BEN Mendelsohn is unexpectedly prompt.
Phoning through for this interview, from his home in Los Angeles, he is bang on time and immediately asks earnestly if he’s met his mark.
In an age when some actors think credibility can be counted in the minutes they keep you waiting down the line, his punctuality is a delight but still a little shocking.
“I know not to keep a lady waiting,” the 45-year-old actor offers, cheekily.
Not that he’s got a reputation for being a rude bastard off camera, but a cursory glance at his film and TV credits of late confirm he knows how to play one.
Or as one US critic recently remarked, “Mendelsohn has cornered the market in screen sociopaths” — from his 2010 role in Animal Kingdom; to his latest TV gig on Netflix drama, Bloodline, as bad seed brother Danny Rayburn.
The reviews have been universal in their praise for the former Love My Way and Tangle star, who takes the commentary about his dangerous darkness as a compliment rather than to heart.
“I do find it flattering and let’s face it there’ll be plenty of time for me to give them refined old men in the next 20 or 30 years. I’m more than happy with the way things are going.”
It’s not that he necessarily feels he has unlimited reservoir of dysfunction to tap into, it’s just that he thinks his days of playing “these nice sweet boys who kisses the girl” are over.
“Sadly, I don’t get offered enough of the soft and winsome leads. I haven’t been waiting for my Hugh Grant moment, but sadly there are no more Danny Clarkes from The Big Steal coming my way,” he told NewsCorp.
The new Danny in his working life is way more complicated, the prodigal son who comes home, just not to same celebratory reception.
Mendelsohn explains: “Danny is the eldest and it’s not typical for the eldest to be the black sheep but that’s the way it is in the Rayburn family. The next brother (Friday Night Lights’ Kyle Chandler) has taken it upon himself to be the good one. They look like a good family, but they’re not as they seem. There’s stuff, secrets and that’s what the show gets into, before terribly long. They’re a good family in a lot of ways but they’ve done some pretty crappy things along the way. Danny basically took the hit of that and took it upon himself to get out of town … now it’s time for him to come home and that’s a problem for some of the family.”
Produced by the creators of legal thriller, Damages, the 13 episodes of Bloodline are being pitched as the next best fix for House Of Cards fans who have already binged their way through season three of the Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright-helmed political drama.
At the head of this new TV clan are Sam Shephard and Sissy Spacek, two actors Mendelsohn has long admired.
“It’s a real compliment to be getting cast among those people. Having Sissy Spacek as your mum, it doesn’t get much better than that, come on?” he exclaims, than adds quickly, “that said, I’ve been spoiled. I had Jacki Weaver as my mum in Animal Kingdom. Jack is happy and shares in the delight of what’s happened for everyone on that (movie), so I’ve had it good for a while now with mother figures.”
He hasn’t quite worked out why Australian actors, particularly those leading men of his generation like Aden Young, Sullivan Stapleton, Noah Taylor and Damon Herriman, are all kicking goals in the US market.
Counting himself as a proud Neighbours alum, he credits his soap-training for preparing him “to get good quick and learn how to do your job.”
“You get exposed to that Australian ethos where if you want to work in our country you can’t be a princess … we just have to get good at what we’re doing.”
He sees the same match fitness in Margot Robbie: “bam, she just exploded over here. It’s hard for me to think of someone, a hotter female movie star who just appeared and bam, she’s hot. These (soap stars) are coming out of the gate hot. The thing about Neighbours and Home & Away is you sink or you swim very quickly. I don’t know why exactly we’ve had the run of good working people the way we have but we have and long may it continue.”
His run of good luck playing bad seeds has a way to go yet, with three projects garnering him more critical acclaim: Mississippi Grind, a comedy-drama co-starring Ryan Reynolds, Sienna Miller and Alfre Woodard; Slow West, a western thriller which premiered at Sundance, with Michael Fassbender and Gallipoli’s Kodi Smit-McPhee.
Next month, it’s the release of Lost River, featuring the directorial debut of Ryan Gosling, as well as Eva Mendes and Christina Hendricks in a dark fantasy filmed in Detroit.
Before then, Mendelsohn will head home to Sydney to help launch Netflix on March 24, the streaming service which produced Bloodline.
While it’s believed 200,000 Australians already have access to Netflix, bypassing geoblocks to use US accounts, Mendelsohn breaks down the sales pitch.
“Look, I’m not going to prescribe to the good people of our country what they should do, but the thing is it will be a lot easier if you go legit.”