Ben Mendelsohn: Rogue One “Is a great Star Wars story”

Rogue One star Ben Mendelsohn on the Star Wars spinoff

As we’re still five months ahead of the release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, everything is still being kept tightly under wraps (although you can expect to find out more at the upcoming Star Wars: Celebration event in London). In fact, with the reshoots it’s currently undergoing, even what we do know could be thrown up in the air. But we still tried to trick actor Ben Mendelsohn, who is set to play the villainous Director Krennic, into spilling some secrets.

So what makes Rogue One so different from the rest of the Star Wars saga? “I can’t tell you anything other than to say, of course, that it’s very firmly in the canon of the entirety of the Star Wars films and that it will make great sense to anyone that has experienced it,” says Mendelsohn, very carefully. “And it’s a great story. It is a great Star Wars story. It is a truly great Star Wars story.”

For Mendelsohn, being in this universe was a dream come true. “In 1977 I was there at the cinema,” he says. “I was there with bells on! Do you remember the bubblegum cards? I had all the Star Wars bubblegum cards. I was a deep Star Wars tragic. I just absolutely adored it. And I still absolutely adore it. It’s pretty awesome to be part of this. It was very unexpected and it was a great honour. And I hope we deliver in full.

“[I always wanted to be] Luke Skywalker. Or Han Solo. If you could have melded Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Chewbacca together, that would’ve been perfect. Come on, Chewbacca? Who wouldn’t want to be Chewbacca? If you could have melded them together, I would have been happy.”

Mendelsohn will likely be a formidable presence as Director Krennic

Like all fans, Mendelsohn has built up his own special relationship with the franchise over the years. “I think that it is a very classical structure,” he says. “I think it is essentially a rollicking buddy-movie adventure with a deep spiritual undertone about doing what’s right. It’s about a hero’s journey; of fighting for the loss of family and some higher ideal. I mean, it’s got a lot in there.

“And it’s very transportive,” he continues, “because it’s not based in anywhere that you can touch upon. Given the time that it appeared, I think that there really wasn’t a lot of that type of material going around; it was pretty much a bygone era type of approach to a movie, and it had a pretty big effect on me.”

Costume and make-up is always a huge part of a Star Wars film: Darth Vader’s helmet, Han Solo’s waistcoat, even Poe Dameron’s jacket, have all become as iconic as the characters that wear them. So to don Krennic’s Wullf Yularen-esque uniform was a great moment for Mendelsohn.

“I’m going to try and walk the correct line here. Putting on a costume for that film, it felt very, very royal, you know? It just felt like there was a moment of royalty. When you put it on for the first time and you’re standing there, you go, ‘Oh, it’s pretty good. It’s pretty good!’”

Mendelsohn ought to add some evil flair to the role; he’s had a lot of practice playing dark, tortured characters like Pope in Animal Kingdom and Danny Rayburn from Netflix drama Bloodline.

“I can always relate to anyone I am playing,” he says. “I played Rupert Murdoch 15 years ago, and I like to think that I related it to my internal sense of what that was, too. But I always do. I think that modern screen acting is very much about bringing those two things together so that you can get a sense of immediacy going on.

Mendolsohn in Bloodline.

“I think that one just tries to fulfil the bill as best you can, but after a while that stuff becomes a thing of association. People see a script and they go, ‘Oh, I know who would be good to do this. You know… that guy.’ That happens a bit, too.” Rogue One director Gareth Edwards may be guilty of making that association too, but it seems to have worked out for the better.

“I’m a big fan of Gareth Edwards,” Mendelsohn tells us. “I think Monsters is a beautiful film. I adored Monsters. It was made with my good friend Scoot McNairy and his lovely wife, Whitney. Gareth is an incredibly generous director. His technical knowledge is freakish. What he was able to do with the CGI world with Monsters with a very small budget was absolutely remarkable, and I think that Gareth has a great desire to bring this large and complex world [of Star Wars] to the screen, so I was absolutely floored to be asked.”

Finally, we ask Mendelsohn for a hint of what’s to come in Rogue One. “Well, it starts with: A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…”

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story will be released in cinemas on 16 December. You can download Star Wars Expanded Universe: The Complete Manual from now. For more news about the latest movies, pick up the new issue of SciFiNow.