Ben Is Back

A Q&A with author Ben Mezrich. —Scott Kearnan

ben mezrich

PHOTOGRAPH BY GUIDO VITTI for “Ben Mezrich: Based on a True Story”

Ben Mezrich’s Midas touch turns every book he writes into silver-screen gold, and this month he’ll roll out Once Upon a Time in Russia, a thrillerlike look at the billionaire oligarchs who emerged from the post-Soviet rubble. Filmmaker Brett Ratner suggested the story to Mezrich and snagged the movie rights, too. Here, we caught up with the Boston-based writer.

You love to write about young geniuses with wild schemes. What’s the greatest scheme you’ve pulled off?

Landing my wife. [Laughs.] It’s a vicarious thrill for me to write about people who have done these really incredible things while I am personally terrified of everything. I guess going into writing in the first place was probably the biggest risk I’ve taken.

What’s more thrilling: a bestselling book or a hit movie?

The book. It’s a lot more fun and glamorous when you have a successful movie, but the book will always be the thing that’s mine.

In writing Once Upon a Time in Russia, did you notice any parallels with current American economics?

People talk about the corruption on Wall Street, but that’s nothing compared to what was going on in Russia in the ’90s. It was wild. Everything was up for grabs and if someone got in your way, they were murdered. Certainly the whole idea of a small group of people controlling a large amount is something that’s still relatable. But the whole elite-robber-baron thing is something we did much earlier than the Russians.

Who would play you in a movie about your life?

Good question. I’d like to see Ed Norton, but more likely it’d be Screech.