Stuntman Nash Edgerton Breaks Into Directing with the Acclaimed Thriller ‘The Square’
When Nash and Joel Edgerton’s father brought his sons a video camera – Nash was 10 at the time, Joel 8 – little did he realize what a profound impact it would have on the course of their personal and professional lives.
Nearly three decades later, Nash, 37, is a well-respected stuntman, having played Ewan McGregor’s double in two Star Wars sequels, and the director of the acclaimed new noir drama The Square; Joel, 35, who most notably co-starred in Star Wars: Episode II and III as Anakin Skywalker’s stepbrother, wrote The Square’s hard-edged script and plays the movie’s most fearsome heavy.
The Square hardly marks their first collaboration, nor will it be their last – although Joel will star in next year’s prequel to the John Carpenter classic The Thing, he and Nash are dedicated to releasing a steady stream of films through Blue-Tongue, the production company they helped co-found with the 1996 release of Nash’s first short-length feature, Loaded.
But at present, they are enjoying the fruits of their latest labor. Released in their native Australia in 2008, where Nash was an Australian Film Institute nominee for best director and Joel a nominee for Best Screenplay along with writing partner Matthew Dabner, The Square is only now arriving in the U.S., where critics have been quick to label the Edgertons the heir apparent to another famous fraternal duo, Joel and Ethan Coen.
If it’s a label the Edgertons are uncomfortable with, you wouldn’t know it from talking to Nash, who cites the Coens’ Blood Simple (1984) and Fargo (1996), as well as the films of Alfred Hitchcock, as his biggest sources of inspiration.
On gleaning tips from directors like George Lucas, Baz Lurmann (Moulin Rouge!) and Bryan Singer (Superman Returns):
“As a stuntman, you do a lot of looking and listening, getting a feel for how things are done on the set. You watch the actors, you take note of how they interact with the director and the crew. You see how a shot is done, and you remember what works and what doesn’t work. It’s the old-fashioned approach to filmmaking – learning through osmosis.”
On working with Joel:
“It’s a great relationship. We have such a shorthand with each other, and even if we don’t agree on every single thing, we can have a civilized discussion to hash things out. In this case he wrote the script, but he’s a terrific director, too. [Joel wrote and directed 2008’s The List, a 25-minute crime drama in which Nash co-stars.] When we collaborate, we don’t assign each other specific jobs – we just go with whatever works. For The Square, that turned out to be me directing and Joel writing, but we certainly have a lot of input on what the other is doing. And we share a taste for dark humor.”
On his future as a stunt-performing director:
“I like doing a bit of everything – I did a music video last week, then I did a stunt job and I’m also writing something for Joel. The guys I work with at Blue-Tongue, all the filmmakers there work on each other’s projects, so if somebody needs me to do some editing or a stunt, I’m happy to help out. I wouldn’t want to give up any part of it to concentrate solely on directing. It keeps things interesting. The key for me is finding a balance between having a life and doing what I love to do.”
On casting David Roberts, a star of the long-running Australian TV series Home and Away, as Raymond Yale, The Square’s hard-luck anti-hero:
“I didn’t want to cast a big star in the role because when you have a big star, you have a certain idea of what to expect, or maybe you’re already used to seeing that actor as a hero or a villain. So it was important to find the right guy, someone who you don’t see coming. Besides, I wanted to prove that I could direct. If you have a big star, people might say that’s why the film works. I wanted to show that I know what I’m doing behind the camera.”