Joel & Nash Edgerton – Gringo

March 8, 2018 by  
Filed under Interviews

In his first feature film since 2008’s Australian thriller “The Square,” director Nash Edgerton goes south of the border for the dark comedy “Gringo” and takes his brother, actor/director Joel Edgerton, along for the ride.

In the film, Joel plays Richard Rusk, an immoral pharmaceutical executive who travels with his coworkers Elaine and Harold (Charlize Theron and David Oyelowo) to Mexico to do some business on a marijuana pill that could bring their company a lot of money. While there, Harold finds out his bosses are screwing him over in more ways than one, so decides to fake a kidnapping so he can cash in on the ransom.

During an interview with me last week, the Edgerton brothers talked about the unlikeable nature of the film’s characters, whether or not it pays to be a good person, and if Joel thinks audiences are going to get tired of him since he has two movies currently at theaters.

Nash, one of your screenwriters, Matthew Stone, wrote a comedy for the Coen brothers in the past (“Intolerable Cruelty”). Did you want “Gringo” to have that kind of Coen Brother-esque feel to it or would you rather it stand on its own?

Nash Edgerton: Essentially, you want to make a film that stands on its own. Obviously, I’m a fan of the Coen brothers’ films, especially “Fargo.” It’s one of my favorite films.

Joel, there’s no denying how much of a jerk your character is. What did you want to do with him as a character? What kind of conversations did you have with Nash about how to depict him?

Joel Edgerton: (Laughs) It was really interesting playing Richard because of how much of a supreme jerk he was. We talked a lot about just how far we could push it. We really wanted to lean into the unlikeable nature of the characters and their culturally naïve and stupid aspects. It feels like the kind of movie where you want to hate certain people and like other people more.

Nash, along with Joel’s character, Charlize’s character isn’t much better on a moral scale. Did you want to give these characters different shades in their personality or was it important for you for audiences to dislike them?

NE: I asked all the actors to play their characters truthfully. I feel like all the ignorant things they said were things we had heard people say at various times. It wasn’t like I wanted to make this character worse than another character. We just tried to figure out what certain characters would say in different scenarios. They are essentially ignorant, selfish people.

As a Latino film journalist, I was a bit worried that “Gringo” was going to be another movie that was featuring Latino characters as drug dealers and as the film’s main antagonists. Why do you think “Gringo” doesn’t really fall into that category?

NE: Personally, as an Australian – and seeing Australian characters in American films – I always get irked when they feel cliché. It was important to me that every character, wherever they’re from, felt authentic. For all the Mexican characters, I cast Mexican actors. When they’re speaking to each other, they’re speaking in Spanish. I asked everyone not to do the cliché version of these characters. As much as it is a comedy, it’s played very straight and real. I think the humor comes out of the situations rather than making jokes about one type of person.

So, was there ever any concern making Taco Bell jokes or Mexicans-have-too-many-kids-jokes or Mexicans-brush-their-teeth-with-tequila-jokes?

NE: Essentially you have a good-natured person at the center of all these despicable people. I wanted to show that kindness and goodness can win out over greed. There is a lot of bad and ignorant people in the movie. Again, I think there are things that people have been guilty of saying. I wanted them to play honestly and truthfully in the nature of those characters.

Joel, one of the questions that the film poses is whether or not it pays to be a good person. How do you think that relates to our world today? Did you think about that question going into this project?

JE: I think it definitely pays to be a good person. In an hour and a half [movie], justice is dealt out more neatly and triumphantly than in real life. In many ways, I think the film has an optimistic morale compass. I think there is so much weird and narrowminded opinions from Americans toward the Mexican culture in particular.

NE: I think there are plenty of examples in real life where people do good things and feel unrewarded. Then, other people do bad things and get away with it. At the end of the day, I think karma sometimes works instantly and sometimes it takes its time. But people who do bad things, have to go home and live with themselves.

