Filed in Interviews

Ben Mendelsohn: From dish pig to Hollywood’s A-list

Ben Mendelsohn is one of the hottest Australian actors in Hollywood right now – yet just over a decade ago he was washing dishes at a Bondi restaurant. What changed?

(Originally posted in the June 17th issue of Good Weekend Magazine. Byline: Michael Bodey)

Ben Mendelsohn has died once too often. In 2010, he sizzled in the Australian TV drama Tangle before his character’s spectacular death at the end of its first series. Last year, he won an Emmy for his eviscerating portrayal of the black sheep in a dysfunctional Florida family in the hit Netflix series Bloodline. Despite the star turn, his character was murdered in the penultimate episode of the show’s debut season. And last summer he joined the Star Wars universe as the white-caped villain Orson Krennic in Rogue One. But he won’t be returning to that galaxy far, far away, either.

Then there was the time early in the last decade when his career died, due both to an industry downturn and his own hand. “I really did think by 2007, ‘God, this has got to be over now,’ ” he admits.

As far as career dives go, Mendelsohn’s was deep. In the early 2000s, he was living in a cheap flat in Bondi, above a butcher shop on a busy intersection where buses chugged by all day and night. Shunned by directors, he took a job washing dishes at a glamorous restaurant frequented by members of the film industry he was no longer a part of. He moonlighted at a bakery.

Today, he’s kicking back in the bar of the Los Angeles celebrity haunt, Chateau Marmont. Yet he still looks like he’s come from a back-kitchen job. Dressed in black jeans, sneakers and a stained grey T-shirt, with messed hair, Mendelsohn shirks attention in a place where others go to get it. Everyone around him knows he’s an actor, even if some of them don’t quite know which actor he is.

Well might he take advantage of all that Hollywood has to offer. Many observers of Mendelsohn’s career fail to grasp the wilderness he inhabited not so long ago. And it’s a sign of the high regard in which he’s held that nobody talks about why he wasn’t working.

We’ll get to that later. Right now, at 48, Mendelsohn is soaring, a sustained run of thrilling performances making the world take note. Better to talk about why he’s so alive today, although he’d rather leave the assessment of his success to others. “Look, there’s no way to talk about it without imagining it, in print, sucking,” he says, looking away. “It’s good and life can be very, very sweet.”

For at least the next 18 months, Mendelsohn’s work will be omnipresent. Athletes talk of rare periods when they’re “in the zone”, when everything just works perfectly. Mendelsohn is there, and his industry knows it.

“Everybody wants to work with him. People are desperate to get into a room with him,” says Benedict Andrews, the expat Australian director of the British drama Una, which premiered at the Sydney Film Festival on June 9 ahead of its national release next week.

It’s a sign of Mendelsohn’s pulling power that the festival joined forces with distributor Madman Entertainment and Sydney’s Vivid Ideas festival to bring Mendelsohn out from Los Angeles, where he’s based, for the premiere of this dark film about sexual abuse. His co-star, Rooney Mara, was not here, nor Andrews, the theatrical wunderkind for whom Una is a feature-film debut.

Those helping propel Mendelsohn into the filmic stratosphere include Steven Spielberg, who cast him in his coming sci-fi thriller, Ready Player One; New York indie comedy darling Nicole Holofcener (The Land of Steady Habits); Atonement’s Joe Wright (Darkest Hour); and rising director Otto Bathurst, who is reimagining the Robin Hood legend with the Australian as his Sheriff of Nottingham. (Bathurst has cast another Aussie, Tim Minchin, as Friar Tuck.) There’s also Untogether, a movie made with his soon-to-be ex-wife, British author turned director Emma Forrest, and narration for Gorillaz’ new album and a video game. In the midst of that prodigious run, he won that Emmy Award for his magnetic supporting performance in Bloodline.

Continue reading Ben Mendelsohn: From dish pig to Hollywood’s A-list

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Sydney Film Festival 2017 goes Full Mendo

Ben took over the Sydney Film Festival with the premiere of ‘Una’, a screening of ‘The Year My Voice Broke’, a jam-packed conversation event with David Caesar, and several Q&As in Sydney and Melbourne.

Ben was hilariously captured on June 7th walking around Sydney, looking happy as a clam with his face stuffed in a meat pie:

Day 3 (June 9) of the festival kicked off with Ben at the premiere of his film ‘Una’, along with him introducing the film and speaking before several screenings. One of our favorite things about Mendo is his unique red carpet fashion, and he definitely didn’t disappoint:

The Sydney Morning Herald on ‘Una’:

Una, the third film to screen in the festival’s competition for “courageous, audacious and cutting edge” cinema, centres on a woman (Rooney Mara) confronting a factory manager (Mendelsohn) who sexually abused her when she was 13. After he has served time in jail and changed his name, she tracks him down to get an answer to the questions that have trapped her: did he really love her? Why did he leave?

