cinematic quotation linked to the Robert Taylor`s iconic image in Waterloo Bridge.

No matter how good or bad the character is, Ben himself is too good to be bad, but for acting he uses all means available: voice, swagger, bearing, gestures and expressive body language. His weapon structure embraces all departments, and improvisation is one of the key elements in his strategy. Many of you remember his outer-space dance in Lost River: in actual shooting there was some random hip-hop music helping him to ignite that derwish inspiration, instead of electro-trans track Glass Candy that we hear in the film. Boyish temper leads him to experiments and new experiences, such as digitalizing for Nolan Sorrento`s avatar in Ready Player One, making images for computer games, taking part in music videos and album recordings (in collaboration with Florence & The Machine, Sia and Gorillaz), dancing live at Alan Carr Chatty Man show, voice work for animation, complicated prosthetic makeup and epic fight with Samuel L. Jackson in Captain Marvel – all in for never growing up.

By the way, the guy turns 50, and his career includes truly serious and complicated works that food for thought for the audience and the actor himself by requiring gentle psychologic touch. Nervous rhetoric of the shame-faced pedophile in Una, insane rage veiled by calm in Black Sea, youthful drive broken by the grief of despair in Vertical Limit, daily routine of the headhunter in Slow West – all these performances are pieces of art. Now Ben has a number of another serious upcoming roles: King Henry IV in Netflix Shakespearean series The King, detective Ralph Anderson in HBO screen-adapted horror novel The Outsider by Stephen King. And he never neglects his home Australia, this January he went to Sydney for filming comedy drama Babyteeth, luckily finding the cosy filmmaking industry in its good old condition, when they «do get by on the smell of an oily rag» in terms of budget (New Com Au, 2019).

Ben is frequently asked about his future plans and professional ambitions: what other types of movies to explore, which franchises to take part in. And, seemingly, the audience and the actor share the view that the only big thing left is Bond. But for his fans even legendary spy film is never enough, many will be happy to see the reunion with Mads Mikkelsen on set one day – the two made friends while filming Star Wars in Iceland and Britain. By the way, the Danish actor has mentioned that he wishes to work with Ben again, maybe in a western or something this time.

As for me, I can only send my warmest wishes to Ben, having in mind that sometimes he is a much more powerful performer than the screenplay and the director`s vision dictate. After portraying Orson Krennic there was a feeling of directors` secret agreement on making Ben Mendelsohn play closely identical characters: such a bossy bulletproof tempered type that is undoubtedly attractive but does not allow to reflect different edges of villainy. And who said there should be villains only, I can`t wait to see new brilliants in the Australian cinematic crown – the new roles and artistic antics of this guy from Melbourne. Just be yourself, Ben.




  1. April 3rd, 2019 | 12:55 pm

    Photo credits (in order of appearance): filmmediaKatie, Lucasfilm, IMDB, Lionsgate, Focus Features, Netflix, Marvel Studios, Legendary Films, Warner Bros., AACTA, Twitter, Instagram. All SFFilm screening photos – by filmmediaKatie.

    April 3rd, 2019 | 8:20 pm

    А кто такой filmmediaKatie?)) Неплохо снимает…In order of appeance)

  3. April 8th, 2019 | 10:25 am

    filmmediaKatie – это, так скажем, «человеческое» альтер-эго Кота-Пофигиста, благодаря которому многие наши персоналки и обзорные статьи снабжаются эксклюзивными материалами. filmmediaKatie не появляется на мероприятиях без зеркального фотоаппарата, профессионального диктофона и собственного обаяния, именно так у нас оказываются записи пресс-конференций и интервью, портреты героев наших статей и, самое главное, бесценное общение с ними. Кстати, спасибо за оценку фотографий, будем и дальше стараться радовать эксклюзивчиком.

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