Nash, the last time I interviewed Joel he said you’re too handsome to be behind the camera. Any chance you’d want to do some more acting?

NE: (Laughs) That’s very kind of him to say. Look, I enjoy acting. I’m slightly more focused on directing, but I’m not against the idea.

Joel, you have two movies opening in back-to-back weeks and another that was recently released on Netflix. Aren’t you worried audiences will feel a Joel Edgerton overload?

JE: I want them to feel the overload. I want them to feel burdened by my myriad of performances.

NE: (Laughs)

JE: I want them to hate me and send me off on a yearlong holiday. (Laughs) You know, it’s nice that in one I play a nice guy spy with a heart of gold (“Red Sparrow”) and in this one I’m just a douchebag.

Gringo

March 8, 2018 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: David Oyelowo, Joel Edgerton, Charlize Theron
Directed by: Nash Edgerton (“The Square”)
Written by: Anthony Tambakis (“Warrior”) and Matthew Stone (“Intolerable Cruelty”)

It’s been a decade since filmmaker Nash Edgerton, brother of actor/director Joel Edgerton (“The Gift”), released his first feature film, “The Square,” an exciting Australian crime drama that finds a unique way of telling a typical bag-of-money story without going through the same tired tropes (it’s comparable to 1998’s “A Simple Plan”).

With “Gringo,” Edgerton, even with an impressive cast, which includes his brother in a lead role, can’t recapture the same kind of thrills his debut movie provided. Leading the way is actor David Oyelowo (“Selma”) as Harold, a mid-level manager who fakes his own kidnapping in Mexico while helping his horrible bosses Richard Rusk (Joel Edgerton) and Elaine Markinson (Charlize Theron) close a deal on a marijuana pill that could make their pharmaceutical company tons of cash. The biggest problem with “Gringo” is that there are far too many unnecessary subplots, which the weak narrative can’t support.

Plus, besides Harold, the majority of the characters are so unlikeable, it’s impossible to invest much into them. If the dark comical personality traits of Richard and Elaine worked better, it would be a different story, but none of what they do or say feels authentic or even satirical enough to keep the film’s tone from going off the rails. “Gringo” definitely has a nasty streak, but Edgerton and crew fail to make it cut deep enough.

Nash Edgerton – The Square

June 4, 2010 by  
Filed under Interviews

In their feature film debut “The Square,” Australian director Nash Edgerton and his screenwriter brother Joel create an intense noir-inspired thriller centered on an adulterous affair and the incidents that occur when a plan to steal a duffel bag full of money goes terribly wrong.

During our interview, Nash, who started in the film industry as a stuntman, discussed his transition into filmmaking and how he feels about “The Square” taking two years to finally reach U.S. audiences.

What was the motivation behind making your first feature film after so many shorts? Was it just the right time?

Yeah, my brother and I had been working on making a feature for a while. At some point we just felt like it was ready and we should try to get it financed.

Were you worried about making the transition from short films to features?

Yeah, definitely. A short is shot in a few days and you have the whole story in your head and you can shoot the whole thing in order. With a feature, it takes weeks and you’re trying to keep the story together and you’re juggling everything on set and shooting it out of order. It’s quite daunting but very cool.

You started in the film industry as a stuntman. How did that come about?

I got the idea when I was 18 that I wanted to work as a stuntman. I didn’t know anyone in the film industry. I looked up “stunts” in the phone book and I found a number for an agency that represented stunt people. I was just a kid, but I called and kept calling. I wanted to meet stunt people and be on film sets.

Once you made it onto a set, how long after that did you realize you wanted to be behind the camera?

After working in stunts for about four years, I was trying to get more work and I decided to make a reel to show what I could do. I wanted to have an action sequence on my reel that looked like it was from a movie. I wanted people to take me seriously as a stunt man and think that I was already doing movies as an actor. At the same time, my brother [Joel] was trying to get into acting. So, we decided to shoot a movie for his reel, too. Through that, we found this love for filmmaking. We enjoyed the process of making a film.