Adapted from the acclaimed play Blackbird, Una features blazing, raw performances by the two stars as the confrontation heads in unexpected directions, interspersed with uncomfortable flashbacks, although opening up the play has diffused some of the potential drama.

Soon after, the much anticipated In Conversation with David Caesar with Ben took place. Here’s a few highlights:

  • “I used to be the sweet affable, couldn’t-get-a-girlfriend kind of guy,” Ben Mendelsohn​ said of his acting career. “Then we perfected larrikinism. And then it suddenly went to murderers, paedophiles and Death Star builders.”
  • He was funny about not being able to get an acting job in the early 2000s. “I was pretty happy,” he said. “I had a lovely girlfriend. She had a beautiful dog. I spent about two or three years just walking around Darlinghurst-Surry Hills with Tetsui the shar pei.”
  • Mendelsohn was realistic enough to know why the Hub was packed. “I know you f—ers. You’re not turning up in these numbers without a Death Star in there somewhere.”
  • That thing when Ben Mendelsohn’s dad tries to FaceTime him on stage in mid-interview

The next day, Ben arrived at a NSFA-restored screening of the film “The Year My Voice Broke”, and then traveled to Melbourne to promote ‘Una’ with 2 screenings and conversations with the audience:

Filed in Interviews Roundup

Link Roundup #4 and new shoots Ben Mendelsohn: Intimidating, menacing and all-round good guy Dark lord, drug dealer, paedophile … it’s all in a day’s work for Emmy-winning actor Ben Mendelsohn

The Daily Telegraph: Veteran actor Ben Mendelsohn taking well-deserved break after filming five movies

With five films — including one in which he worked with Steven Spielberg — slated for release over the coming year, the 48-year-old is fast emerging as Hollywood’s silent achiever.

“It has been a hectic little while, so I am actually going to bludge for a month or two now,” he said.

ScreenRant: Ready Player One: Ben Mendelsohn’s Character Not Faithful To Book

Sun Sentinel: Clothes, furniture from Florida-filmed ‘Bloodline’ up for sale

The Wrap: ‘Bloodline’s’ Ben Mendelsohn on History of Danny’s Cigarette Dangle, Which Rayburn Is the Worst Ben Mendelsohn In Conversation Screenings of Una

The Australian: Ben Mendelsohn returns in a blaze of glory

He remains, he says, indebted to many players in the Australian film, TV and theatre industry for encouraging his career. During a fallow period in the early 2000s he contemplated throwing it all away, but didn’t thanks to film critic David Stratton.

“I was thinking quite seriously about leaving and David Stratton said ‘you’ve got something really worthwhile’ and he said some really nice things to me which have stayed with me and which I really treasure because I like being a part of the history of this thing we’ve done,” he said.

“There was a period of quite a few years where things were pretty quiet in my 30s and it just felt like ‘oh well, this is more or less over. I’ve had my run, it’s a good run’ and all that, but these things come to an end and this is looking like it’s come to an end so I’d better find something else to do’ and he was very, very good to me.”

Daily Telegraph shoot:


June 7th AAP shoot:

Filed in Interviews News

Pre-Sydney Film Festival media rounds

Sydney Film Festival is geared to start soon and Ben is getting a jump on promoting ‘Una’ and ‘Bloodline’ while in Australia. He’ll be in Sydney and Melbourne for premiere screenings and Q&A/conversations of ‘Una’ while the festival is going on.

Ben was a guest the other night on talk show Drive, hosted by Veronica and Lewis. The entire interview hasn’t been uploaded yet, but here’s a brief clip of Mendo doing a reading of “The Lion King”:

Ben was also interviewed on the Australian current affairs show “7.30” the other night. He talked about playing a pedophile in ‘Una’, being homesick about Australia, Rogue One, being unemployed for a time, and his success. You can watch the whole segment below or read the transcript here:

Filed in News Una

‘Una’ Premiere at Sydney Film Fest + Ben Q&As

Ben will return to Sydney in June to attend the premiere of ‘Una’ at the Sydney Film Festival and hold a conversation event/Q&A with audiences, along with director David Caesar (‘Idiot Box’, ‘Mullet’).

From the film festival website:

Following the screening of Una, Ben Mendelsohn and director David Caesar will discuss the film and his extraordinary career from the beginnings in Australia to his more recent international successes.

The screenings and conversations will be held on June 9th and 10th.

‘Una’ will also have a Melbourne premiere on June 11th, and Ben will hold 2 Q&As after that screening as well.

Mendelsohn will first arrive in Australia for the 2017 Sydney Film Festival, where he will attend the Australian premiere of Una and participate in a discussion after the film on Friday June 9 and a second in conversation on Saturday June 10. Following the Sydney Film Festival, Mendelsohn will travel to Melbourne for two in conversation screenings on Sunday June 11.

The first Melbourne in conversation will take place on June 11 at the Astor Theatre at 4pm followed by a second in conversation at Cinema Nova at 6pm.