Aussie actor Ben Mendelsohn is hardly an unknown quantity, having won an Emmy for “Bloodlines” this past September and amassing an overall impressive resume on film and television.
But his powerful turn in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” as the brutal Orson Krennic, builder of the Death Star, assures a level of fame and recognition far beyond what the 47-year-old has achieved thus far.
amNY spoke with Mendelsohn about the film, which is predictably a massive box office success, and sharing the screen with Darth Vader.
Who is Krennic? Tell me about the character.
He is the head of military intelligence and operations, which for our purposes means he’s the guy who built the Death Star. … And he’s got the best costume. Now, if you go back and you watch “New Hope” you will see around the table where there’s a Darth Vader scene where he gives a little, you know, breathing exercises [he makes the choking hand gesture], you will see there’s a character dressed in the Krennic uniform. So there is actually a history to this white uniform although the cape denotes rank one assumes.
What’s your history with “Star Wars”?
Oh, I’m first generation, sitting in the cinema seat in 1977. Here, I get to be royalty to some degree because, you know, I’m 47, so I was there when the first film came out and I was a 7 year old and it hit me like a ton of bricks. I had the trading cards, album, the figurines, the posters — the whole bit. It was a big, big deal. It was a big deal for me. “Star Wars.” It was a big, big deal.
Do you have your place lined with Krennic figures?
I don’t. I think I have one. Well, I have — there’s the box you can get with all of the, or most of the, figurines from “Rogue One” in them. I have that. And I think I got given a Krennic doll. Yeah, and I saw one. Someone brought one up to me and wanted me to sign it for them.
Was that surreal?
Yeah. Although you get time to get used to that idea because they do a lot of work to make sure the representations are faithful in some degree. … They photograph you from hundreds of angles. So you got time to get used to the idea. But yeah I like the figurines. They look good. They all look pretty good.
This is a big movie. What were some of the challenges involved in that?
The challenge is to take this world that we know so well and that we all love and revere and not freezing up inside that world. … When you’re dealing with such iconic stuff as the Death Star … it’s such crucial, crucial cinema gold, making sure that stuff sings, making sure that stuff isn’t mummified. Yeah, that’s the challenge isn’t it?
Tell me what was going through your mind the first time you saw the actor as Darth Vader. What was that like?
You get stunned. You actually get stunned. These are crew members who have worked on hundreds of films, people who have been in the business for decades — everyone shuts up when Darth turns up. I mean everyone just stops and watches. You know what you want to think of it like? You ever watch those nature documentaries? And there’s all the gazelles and whatnot drinking the water and then you see a tiger walk past in the background. And everyone just stops and watches. And if the tiger goes far enough away, they’ll go back to drinking. But there’s one eye out. And that’s similar to the vibe when Vader turns up.