In The Outsider, Ben Mendelsohn plays Detective Ralph Anderson, a character who at first seems like he could fit into just about any other dark detective mystery you can imagine. But The Outsider isn’t any dark detective mystery—it’s based on a novel of the same name by Stephen King, which means Mendelsohn’s Detective is going to have more than just a murder mystery to solve. Luckily for audiences, Mendelsohn is an actor who’s proven over the last decade to be up to the task, tackling a multitude of complex and exciting roles that have made him a frequent fan favorite.
While Mendelsohn’s role leading The Outsider is that of the hero and protagonist, some of his best work has come when playing a villain. The 50-year-old Australian had already been 24 years into his career in 2010 when he had his major stateside breakthrough, playing a loose cannon criminal in Animal Kingdom (the movie that later inspired the TNT series of the same name).
Throughout the following decade, Mendelsohn showed up in villainous roles time and time again. One of the earlier ones was as John Daggett in The Dark Knight Rises, where he was a corrupt Wayne Industries board member who was working with Tom Hardy’s Bane. He also snagged villain roles in major blockbusters Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (playing a power-hungry Imperial officer behind the construction of the Death Star) and Ready Player One (playing an evil and incredibly corrupt CEO).
And that’s not even counting his roles in smaller movies that you may have seen in theaters, but more likely found on cable or streaming. Movies like The Place Beyond The Pines (with Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper), Slow West (with Michael Fassbender), and Mississippi Grind (with Ryan Reynolds) all find Mendelsohn acting alongside major movie stars, but in smaller scale productions that really allow the performers to flex their acting muscles. His turn in Netflix’s Bloodline alongside Kyle Chandler won him an Emmy, and helped the pair earn a number of nominations for that show’s three seasons.
Part of what makes Mendelsohn so much fun to watch on-screen is the unpredictable way his quiet expression can feel earnest and earned, while also always feeling like he could have a major outburst. Yes, he’s played a lot of villains through the years, and his intensity tends to almost naturally lead to his success in roles of that nature. But the same intensity that allows a character like Orson Krennic in Rogue One to be a petulant narcissist can sometimes be refined and alternatively used in something like The Outsider; in different context, an emotional outburst can make audiences relate with the frustration and earnest intentions of a character like Detective Anderson.
In addition to being one of our best working actors, Mendelsohn is also one of our most prolific. In 2019, he continued to pick his projects while casting a wide net; in fact, he hit in three very different genres: blockbusters (he made his Marvel Cinematic Debut, playing Talos in both Captain Marvel and Spider-Man: Far From Home), smaller movies (playing Henry IV in Netflix’s The King), and even animation (he voiced a character in Spies in Disguise alongside Tom Holland and Will Smith).
With The Outsider, Mendelsohn gets his chance to lead a big TV thriller for the first time, and with the skills he’s put forward in the last decade, we’ve got no reason to doubt that he’ll continue to deliver.
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