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:: Spotlight :: Interview with Joel & Nash Edgerton (The Square)

By: Dave Griffiths

Apart from Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Australia’, one of the most eagerly anticipated Australian films of 2008 has to be Nash Edgerton’s ‘The Square’. For several years now journalists have been sounding the death knoll for the Australian Film Industry. Now those same journalists are predicting that ‘The Square’ may well become the commercial success that Australia needs to kick start its film industry again.

That is a hell of a lot of pressure to place on Nash and Joel Edgerton. Yes, Nash has shown that he is a talented director with his short films, but ‘The Square’ is his debut feature. Likewise the pressure has been heaped on his brother Joel, who is better known as an actor as a screenwriter.

But if that pressure is mounting up on them, it wasn’t showing when I recently caught up with them for a chat. When I walk into the room Joel greets me warmly and jokes ‘Nash has stepped out of the room for the moment. Feel free to start asking questions and I’ll just tell lies about him.’ Despite his relaxed demeanor it’s easy to see a wave of relief sweep over him when I tell him that all the reviewers that saw the film with me loved it as well. ‘Of course you want it to do well… not because of the time and effort you’ve put into it, but because really the film is your ‘baby’. It’s like showing your baby to someone and having them say ‘that’s an ugly baby’. People can say that don’t listen to reviewers but it’s a lie… it can cut really deep.’

With Nash back in the room I ask if it’s harder or easier for two brothers to team up on a film, especially when it comes to criticism. ‘It’s probably a bit of both,’ says Nash. ‘Of course you don’t want to offend anyone, but at the same time you know there won’t be grudges held onto it.’ At this moment Joel can’t help but add, ‘Having said that, Nash is probably more blunt with me than he is with most other people.’ Nash agrees and adds, ‘When it comes to criticism you can be honest without having to spend five minutes stroking each others massive ego first.’

After having been blown away with ‘The Square’s’ storyline I asked Joel where he got the idea from. ‘I love crime stories and crime films’, he says. ‘I enjoy reading about real crime and after reading a few newspaper articles I really wanted to write a film about ordinary people doing despicable things.’ Nash interrupts by saying ‘That’s bullshit… tell the truth. You murdered a good writer and stole his script.’ Joel laughs for a second but then goes on. ‘I was really inspired by Hitchcock, the vulnerability he would show in his films, it’s possibly I got some inspiration from ‘The Player’ as well, I wanted this film to be a real spirally web.’

So was it different handing his script to his brother to read? ‘To be honest I’d never handed by writing to anyone before. I just hoped he saw the value in it. I hoped the read would be good so he’d find it enjoyable. My biggest fear was that he wouldn’t see the value in it and that’s why I held onto it for so long.

Luckily Nash saw the script the same way the audience finds the film… something that keeps you continuously guessing. ‘I literally found it to be a page turner’, says Nash. ‘I just kept reading and reading because to be honest I couldn’t pick where it was going. I’m pretty sure the audience will be the same when they are watching it. At least I hope they are because I’m very much into the fact that I want an audience to experience my films not just watch them.’ Joel adds, ‘Anyone who has seen ‘Spider’ (one of Nash’s short films) will know that Nash likes to fuck with the audience.’

While the surprising twists and turns of ‘The Square’ are one of the things that makes the film so brilliant, the other is the exceptional acting performances of newcomers David Roberts and Claire Van Der Boom. I asked why they were chosen for the lead roles over some more famous names. ‘Once he auditioned we knew we wanted David Roberts to play Ray, the same with Claire (Van Der Boom) as Carla,’ says Joel. ‘We didn’t want someone famous because if you go with someone famous the audience can always work out who the hero is going to be and who the villain is going to be. They’ll like ‘oh he always plays a hero’ or ‘oh he always plays a villain’. With David he could be Ray and you simply don’t know which way he would go.’

So did Joel have to audition to play the arsonist, Billy? ‘No I didn’t audition, but at the same time I never intended to write a film with me in it. I never actually had anyone in mind for any of the roles when I wrote the script. Afterwards, I did think Billy was a role I could pull off.’ Nash again interrupts. ‘You thought of playing Smithy for a while, didn’t you?’ Joel nods. ‘For a little bit, but once I saw Anthony Hayes I knew he was right for that part. He really nails it… he’s brilliant.’

How do you research how to play an arsonist? ‘I spoke to a couple of people who had interesting parts,’ explains Joel. ‘I don’t normally do much research into the parts that I play, but I did this time. When you are pulling out guns you have to make it fell real.’

You only have to spend a few moments talking to Joel and Nash to see just how passionate they are about ‘The Square’. They should also be feeling a great deal of pride over it as well. Only time will tell if ‘The Square’ will be the savior of the Australian Film Industry, but one thing is for sure it’s a damm fine movie and it won’t be Joel or Nash’s fault if the industry sinks.