BEN MENDELSOHN, Mississippi Grind, Slow West
After a colourful turn in Ridley Scott’s Exodus : Gods and Kings the 45 year-old actor is at the height of his powers. In Sundance he steals the show from Ryan Reynolds in his first starring role in an American film, Mississippi Grind, directed by Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden (Half Nelson). Mendelsohn and Reynolds play gamblers on the road at the racetrack and in casinos. While we see the action through Mendelsohn’s eyes the lovable larrikin is never one to blow his own horn.
“Ryan is fantastic in the film and without him, that film doesn’t get made,” Mendelsohn admits. “He is the star of the film. But look it’s been great; it’s been a good time. And Slow West is a bit of fun too. I get to put on a big woolly coat! You know what I mean?”
Indeed he had audiences in stitches at the Slow West premiere as he waddled in looking half like a bear (see main pic), and grinning from ear to ear. The film stars Kodi Smit-McPhee and Michael Fassbender (who is playing Steve Jobs in a upcoming movie so was unable to attend.)
“We only had a short time and I am peripheral character, popping up here and there like a wolf, tailing them,” Mendelsohn explains. “As a first-timer the director John Maclean just comes to it with this whole new energy. He and Michael Fassbender had done some stuff together but it’s just one of those little gems that came along and they asked me to do it.”
KODI-SMIT MCPHEE, Slow West
KS: I read the Slow West script when I was working on Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and I was extremely excited to get to work on this film. I was pretty busy. I also went back to Australia for a four-month shoot of Gallipoli a mini-series for television.
I am a lead in it and the producer is actually the producer of Romulus, My Father, Robert Connolly. We had this great connection and he was calling me in America about it and we got that done.
HB: His film Paper Planes is doing really well. Finally Australian films are doing well.
KS: Yes, totally. I think it was just a matter of time before we found what we were trying to express and now I think we’ve got something.
HB: John Maclean explains that Slow West is a western with an unusual cultural mix among the cast.
KS: Definitely. It’s historically accurate and the dynamics of a boy from Scotland trying to find someone in the western world in the 1800’s is so completely different. Third world almost. But it’s really cool to see that aspect.
GUY PEARCE, Results
The ever-transformative actor not only sports an Ocker accent, but plays one in Results, directed by Andrew Bujalski (Computer Chess). The film is set in a Houston gym Pearce owns and where has a thing for one of his fitness trainers, Cobie Smulders. A multimillionaire played by the ever-sympathetic Kevin Corrigan has an even bigger crush on her and deeper pockets. So it’s a three-way romantic competition of sorts. Pearce loves him because he took them to a Nick Cave concert and they met the singer backstage. Pearce, a budding musician himself, was unable to make it to Sundance.
“Guy’s not here because he’s about to go on tour with his band in Australia,” explains Bujalski.
HB: I suppose Guy was beating his chest and being Mr Fitness on set?
“Oh yeah, frankly I think that’s why Guy agreed to do the movie. It gave him the excuse to hit the gym, which he loves. He was a teenage bodybuilder and I think he loves the excuse to go get in monster shape.”
MARGOT ROBBIE, Z For Zachariah
Strong and feisty Margot Robbie will continue to play femme fatales and more conventional heroines alongside Will Smith in Focus, in DC’s Suicide Squad, and as Jane in the Tarzan reboot. But in Sundance she displayed her range in Z for Zachariah, a powder-keg post-apocalyptic survival tale where she stars alongside Chiwetel Ejiofor and Chris Pine. The film, which is as much about male-female dynamics, was directed by Craig Zobel (Compliance).
Watch Compliance now
TONI COLLETTE, Glassland
Toni Collette was in town promoting her recent Irish film, Glassland directed by Gerard Barrett.
“It’s the most exquisite, sad story about a boy whose mum is killing herself with alcohol and he tries to save her by raising money by dangerous illegal means to get her into rehab,” she explains. “It’s the most emotionally raw job I’ve ever done. I was scared beforehand about the Irish accent, but really I was nervous about being that vulnerable.”
From across the pond.. JEMAINE CLEMENT, People, Places, Things
Like Mendelsohn, Clement makes his starring debut in an American movie, People, Places, Things, a family dramedy that was rapturously received by women—“We love Jemaine’s self-deprecating humour” a flock of them told me. The film was written and directed by Jim Strouse (Grace is Gone).
Clement also had a supporting role alongside Sam Rockwell in one of the festival’s hot tickets, Don Verdean, from the husband and wife duo of writer-director Jared Hess and co-writer Jerusha Hess. While the film is not up to the comedic standard of their break-out hit Napoleon Dynamite, in which Clement also appeared, the uniquely talented New Zealander, sporting an Israeli accent, had the audience in stitches every time he appeared on screen.