A modern-day Clarice Starling, Eleanor (Shailene Woodley) is a young police investigator in To Catch A Killer, wrestling with the demons of her past when she is recruited by the FBI's chief investigator (Ben Mendelsohn) to help profile and track the work of a disturbed individual.
As the police and FBI launch a nationwide manhunt, they are thwarted at every turn by the individual’s unprecedented behaviour. Given her tortured psyche, Eleanor may be the only person who can understand the mind of their assailant and bring him to justice.
The movie is now available on all On Demand platforms, and we recently spoke with Mendelsohn about his role as Lammark.
The FBI agent faces an uphill battle investigating a truly horrific crime in this edge-of-your-seat thriller, and the actor talks us through his approach to the role, some of his most harrowing and challenging scenes, and the dynamic he formed with co-star Shailene Woodley. Mendelsohn also shares high praise for filmmaker Damián Szifron and explains what makes him such a special director.
We also hear from him on Marvel Studios' Secret Invasion, his Rogue One: A Star Wars Story role as Director Krennic (which he recently reprised in The Bad Batch), and Andor season 2.
Read our full interview with the actor below.
This is a film that throws the audience straight into this horrible crime and you, as Lammark, into a role where there isn’t initially much time for backstory; is the history of a character like this something you give a lot of thought to before cameras roll, especially when there are those hints scattered throughout?
No, no, no, this was very much…Damián is incredibly precise. He’s almost like an orchestra conductor. He has incredible precision and he knows everything about every character. I know that my guy is in a low-grade FBI office because of inter-political stuff, etc., etc., and whether or not his choices and passion are part of that or not…we didn’t really go there, but it may or may not be part of it. He’s much more capable than the scope he’s been given.
There’s an early scene with Lammark addressing that room of cops, delivering a rousing speech while imparting a lot of knowledge on them and those of us watching; what do you enjoy about playing to two audiences in a sense with a scene like that?
You know what, when you’re doing it, and you are giving an audience insight into a bunch of things they’ve never thought about before when going through the procedure, that’s pretty exciting in and of itself. The room itself was a great room. It was filled with really, really capable, decent, and good actors. It’s really important to do that, but if you love audience, then everything else just makes its own sense in a way. So maybe the entirety of the business is only about one thing, and that is the audience. I’m glad to hear that it landed. Thank you. It’s a nice thing to hear.
In a smaller moment in the film, we learn that Lammark is married to a man, but what does it mean to you to champion that diversity on screen in a way that reflects our world and just makes it a normal part of life, as it should be?
Listen, I’m not championing jack shit [Laughs], you know what I’m saying? I think to have spent time in any difficulty or reflective stuff with that is an immense disservice. Damián’s a very, very intelligent filmmaker and it was just great because we think we’re going here, and it’s just, ‘Whatever.’ It doesn’t look like it’s going to a great place with Lammark, but then we learn he’s gay and he just wants to have dinner [Laughs]. We see they don’t really get along, they’re kind of bored of each other, and they frustrate each other a bit…they have completely different views and I think that’s hilarious. Damián made the greatest opening of any movie that’s ever been made, but it was great. It was great.
We all like to have fun at our jobs, but when you’re dealing with a story as dark as this - such as that harrowing scene in the morgue - do you find yourself struggling to shake that at the end of the day?
It was our first day, but such a work of genius. They are all human beings in that room. That was an awful day. It’s so powerful, and it was a horrible first day. I remember it was just awful. It’s [not hard to shake off]. It’s more to do with finding our feet and the way we’re going to do things. With me approaching work the way I do, it was much more to do with that than it was any lingering effects from that room. It was just a day filled with…horror. I think part of that stuff happens when you’re in a situation that is so grim. We were on different pages and it sucked. It was a horrible day. And a great scene. I’m really proud of that.
The chemistry you share with Shailene Woodley was a real highlight for me, so what did you enjoy about working with her and did you both spend a lot of time behind the scenes working on that rapport?
If it’s possible…in Shailene and I’s case, you absolutely have to find it on the set. We didn’t know each other before the film. If you know someone before the film, oh yeah, it’s easy. If you get the opportunity to hang out, I always prefer that just to shoot the shit and spend some time together. Shailene and I were on set, though it’s easy because I consider her a better actor than me. I consider myself lucky that I’m working across from her. She’s incredible and such an awesome actor.
It feels like there’s a real anger bubbling beneath the surface with him a lot of the time too which I imagine was an interesting thing to explore?
The other thing about Lammark is he’s a man of capabilities who has been shunted to a fairly minor field office. Baltimore in terms of local police crime is obviously a pretty hardcore city, but in terms of federal crimes and the types of those, from what was described to me about it, this is a guy that’s not going to…he’s a guy that’s deeply frustrated and sad and aggrieved by the machine of the bureaucracy that he’s in.
On another note, like a lot of Star Wars fans, I was thrilled to see you return as Krennic in The Bad Batch; how did you feel about lending your voice to him again and getting to flesh out just a little bit more of his history?
Here’s the thing, you know. I saw Star Wars in the cinema when I was a kid and it was one of my first biggest film loves. I had a few, but listen, I wouldn’t have worried about that much in my life if I’d have known I was going to be in Star Wars.
With Andor season 2 shooting and coming out next year, are you hoping there might be an opportunity to do a little more with the character there too?
Andor 2? Krennic? I don’t think so. I don’t know. If they ask me, I’d pick up. I’d certainly do it, yeah.
I appreciate there’s not much you can probably say about Secret Invasion, but between Talos rekindling his bromance with Fury and Emilia Clarke playing your daughter, I’m guessing the show was a fun way to return to the MCU?
I think Secret Invasion…listen, it’s one of the happiest, most rewarding jobs ever. [Producers] Brian [Tucker] and Louis [D'Esposito] are geniuses. Secret Invasion…I think people are going to be pretty happy with.
You’ve worked with some major, major directors over the course of your career, but can you talk about your collaboration with Damián Szifron and how that informed the work you did on screen?
We had a journey. He’s much more precise than the way I usually work and the way I find my way into things. We had a journey. I came to a point where I think we just started to understand and be able to see each other a little more clearly over time. I love him. He’s such a passionate filmmaker. He’s such an exacting filmmaker. He’s a filmmaker of such talent. When things are good and he’s happy with you, it’s awesome. If he’s not happy with you, it’s like, ‘Holy sh*t.’ But the proof is in the pudding. He made the greatest opening of a film ever. Ever. There’s no better opening that I’ve ever seen than Wild Tails. Sometimes, you know what it is, I need to learn the methods that he wants and the methods I should have adopted. I go in there rolling how I roll, but I had to go, ‘Okay, I’m here, he’s there. Damn. I better play catch up.’
To Catch A Killer is now available on all On Demand platforms.