Ben Mendelsohn Interview: Ready Player One
Ben Mendelsohn is an Australian actor who has become much more well known worldwide in recent years. He’s tackled a fair amount of films in the science fiction genres, most notably with his role in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. He will be tackling science fiction again with his role of Sorrento in the upcoming film adaptation of Ready Player One, which will be released on March 29, 2018.
Screen Rant got a chance to talk to Ben Mendolsohn on press day, where we discussed what avatar he would have chosen in Ready Player One, what mindsets one must utilize to attack real world and virtual world acting, and who he may be playing in Captain Marvel.
Good job for Darkest Hour. It was one of my favorite movies of the year. I almost didn’t recognize it was you. So, first of all, this movie is my childhood. Everything rolled into one. So, I have a question with you being kind of like, just in film in general and pop culture, what would you have chosen your avatar to be in Ready Player One?
Ben Mendelsohn: Hm. I don’t know. I don’t know. I mean, see I like Gigantor, who is kind of a relic of the tin giant, is one of my earliest beloved cartoons. But, you know, I’m pretty happy with the avatar I got. I think that kind of slightly brawnier, sort of more polished looking version of me/Sorrento is pretty good. It’s a little dicky, but it’ll do.
With films like this, the technology is amazing. I couldn’t get over with how immersed in the world I felt. So, for you as an actor when you did the mo-cap and stuff, how was it acting like, cause this film has both.
Ben Mendelsohn: Yeah. It has real and virtual. Absolutely.
So how was the different mindsets going into both?
Ben Mendelsohn: Well, I mean real is something you’re quite used. I had done a video game a couple days beforehand, so I had been in what they had called the volume before. The thing about the volume in this case is you have Steven Spielberg telling you to how to do it, so that makes it, that changes the dynamic in a way that is really exciting. I think for Mr. Spielberg, the freedom, being liberated from the physical restraints of the camera and stuff like that was sort of kind of exhilarating and kind of daunting I am going to guess. And that is sort of how it is in being in there as well. It’s kind of like, okay, we’re just going to muck around here in this big sort of room, this big empty room with a block of wood that you’re walking up, and this stuff here and it’s kind of fun. It’s, in a way, it’s like real roots kind of acting. It’s like that and when you get to specific stuff, when he’s talking about stuff where he thinks the camera is going to be and stuff like that and you’re doing it and when you get something that he likes, it’s one of the better feelings you are ever going to have as a performer. He’s really an incredible audience and the reason I think, I mean a great deal of his greatness is that he’s first and foremost audience, audience, audience. And I’m, that’s my firm belief about doing all of this stuff is that it’s all about audience.
So, I was on set of Jon Favreau’s The Lion King earlier this year. And he had the same kind of technology that you guys used where you put on the headsets and you’re in the set. And I got to experience it, so when you guys were talking about it on stage earlier, I know exactly how it feels. So I was curious to you, when you are on a virtual set, do you get lost on it where you are like wow? Because there were points where I got a little nauseous.
Ben Mendelsohn: Yeah. When you’re putting on the goggles yourself, yeah. The goggles and being in it is freaky and I hadn’t done a lot of it before. Now I didn’t spend a great deal of time. We would get reference points to look and get a sense of where we are. Okay. That is what that is. That is what that is. And then, outside of that, I wouldn’t be in the VR thing.
Obviously you learn a new thing every time you are on set and every single character you’ve ever played. What is it that you can take from this experience and this character that you can move forward with on other projects that you can kind of just keep with you?
Ben Mendelsohn: I think there is stuff, but it is difficult to, it is difficult and becomes a bit piquey for me sometimes to put it into words. So, there is a relationship that I have with what I do which goes over decades and there were definitely lessons that I learned, but they are more to do with your own game. They are more to do with making sure your game is tight, making sure it’s appropriate to what you might be shooting and stuff like that. Because Steven is much more organic than I would have ever even fathomed. The way he finds and designs his shots like that happen right when you are doing it. And that is the thing that I had expected not at all. And his crew, I mean, that is one of the best crews that you’ll ever find anywhere in terms of their ability to do it. Mitch, the camera operator, the makeup department, the light, I mean they are so fast and they are so good that they could keep up with him just about. Just about. Cause no one could keep up with him. Probably.
I know that you’re a big fan of Robert De Niro.
Ben Mendelsohn: Yeah. When I was a bub. Yeah.
At least in the book or even in the film, they go back to The Shining as a pinpoint in time for the second key. What would your version of going back into a film be?
Ben Mendelsohn: I would be going back into the mid-60s Russian stuff. I would be going into a Bond chap. I would be going into the battle scene of War & Peace. I would be jumping into that plane going down into those crowds because I think that is actually the most spectacular, large scale kind of filmmaking that we’ll ever see on the planet. Well, who knows what the future holds, but certainly that kind of thing where you have got the whole entire state and you have those limited resources. Where else would I go? I’d go to The Poltergeist.
Ben Mendelsohn: Oh yeah. The Poltergeist had a big impact on me.
Ben Mendelsohn: Oh yeah because it was both very scary and then sort of had a gothic, baroque explosion out to a sort of never ending ‘Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God’, which in a lot of ways relieved the tension. But The Poltergeist for me is big, so I might have gone there or I might have run away. You know, I might have run away. When that door and that room. Oh no. I might have run away.
So it would have been just like how we go to The Shining scene in this film.
Ben Mendelsohn: Oh yeah.
You’re very good at playing villains. But you’re very good at playing any roles to be honest with you. The villain roles have been recently popping up and obviously you play a villain here. And I know pretty soon in the next few days or in a couple of weeks, you’ll be playing in Captain Marvel. Can you talk to me about the difference between the two villains from both pieces? I know you probably can’t say much from the Captain Marvel side.
Ben Mendelsohn: Oh! Sorry. That’s the question? I can talk about Sorrento. I can’t confirm or deny. I’m sure that would be very very exciting. I can talk about Sorrento, but I can’t talk about anything else. That was very good. I nearly bit that cheese.
No. No. It’s perfectly fine. But I’m excited for that as well. This movie is mind blowing to me. Like I was saying, it was everything I wanted as a kid. Did you read the book by the way?
Ben Mendelsohn: Nope.
Neither did I and the reason I did that was because I specifically didn’t want to ruin it.
Ben Mendelsohn: No. Absolutely and I go off script and stuff like that. If there’s a historical event or a real person, then I will think differently. Maybe, but no.
So with all of this nostalgia in this film, does it make you want to read the book now?
Ben Mendelsohn: Oh yes. Very much. Very much.
And I guess final question is Steven Spielberg is an amazing director obviously. When you first get the call that you’ll be in a Steven Spielberg film, what’s your first reaction going to be?
Ben Mendelsohn: It is emotional for me. It’s a big deal. I mean, you know, he kind of raised me. You know? He kind of raised us all in a lot of ways. I said to him when I got the meeting with him, I said, “Look. You use me in the movie. You don’t use me in the movie. This is kind of exciting anyway. Whatever. This will do me.” And it would have. I would have been happy if I had sat in the room with him one time in my life and have him have heard of me in that kind of sense. So, it keeps getting better, this experience, because now the way this film is hitting, it’s like wow. You’re in a Steven Spielberg movie. Not only that, but you’re in this Steven Spielberg movie. It’s really awesome.