Interview : Michael Mendelsohn on God Is A Bullet

Mendelsohn started his career in the 80s in the industry and has been producing and financing movies with his company Patriot Pictures since 2005

Daniel Daza

The interview is about to start and the camera won’t work for the Zoom meeting. After many apologies on my part, Michael Mendelsohn says, “And I just got new glasses, just to do the Zoom with you!” I laugh, nervousness forgotten. For a big-time film financier, Mendelsohn has a way of putting a person at ease as if we were just having a coffee at Starbucks.

Mendelsohn started his career in the 80s in the industry and has been producing and financing movies with his company Patriot Pictures since 2005 — with 2022’s “Blackout” (starring Josh Duhamel and Abbie Cornish) and 2021’s Nicolas Cage-led “Prisoners of the Ghostland” being a few of his most recent projects. Mendelsohn’s career was a long road to get to where he is today, starting off in Johnny Carson’s mailroom on “The Tonight Show.” He also worked in the mailroom at William Morris in New York, then traveled to do the Olympics in Los Angeles in 1984. He was also a reader for Fox and Aaron Spelling.

Mendelsohn switched to working for a bank, and decided he had more control in the industry by being a film financier than anything else. He used a template of documents from real estate financing for films, which undeniably worked well. Some of his projects have included “True Romance,” “La Femme Nikita,” “Henry V,” “Reservoir Dogs,” “What Women Want,” “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” and “The Madness of King George.”

“God Is a Bullet” is Mendelsohn’s new film, which was also a two-decade project for director Nick Cassavetes. The film stars Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Jamie Foxx, Maika Monroe and January Jones, based on a book of the same name by Boston Teran.

Moviehole sat down with Mendelsohn to discuss many diverse subjects, from ChatGPT to high school slang to the Holocaust.



Moviehole: What are you working on now?

Michael Mendelsohn: I’m doing a teenage movie, it takes place in high school and it’s called “Almost Popular.” I’ve had literally 16–19-year-olds reading, and they were using words (slang) I haven’t heard. I wanted to make a film resembling “Rebel Without a Cause.” We will be shooting at the John Marshall High School, and the schools are so well fortified, you can’t get out of the schools unless you get let out; I have to call security to get us out.


Moviehole: What was the most interesting project you’ve ever done?

MM: One I just finished, “God Is a Bullet” — the true story about a desk cop whose daughter gets kidnapped, they can’t find who did it, and a woman knocks on his door and says get all your money, we’re going on the road. The guy had to get tattooed and infiltrate a cult, find his daughter and kill everyone. We shot eight weeks in Mexico, three weeks in New Mexico, and we were hit by storms, bugs, heat exhaustion, gangs, everything, it was like “Apocalypse Now.”

This film is along the lines of “Taxi driver,” and I can tell that it will be a cult classic; poor Jamie Foxx can’t promote it as he’s not feeling well, but he approved a lot of things for us. It’s like the “Iliad” by Homer, how this guy went through all this stuff to get his daughter.  He’s a bit of a nerdy desk cop but he turns into a ferocious guy to find his daughter.

My father was a Jewish Holocaust camp survivor; that makes me gravitate to stories of victims to fight back aggressors.  My son went to school in Berlin with his junior year in Prague, and he goes to look at a museum and then calls me to say, “We are not on this family tree of Mendelsohns (famous composer).” I asked him, “Are there any people on the chart that went to the concentration camp?” He said no, and I asked how that was possible. It’s not, they didn’t represent that side of the family on the Mendelsohn family tree.


Moviehole: Are you planning any film projects on WWII?

MM: Yes, a project where eight teenagers in Krakow, Poland fight the Gestapo in a siege — these teens lasted three months, it’s like the candles lasting, it’s called “Three Lines in History.” When the German Gestapo was asked why he did this, that’s what he said.


Moviehole: How do you pick projects?

MM: I want to tell stories that haven’t been told; a lot of studio people want to do “Mission Impossible” 4, 5,6, 7 or “Bourne Identity” 3,4 5. I remember doing a film with Kenneth Branagh called “Henry V.” So, we’re selling the movie in Cannes, and a Japanese distributor says, “How did 1 through 4 do?” I’m thinking, “what,” and I said, “Yes, well, this is Henry V, I wasn’t involved with 1 through 4.”



Moviehole: What do you think about ChatGPT?

MM : At the current point, I’m not worried very much. It doesn’t write unique stuff, it’s very good at collecting research, it uses a lot of the same words over and over. It’s not very creative, I don’t think it can write scripts that Nick Cassavetes or Ron Shelton can write. Or Scorsese, it doesn’t write like that. Will it eventually? Sure, it’s going to get better, but not like Ernest Hemingway or Shakespeare, so far I’m not seeing it.


Moviehole: What do people in industry think?

MM: They are frightened, but what you are seeing are more cases of Andy Warhol or Jack Daniels images that got sued, and so far the Supreme Court is upholding the authors’ rights. You’re afraid of things you don’t know. It never quite writes things you would film.


Moviehole: Is Covid still affecting filming, are there restrictions?

MM: The most draconian part of the Covid protection of the crew and talent has expired — “God Is a Bullet” was shut down at least two times, the director, stars, and the DP got it, bodies get run down and are susceptible, and we did wear masks. I still once in a while will wear a mask if there’s a long flight from L.A. to Paris, to cut down the probability of touching something. Also there were covid scammers saying they would charge for protection for $500,000, then it ended being up to $150,000.


Daniel Daza


Moviehole: What is your advice for newbies?

MM: Get control of the material, either writing or optioning the book. You can’t control the building if you don’t own the land. Get yourself a great mentor, everything happens by teamwork, there is no I in the word team, you need to get a mentor. Take a chance on a subject no-one wants to do. “Matrix,” no one wanted to make. “Lord of War,” no one wanted to make, “Pulp Fiction,” no one wanted to make. Follow those principles and you are on the road to success.


Moviehole: What are your other projects coming up?

MM: We are shooting “How the Gringo Stole Christmas,” with George Lopez, Mariana Travino (“A Man Called Otto”) in Mississippi. There’s also “Alicia’s Adventures in Wonderland,” a modern take on “Alice in Wonderland” — Terrence Howard plays Metamorphosis from Alice, there’s also James Cromwell, Sasha Luss from “Anna,” and it’s due out this fall. “Blackout” was last year and it went to number one global for three weeks.


Moviehole: What are you looking to do in the future?

MM: We are planning a comic book division, so we are making graphic novels from all the movies; we will have a graphic novel for Comic-Con in San Diego in July, a 32- page book. We have a new system to digitize photos from all the films.

“God Is a Bullet” was just released Friday, June 23.

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