Ben Mendelsohn attends “The Land Of Steady Habits” premiere during 2018 Toronto International Film Festival at Roy Thomson Hall on Sept. 12, 2018 in Toronto.
Somewhere out there is a list of woefully underrated actors.Ben Mendelsohn’s name is near the top.Despite a career reboot that saw him cast in The Dark Knight Rises, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Ready Player One and the upcoming Captain Marvel, Mendelsohn, 49, spent the first 20 years of his career being lauded as an actor’s actor.Working since adolescence, Mendelsohn was a star in Australia long before the crime thriller Animal Kingdom (2010) showed North American audiences what they’d been missing. Since then, roles in The Place Beyond The Pines, Lost River, Mississippi Grind and Darkest Hour, among other films, have kept Mendelsohn in the spotlight, while the Netflix hit series, Bloodline, earned him an Emmy.The Melbourne native is back on Netflix in Land Of Steady Habits, working with filmmaker Nicole Holofcener (Lovely & Amazing; Friends With Money) on a tale of mid-life crisis. The film is available now.Mendelsohn stars as Anders Hill, a man who has tossed his finance job and his wife in search of … well, something. Who knew a gesture as ordinary as divorce could yield such intense and sorrowful results?Bottom line: whether you watch the actor as the complicated leading man in Land of Steady Habits, or see him run riot as a shape-shifting Skrull in Captain Marvel — or both — you will not be disappointed.We spoke to Ben Mendelsohn when he was in Toronto for TIFF.What’s the main conflict for your character?The thing with Anders is, he does want to get away from this land of steady habits, but he’s part of that landscape. He’s still attached very much to the relationships he’s got, and it’s hard to have one without the other. Interesting that someone attempting to liberate himself from this land of steady habits is now inhabiting the local strip mall, the local Bed Bath and Beyond, the everyday, habitual activities. I guess the idea is, which part of it all are we trying to escape?It’s a rare Nicole Holofcener film that has a man at its centre.Nicole’s work is so specific, you can read it and really feel it, and feel where it lives. You play it out, it’s rich — she can be like a Haiku master in some ways. She can say very little, but you understand … as an actor or a reader or an audience, you’re put into those situations, and they’re really uncomfortable. In this piece, as opposed to some of her other work, there’s a much darker hue. Some bad s— happens in this. And I think how someone who is trying to have a pretty civilized mid-life crisis, that he’d long planned for, reacts to the rubber meeting the road … I do hope that some of the grief and, ‘why do I have to participate?’ feelings, I hope they are clear. And the regret. He tries to keep happily swimming upstream like a good salmon. This is someone dealing with those things, but I suspect missing another, much bigger point.What do you think about this new blockbuster chapter in your career?My entire way of looking at it changed after I did Bloodline — which certain people were deeply and profoundly moved by and involved with, because it deals with family. Very close to the bone for a lot of people … When I was doing Bloodline, [show creators] Todd and Glenn [Kessler] always talked about how what we’re doing here is something we want people to be entertained by. That which people go to see, and are entertained by and absorbed by for the two hours they’re watching it — that is a successful piece. Certain people can take enormous amounts away from complex works. Other people, that doesn’t really work so much. They want something more visceral.Kind of cool that you get to do both.What I love about the blockbusters is that a lot of people watch them and dig them. I say that as someone having come from decades of Australian film, and having laboured hard and with great love and with great heart-on-sleeve, and for certain films that 300 people saw. I’ve done theatre runs that had bigger audiences than some Australian films I did back in the day, so I’m keenly appreciative of being in things that a mass audience can enjoy. There’s no conflict for me with either/or. I’ve got a really nice spot and I would never disrespect either audience. If I can keep some kind of a healthy balance going on, then lucky old me.