When you read your brother’s script for “The Square” for the first time, was it obvious that it would be your first feature?

Well, he actually had a draft in 2003. When I first read it, I thought it was such a page turner. I was intrigued to know what was going to happen. I knew right away it was the film I wanted to make.

It’s taken two years for “The Square” to finally get to the U.S. As a filmmaker is this more frustrating or relieving when you take a step back and look at the journey you’ve been on with this film?

I didn’t find it too frustrating. You make a film to be seen by an audience. I guess a film goes on the journey it’s meant to take. It’s just great that people are responding so well to the film. It’s been interesting because I feel like I have more perspective on it now that I’ve had time away from it. It opened in Australia about a year and a half ago. It’s nice to have a fresh audience in a new country.

You’ve been on a number of films sets as a stuntman and worked with different directors. Do you take a lot of what you learn from those directors into your own style?

You can’t help it. When I work on these film sets I’m always observing. You learn from their triumphs and their mistakes. It’s kind of been my film school in a way.

Where else do you pull inspiration for filmmaking?

I think I’m more inspired about how a film makes me feel as opposed to trying to copy the way a film has been done. It’s more about trying to recreate a memory of something than anything else.

Are you a strong believer in fate?

I’m a believer in fate but I definitely think bad choices guide us sometimes. I like to think of Ray (the main character in “The Square”) as a bad chess player. He’s never thinking of the consequences of the moves he’s making. He might be thinking a few steps ahead but never beyond that.

What would you like people to know about the state of the Australian film industry today?

I think at the moment there is an interesting group of people making films. Australia has always made a lot of genre films. You saw that back in the 70s more. I feel more recently there are more genre films coming out. I think my generation of filmmakers is starting to be the leader in making more of these films.

The Square

June 4, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: David Robert, Claire van der Boom, Joel Edgerton
Directed by: Nash Edgerton (debut)
Written by: Joel Edgerton (debut) and Matthew Dabner (debut)
 
It might sound like a familiar story if someone was to explain the basic plot points, but “The Square” is nowhere near an ordinary film. Released in Australia in 2008, this tightly-written little noir-inspired thriller from Down Under quickly proves to have been worth the wait.

Caught up in an adulterous affair, construction foreman Raymond (David Roberts) and salon employee Carla (Claire van der Boom) are presented with a chance to get out of their hapless marriages when Carla’s shady husband Smithy (Anthony Hayes) comes home one afternoon with a duffle bag filled with cash.

While he tries to keep the his criminal activity a secret by hiding the bag in the ceiling, Carla witnesses everything. Her pitch to Raymond is simple: steal the money and run off together. Hesitant at first, Raymond decides if he wants his relationship with Carla to last he will have to lay out a fool-proof plan for the robbery to work.

He hires Billy (Joel Edgerton, the director’s brother who also co-wrote the script), a seasoned criminal, to break into Carla’s home when no one is there, take the money, and burn the house down so Smithy will believe all was lost in the fire. From the start, however, things go horribly wrong.

Reminiscent of films like “A Simple Plan” and “Fargo,” director Edgerton keeps the paranoia set on high as Raymond and Carla watch their scheme fall apart piece by piece. When Smithy begins to suspect something fishy is going on and Raymond is blackmailed through anonymous letters, “The Square” starts shaping into something a lot more complex and devious.

Known in Australia as their continent’s version of the Coen brothers, the Edgerton brothers handle the film’s suspense like industry veterans. This, however, is their first after a career’s worth of short films, including a darkly funny drama called “Spider,” which actually precedes “The Square.”

Consider anything you get from the Edgertons a bonus. It’s going to be very interesting to watch them grow as feature filmmakers and really etch out their own voice and style. “The Square” is definitely an impressive debut. Through cleverly-written plotting and twists and intense performances from the entire cast, the Edgertons have easily earned our attention.