Ben Mendelsohn On ‘Darkest Hour’ And Working With Grand Moff Tarkin

Ben Mendelsohn On ‘Darkest Hour’ And Working With Grand Moff Tarkin

Focus Features

It’s been a crazy couple of years for Ben Mendelsohn. The Australian-born actor, long held in high esteem as a character actor, is now far more easily recognized thanks to playing Director Orson Krennic in last year’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. (Maybe even recognizable enough to get him a guest role on Curb Your Enthusiasm, which seems to be one of Mendelsohn’s life goals.) Next year Mendelsohn puts his proverbial black hat back on to play Nolan Sorrento in Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One.

But this week you can watch Mendelsohn opposite Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour, as King George VI and Winston Churchill, respectively. Set during the Battle of Dunkirk, it covers a time in which Churchill but come to power but has few friends or allies. Unexpectedly, he forms a friendship with King George VI, who helps him ward off foes who would like to see Churchill out of power and a treaty signed with Germany. Both actors are extraordinary.

I met Mendelsohn at his hotel in Midtown Manhattan. A year ago I interviewed him for Rogue One. At the time, the film had only screened some select footage and as these things go, Mendelsohn really wasn’t allowed to say much about it. But now he can talk about what it was like to act alongside a computer-generated Peter Cushing, which got him all pretty whimsical about the history of film.

When we spoke last year your Star Wars Battlefront character had just been released.


Did you get to play it?

No. I do play video games, but I try and avoid things that I’ve done. You know what I mean?

So it would be weird to play as yourself?

I mean, it’s a kind of job and it’s a kind of thing where you’re asked about yourself a lot, so I try and let it go, outside.

That makes sense.

I’m glad I’m there. I’m thrilled I’m there. I mean, it’s a crazy childhood dream.

People loved you as Krennic.

No, look. It’s awesome.

You had to be happy with the response to your character…

It’s awesome. No, look, the whole thing, I couldn’t be happier about. Star Wars, the whole thing. America’s been great to me.

But he’s no more, I guess like every other character in that movie…

Well, which I actually thought was, to me, that was so heroic. I’m really proud to be a part of something where they made that call and they followed it through to the very end.

There will be no sequel to that one.

They kept the lid on it. No one knew. Well, actually, there were some whispers beforehand. There were, actually. I remember that. But it was so ballsy, you know?

Literally every character is just gone.

Gone. You’re gone. You’re all wiped out, you know? It’s big.

Darkest Hour is a movie where I forget I’m watching actors. Does that make sense?

Yeah. You want an audience to be able to just go along like that. So, look, there’s a lot of things that go into that achievement. And Gary is beyond. Gary is beyond. I think the achievement that he manages to pull off is phenomenal, and to be a part of that, it’s awesome.

Your portrayal of King George VI is very different than what Colin Firth did in The King’s Speech. Was that in the back of your mind? That this needed to be different?

It wasn’t so much that. It was more just the fact of being an Australian going to England to play their king. That was actually a bigger deal. And certainly in the company that I was going to be attempting this.

Wait, did anyone not like that?

I don’t know. I don’t know. I was conscious of that possibility.

Are there royal family Reddit boards? “How dare this happen. Not my king.”

Well, look, I don’t know. I don’t know. But, no, my concern was the more immediate thing. It was concern for the audience. It was concern for like everyone involved.

Did you see Dunkirk?



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