Sex, drugs and money – Illawarra Mercury

Date: 10/10/2012
Publication: Illawarra Mercury

Ben Mendelsohn plays a role he was born to, writes TONI MASON.

Two minutes into an interview with writer-director Andrew Dominik (Chopper) about his new movie Killing Them Softly and his star Ben Mendelsohn is roaring with laughter.

But it’s not any witty comment I’ve made that’s caused the actor to crack up.

I’ve just started to quiz Mendelsohn about his role as a junkie and criminal in the heist movie, set in New Orleans, when Dominik interrupts.

“I don’t know if I ever told you … but you were sexually coveted by a certain percentage of the [test] audience,” he says slyly, prompting Mendelsohn’s guffaw.

Mendelsohn says he’s sure it’s the “AC/DC Bon Scott kind of effect”, and Dominik agrees.

“They really like a masculine male in America, they’re in short supply there,” he says.

“And they don’t mind if he’s got a drug problem.”

Which there’s no doubt Mendelsohn’s character Russell has. Full of get-rich-quick schemes, he only wants to make a lot of money so he can become a dealer and get his fix for free.

That leads Russell to team up with Frankie (Scoot McNairy) in a hare-brained scheme to knock over a mob-run card game, supervised by Markie Trattman (Ray Liotta).

Mendelsohn says although growing up in Australian cities exposed him to many junkies, which helped him in the role, there’s a lot more to Russell than the monkey on his back.

“What Andrew … told me was basically a filthy, pleasure-seeking, dog-loving hedonist, and he looked at me and said ‘Can you handle that?’ and of course, it’s a pleasure,” he says, grinning.

One of Russell’s schemes involves dog-napping purebreds and driving them to Florida for re-sale, which leads to a couple of laugh-out-loud moments in a movie that otherwise seems painted in shades of bleak.

But it’s when the heist happens that Mendelsohn’s acting really shines, as he has to carry out the robbery in a mask and without speaking, to hide his Aussie accent.

“That whole sequence was a tough day or two … in this weird little clam restaurant,” he says.

But he says it really reflected Dominik’s filmmaking ethos to let the surroundings set the mood.

“It’s a lot of fun when it’s like that; even when it’s awful it’s a lot of fun and as actors you’re really just eating that stuff up.”

While Killing Them Softly may be billed as a Brad Pitt film, audiences may be surprised by how long it takes for the Hollywood star to make an appearance, although he doesn’t disappoint when he does.