Born in Melbourne in 1969, Ben Mendelsohn and his two brothers led a gypsy childhood, traveling between boarding schools in the UK, US and Germany as his neuroscientist father followed a career in medical research, his late mother working as a nurse.

“There was a lot of moving around and I suppose that’s part of where you learn to adapt to fit in,” he tells STACK. “It was rough and tough.”

Salvation came when he signed up for a high school drama class at 16, winning recurring roles on Aussie soaps The Henderson Kids and Neighbours, opposite Kylie Minogue no less.

By 18 he thought he had it made following his critically acclaimed role in the local coming-of-age classic, The Year My Voice Broke (1987).

“Thankfully, I got old enough to go from a boy who looks like he’s been up to mischief, to a man who looks like he’s been up to mischief,” he smiles.

Animal Kingdom

Along with contemporaries Guy Pearce, Russell Crowe, Noah Taylor, Joel Edgerton and Jason Clarke, he became a Los Angeles frequent-flier on the audition circuit. However, unlike his counterparts, nothing seemed to click until 2010’s Animal Kingdom, transforming his career overnight. In 2012 alone he appeared in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises and enjoyed prominent roles opposite Ryan Gosling in The Place Beyond the Pines and Brad Pitt in Killing Them Softly.

His Emmy-winning performance as the sexy black sheep in series Bloodline (2015) cemented his bad-boy kudos, leading to a coveted role as Orson Krennic in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016), as well as the villainous Nolan Sorrento in Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One (2018).

“It’s more fun to play the bad guy,” he notes. “You get to behave in ways you might want to behave in normal life, but can’t. So I don’t mind being a specialist in bad.”

Mendelsohn doesn’t take his second career start for granted, however. For the first time in his career, fans now recognise him on the street, smiling warmly despite the fact they usually only know him as the bad guy.

Ready Player One

“I’ve never had anyone want to attack me over that. Never. Other reasons? Yeah, but not that,” he says with a sly grin. “People don’t expect to see someone from Star Wars on the streets.

“Being a movie star wasn’t something I dreamed about. Living in the suburbs of Australia, it wasn’t really a dream that anyone had. I still have moments of ‘wow’. I get very emotional about how good things are and where life is
for me.”

Mendelsohn knows he’s finally hit his stride and can’t complain that his Star Wars role was limited to one film. “I am just happy that I built the Death Star. They can’t take that away
from me.”

This month, Mendelsohn can be seen in the HBO adaptation of Stephen King’s best-seller The Outsider and the Australian dramedy Babyteeth at the cinema.