Joel Edgerton – The Gift

August 7, 2015 by  
Filed under Interviews

In his filmmaking debut, actor Joel Edgerton (“Warrior”) directs, writes and stars in “The Gift,” a thriller that tells the story of a married couple (Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall) whose life is thrown into a frenzy when a man from the husband’s past comes back into his life 20 years later to reveal shocking secrets from when they were kids. During an interview with me this week, Edgerton, 41, talked about the privileged position he feels he’s in as a director who is also an actor, and explains why he thinks the thriller genre is one that has to constantly evolve.

You probably don’t have a lot of say when it comes to the marketing of a film, but when “The Gift” is referred to as a modern day “Fatal Attraction,” how do you feel about that? Would you rather the film stands on its own than be compared to something from the past?

You know, it’s like when you move to a new city and try to compare it to the old city you used to live in. Movies are the same. People will say things like it’s like “Fatal Attraction” meets “Forrest Gump.” It’s an easy comparison and I’m fine with it.

You’ve worked with some very talented directors in your career like Ridley Scott (“Exodus: Gods and Kings”) and Baz Luhrmann (“The Great Gatsby”). How much influence do directors like that have on your own voice as a filmmaker?

Look, I’m in a very privileged position as an actor. I’ve spent so much time on set with these directors. I’d be crazy not to open my eyes and ears to what’s going on around me. Ridley and Gavin O’Connor, who made “Warrior,” and Jeff Nichols (the upcoming “Midnight Special” andLoving”) and Scott Cooper, who’s got “Black Mass” coming up, these guys have taught me a lot just by being in the presence of them. I get a privilege that a lot of other directors don’t get.

We’ve seen you in some great thrillers like “Animal Kingdom” and “The Square.” What do you think it takes to make something work in this genre? What makes a great thriller?

It’s in the spirit that everything is not what it seems and you’re trying to keep an audience guessing and on their toes. It seems to me that the thriller genre really just has to stay ahead of the audience. Maybe that means the genre has to keep evolving. Anything that has been done successfully before, you can’t just do that again because the audience is waiting for that. They’re expecting it. We wanted to take the audience down that “Fatal Attraction” road and at some point start to mess with their perception of what was going to happen next. I think it’s the director and the writer’s job to keep messing with the minds of the audience.

As an actor, what does it take to get into the head of someone as creepy as your character? What kind of mindset do you have to be in?

That all comes in the writing. I was very determined to write a character for myself who was overbearing and socially awkward. He’s a person we’ve all encountered who wants a friendship with us more than we want with them. (Laughs) I was constantly reminding myself as I made the movie that the movie had to be more than just entertainment. Each character had to be real and resonate in some way, particularly in a film like this where the subject matter is about bullying and the way we can be cruel to each other as people. That danger element of my character is part of that subject matter. He’s a victim of bullying 25 years later asking for some kind of resolution.

Were there any specific challenges in having to direct yourself?

Yeah, I’m a very naughty actor, so trying to control me is unbearable. (Laughs) You know it was tough. Directing is very much about planning and using a lot of brainwork and acting is often about gut instinct, at least for me. Trying to bring those two worlds together on the same day in the same person is tricky. But I had a lot of help. I had a great team. My brother (Nash) was there as an outside eye. The challenges were there early on, but I worked out how to make it work. I was very happy with it.

What did your brother think when you told him you were going to direct your first film? Was he like, “Directing is my thing. Stick to acting!”

Nah, there’s none of that. My brother had an incredible amount of enthusiasm for me to direct. Someone once joked that my brother is a film bully. If someone is thinking about making a movie, he will bully you into doing it. He helped me so much. It was never like, “Hey, stick to your acting, man. I’m the director.” He wanted me to do it. It’s the same reason I’m really excited to see him get in front of the camera more. He’s a little too handsome, but it’s great. We love each other and we love encouraging each other.

Obsessed

April 24, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Idris Elba, Beyoncé Knowles, Ali Larter
Directed by: Steve Shill (debut)
Written by: David Loughery (“Lakeview Terrance”)

Note to all the ladies in the house: Keep your hands off rapper Jay-Z.

