Excerpt from Interview with Ben Mendelsohn,

                             Star of “Animal Kingdom”

                             Dallas , Texas July 23, 2010



PO :  I know you’re an actor, but how did you prepare yourself for playing someone so completely villainous?

BM: Through this thing I was thinking about John Calvin's idea, you know, that the good are predestined, you know, and so are the evil.  These are the damned.  They're damned in their lives.  There's no escape.  There is no out.  The hellish inferno of things gone wrong. 

PO :  There's no real love there, either.

BM: Yeah, you're right.  Now that I think about it, it's a good question (observation).  He knows he doesn't love his Mom.  He doesn't love any of the gang. He certainly doesn’t love any woman.  Hmmmm.

PO :  Do you think he ever had a relationship with a woman?

BM:  Yeah, probably when he was younger, when he was the kid's age (referring to the youngest of the gang, who was about 20). 

And now he feels the incredible loss of potency.  It's an incredibly transformative moment, when he feels the incredible loss, playing this harpsichord of aggravation and failure, which is why he's becoming so dangerous---which is why he's now becoming so absolutely demonic.

PO :  Interesting that you would use that term, when there is no mention of religion in the film at all.  Is this the most evil character you've ever played?

BM:  Yeah, and I'd venture to say that you'd be hard-pressed to find a more corrupted individual.  I'm talking cinematicallly here.

Bad guys are important, especially in a literary sense, and historically there are many great representations.  Like James Cagney (referring to an earlier reference).  But ours are compelling because they are so bad.

PO :  Well, to return to John Calvin's thinking (I'm glad you mentioned that!), you can't have sanctification, without its polar opposite, utter depravity.

BM:  Right, and that's what we're talking about here.  Utter depravity.

PO :  Love your analogy.  I've actually done some reading of Calvin, and you have a pretty good grasp.

BM:  Well, yes, I am very interested in the philosophical explanation.


Ron Salfen, Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church, Greenville , Texas

For “The Presbyterian Outlook”