Honestly, interviewing someone like Ben Mendelsohn makes all the stressful and, sometimes, unenjoyable interviews worth it. He is, every time, a delight. The last time we spoke, I was told he wasn’t doing press for Captain Marvel through the studio because he was busy filming another movie, but I could always ask his personal publicist. I did just that, sending an email asking if we could set something up. A few minutes later my phone rings and it’s Ben Mendelsohn. It’s true, he was filming a movie, but at that moment he wasn’t doing anything, so why not just talk now? (To be clear, things like that never happen.)
So, speaking of Captain Marvel, Mendelsohn is back as Talos (after a brief cameo in Spider-Man: Far from Home) in Secret Invasion. In Captain Marvel, there was the twist that the Skrulls were actually not the villains this time around and had been driven from their home planet by the Kree. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) has been working alongside Talos, giving the Skrulls shelter on Earth while trying to find them a new home planet. Unfortunately, some Skrulls have grown impatient and have divided off, deciding Earth is a good place to stay and it would be much better without humans. And they’ve figured out it’s not hard to get humans to just kill one another through violence. Nick Fury and Talos try to stop this from happening, even though Nick and Talos don’t even see eye to eye on the Skrull’s role on Earth.
Ahead, an, again, always delightful Mendelsohn explains why he wanted to return as Talos. He also looks back on the arc of Rogue One, how it went from a troubled production to, now, a beloved Star Wars movie. And when I bring up the possibility of Mendelsohn returning as Orson Krennic in Andor, let’s just stay he breaks out some comedy for our entertainment…
I still tell people about the last time we spoke…
That made it sound ominous. No, it wasn’t anything like you saying, “Not on my watch, sir,” and slapping a glove right across the face.
You froze in the middle of that. And it really had a tension to it that was not built in. And then the last thing was me doing a quick motion and saying, “Glove across the face.”
No, you didn’t do that.
No, I know, but I missed it is what I’m saying.
I felt I made it sound ominous, and then I came up with a story that you took a glove and slapped me across the face, but then Zoom froze. So then my joke went bad.
It’s got a good backwash, kind of craziness to it. It would’ve been great.
If it wasn’t for technology, we would’ve had a little moment there.
After I saw Captain Marvel I was told you weren’t doing press because you were filming another movie. I emailed your publicist that I wanted to talk to you and then you just called me five minutes later.
Oh yeah! That was a great conversation. I remember that really well. Okay. Hadn’t connected.
It was on the phone. It was before Zoom.
I remember that. Because, I remember her telling me, and then I went, bam, picked up the phone!
Yeah, that never happens.
[Singing] I work hard for the money…
I didn’t expect to hear a Donna Summer song during this.
Hey, we’ve got them all here. This is going to go very quick, brother. So, if you got any new questions, now might be the time.
I’m going to just read the transcript from last time. And, we can discuss it.
Fine. We can do it again.
Okay, so when do they come to you and say, “We want you to play Talos again”? Because when Captain Marvel came out, there weren’t these Disney+ shows.
We did not have the streaming component at all then.
So, could you have said, “No, I don’t want to do this anymore?” Or, were you already signed in?
Originally, Talos died on page 50 or something, when I took the original commitment. It was more to do with Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden than to do with anything else. Mississippi Grind.
Right. One of my favorite movies.
So, when this developed into what it’s become, I just kept thanking my lucky stars. I went and did the film for them, because I was like, “Well, come on, you guys turned me into a…” I’m not going to name the figures, but… [starts jokingly pointing at his bling]
But, basically, “can you come and see Kevin [Feige] and Louie [D’Esposito],” and that was like, yeah. Because usually they don’t say, “Listen, don’t you ever come back, stay away, don’t you ever come back to us.” So I knew it was going to be something good.
Oh, right. They wouldn’t call you in to say, “We don’t like you.”
Exactly. I thought that would be a very disappointing result. And they didn’t, in fact, do that. And then they basically laid out the thing. Right? The basis of it. And I was very, very excited to do it. Very excited to do it. This is, primarily, it’s about Sam. This is going to be a very significant Sam show. And it’s a film, show, whatever you want to be and to have an opportunity to be a really significant part of that.
Well, it has serious undertones. Even in the first episode, that line about stroking people’s anger and rage to bring violence. That is very precedent in what the world is experiencing right now.
Look, absolutely. And not just now, time and again, we visit these places in times and societies where this type of a thing occurs. There is a grievance, a set of grievances. It becomes enacted in a way that it becomes enacted, which is, classically, violence. And, classically, there’s a lot of indiscriminate nature to that. So yeah, it’s a serious, serious subject. And them mentioning they wanted to do something which would had more of a Cold War thriller field to it. The meat on the bones of this was really all of the bonus section of it. For me, it was just an opportunity to come back and work with something that was going to be very much about Nick Fury to do my job well enough that whatever Sam did had the benefit of the people around him.
And Talos is Nick Fury in Spider-Man: Far From Home.
He is Nick Fury from Far From Home. Talos has got that. So we know, in some ways, that Talos has been carrying a ball. Right? And what they did with that one sort of strange coda on Far from Home and what they’ve taken that through and developed it into? I mean, look, Kevin and Louie and Jonathan [Schwartz] – there’s a reason that these guys are the current heavyweight champions of the world, and that we really haven’t seen a mind like this in terms of a studio boss since, I don’t know when, if ever, when dealing with the preexisting material and slicing it, dicing it. Having the conceptualization to be able to understand.
A lot of people are trying to do it and not quite getting there.
Nobody does it better. Sometimes I wish someone would. Nobody does it half as good as him. [Singing] Baby, baby, baby. He’s the best.
Are you happy with the arc that Rogue One has taken? When it came out the story was about the reshoots, the last third being redone. Now, seven years later, everyone just really likes it.
Do you know what’s really interesting about it? That is that when George Lucas saw it, it was his favorite. When George Lucas saw that film, way back when. It was instantly, as it was reported to me, it was his favorite, I’m assuming outside of the initial movies. But it’s his favorite. So, that says a lot. And I think … really, look, the first time I saw it, I had a shock, and I had a very, very difficult relationship to that film. The second time I saw it, I was with an audience, and I went, “Ahhhh, this is really, this isn’t bad. This isn’t that bad.”
Oh, you were worried?
Oh, I don’t watch them for that reason. I can’t quite deal with it. You know, it’s the reason that I think I’m able to keep sort of going and try things the way I do, is that I don’t involve myself with how it ends up. Because that’s not my… I don’t do that bit. I don’t do any of that.
I hope you show up in Andor. That’s what I want.
Oh, that’s right! That’s the precursor show? Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, they’re doing that now?
Yes. You should be in it.
Tony’s doing it? Tony Gilroy’s doing it?
[Mendelsohn tilts his head, puts his hand on his chin and does an “aint I a stinker” face.]
I have to figure out how to describe that face you’re doing.
Secret Invasion! You wait! You are going to love this.
I look forward to it.
[Mendelsohn stands up and gets right into the camera] You will not be disappointed!
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