At least that’s what they should think if his real-life wife Beyoncé Knowles ever turned into the livid lioness she portrays by the conclusion of “Obsessed,” the new thriller that pits the ex-Destiny’s Child singer against “Heroes” star Ali Larter.

In the film Larter plays Lisa, a temp secretary at a financial firm who begins to stalk her happily married boss, Derek Charles (Elba), while his wife Sharon (Knowles) is at home with their infant son unaware of her husband’s long-legged problem.

Although Lisa’s sexual advances continue, Derek doesn’t tell anyone until he is forced to reveal what has been happening when his deranged admirer overdoses on prescription drugs in his hotel room.

The film continues uninterestingly and becomes another poor imitation of others that have come before it. Lisa sulks about her delusional love. Derek tries to stay strong for his family. Sharon builds up rage, which leads up to a 10-minute catfight scene that’s far less intense than movies with similar themes like “Fatal Attraction” or even “Misery.”

Here, the clichés are bountiful and Lisa’s tiresome school-girl crush is absurd from any angle of a dysfunctional relationship. While she plots ways to get into Derek’s pants, screenwriter David Loughery (“Lakeview Terrance”) provides no surprises or tension to keep us involved in the story. Before you know it, the predictable final act ends like most unhealthy relationships do – not quick enough.

Knowing

March 15, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Rose Byrne, Chandler Canterbury
Directed by: Alex Proyas (“I, Robot”)
Written by: Alex Proyas (“Dark City”), Juliet Snowden (“Boogeyman”), Stiles White (“Boogeyman”), Stuart Hazeldine (debut), Ryne Douglas Pearson (debut)

Actor Nicolas Cage has only been making consistently terrible choices in movies since 2006, so why does it seem longer?

After doing a fine job in the Oliver Stone–helmed “World Trade Center” where he played a New York City Port Authority police officer, Cage went on a massive losing streak with critical bombs including “The Wicker Man,” “Ghost Rider,” “Next” and “National Treasure: Book of Secrets,” and “Bangkok Dangerous.” While it’s only been three years of cinematic gaffes, the torture Cage has put us through seems endless.

He continues his mission of futility with his latest bomb, “Knowing,” an absurd sci-fi movie posing as an end-of-the-world thriller, both of which support the idea that moviegoers should always do their research before going to the theater and raise a red flag when a production gives more than a couple of screenwriters credit for the work. In “Knowing,” five (!) writers are credited and none of them come close to making anything credible or inventive.

It might be just a mediocre combination of ideas, but “Knowing” ends up being a haphazard mess starting from the top. Cage plays John Koestler, a college professor and astrophysicist who stumbles onto a sort of numerical puzzle that reveals the dates, coordinates, and death toll of the world’s most major tragedies.

The list of random numbers comes from a time capsule buried 50 years prior at the school where John’s son Caleb (Chandler Canterbury) now attends. Back in 1959, schoolchildren were given an assignment to draw a picture of what they thought the world would look like in the future. Instead of drawing robots and astronauts like her classmates, one of the students, Lucinda Embry (Lara Robinson), an antisocial little girl with dark circles under her eyes who hears voices, begins to handwrite a sequence of numbers on her paper.

Fifty years later, Caleb ends up taking the excavated note home where his father begins to decipher what it means. For this plot point, all the five-headed screenwriting team could come up with for John’s interest in the numbers is that a stain he accidently makes on the paper directs his eyes to the numbers 9112001, code for the attacks on 9/11. From there, John, like Jim Carrey in “The Number 23,” becomes obsessed with his set of digits, the last of which point to the date of the earth’s demise.

The end of the world doesn’t come soon enough as Proyas and his team focus more on the computer-generated disaster scenes than they do on the actual narrative. Cage and the rest of the cast, which includes Rose Byrne (“28 Weeks Later”) as Diana Wayland, Lucinda’s grown daughter, become pawns for the unpredictable albeit mangled conclusion. “Knowing” thinks it’s more meaningful than it actually is, and that’s the most disturbing part of its inconspicuousness.