“I’ve been burned a couple of times, and that hurts like hell; I got burned once jumping out of an exploding building,” Australian filmmaker Nash Edgerton slyly remarks about the numerous, death-defying perils he faced while performing as a stunt man. Now having directed his first feature film, The Square, a noir set in modern-day Australia, Edgerton has come full circle. Co-written by and starring his actor brother Joel Edgerton, who recently appeared in the revival of A Streetcar Named Desire playing Stanley opposite Cate Blanchett’s Blanche, The Square simmers with a prolonged intensity and mood. No surprise, though, as the director has crafted several taut shorts in the past decade, namely Spider, which scooped up countless awards across the festival circuit in 2007 and 2008, and will precede The Square during its theatrical run. I caught up with Nash in Los Angeles to discuss how he got started in the film industry, the “reality” of The Square, and stunt-doubling for his brother.
Cutting his teeth as a stunt actor on films like Moulin Rouge and the Matrix films, Edgerton managed to wedge his foot in the door in the biz at the tender age of 18. “I had no connection to the film industry at all. I got the idea one day to be a stunt man, and I looked up ’stunt’ in the phone book and found an agency that represented stunt people. Also, I was just a persistent kid—kept on trying to get on film sets,” Edgerton recalls of his early days just starting out.
Edgerton, though, always had an interest in video, often taping himself while performing risky stunts outside (or on top of) his childhood home. He humorously points out, “I think as a kid I was always jumping off the roof of the house and video-ing it with my dad’s video camera. I never thought of it as a job, but then my interest in it just grew and grew after I left school. In my aim to get more jobs as a stunt man, I had this idea that if I shot an action sequence from a movie and put it on my reel, that people would think I worked on a movie and then give me a job.” Soon after, his brother Joel finished drama school, and the two began working together to make similar demo reels that would showcase their talents, be it as a stunt man or actor—seemingly kick-starting careers in moviemaking.
Realigning the noir framework to fit the Australian suburbs for his debut feature, Edgerton skillfully builds a tangible, heart-thumping tension, as the lead character Ray, and his adulterous actions, cause unforeseen, spiraling havoc. “As much as it is film noir, we’re basing it in a reality rather than a sort of surreal world. A lot of [the story] happens during the day, and I guess a difference for an American audience, and something that is not usually shown to an Australian audience either, Christmas is in the summer; I’ve never really seen Christmas [portrayed] in a movie in the summertime.” He further reflects on why the story needed to be set in such a recognizable, modern world, “The whole idea of basing the film in reality to me made it, one, more relatable as an audience member, and two, by doing that, made it more tense. Film noirs have elements of tension and intrigue, and they’re thrilling, but I thought the more real it felt, [the film] would be much more engaging in that way.”
Though Nash and Joel Edgerton work together now as director and actor, respectively, the two have worked together in another context, with Nash having stunt-doubled for Joel on numerous occasions. He says, “We have an interesting dynamic. Sure, I’ve directed him, but I also have turned up on sets and been his stunt double, dressed up like him, and then get hit by a car for him, while he’s all rugged up having a coffee—chatting to a makeup artist.”
This fledgling director admits he is gradually working on another feature project with his brother, a project that will be on a much larger scale than his debut. He sparingly divulges, “The script doesn’t have a title yet, it’s still taking shape. I kind of know what the film is; it’s a mix of genres. It’s different from The Square, but I can’t help [but] base all my films in that kind of reality. It’ll be bigger than the The Square.”