Joel Edgerton is busy. Not only is he promoting director Francis Lawrence’s fantastic spy thriller, Red Sparrow, where he stars opposite Jennifer Lawrence, he’s also out promoting his brother Nash Edgerton’s dark comedy, Gringo, where he stars opposite Charlize Theron and David Oyelowo. Oh, did I forget to mention that while he’s promoting these two new films, he’s hard at work in New York City editing his first feature since The Gift, Boy Erased, which will be in theaters this September. If you haven’t yet heard of Boy Erased, it’s about the son of a Baptist preacher who’s forced to participate in a church-supported gay conversion program. Boy Erased has a killer cast made up of Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe and Xavier Dolan.
A few days ago, while Edgerton was on his way to his Boy Erased editing room, I got on the phone with him to talk about all his various projects. While we started out talking about why he wanted to be part of Red Sparrow and what it was like filming some of the brutal interrogation scenes, we then jumped into what excited him about Gringo and why it was so unusual that David Oyelowo played his character as a Nigerian immigrant. Further into the conversation he talked about the critical and audience reaction to David Ayer’s Bright, what he’d like to see in Bright 2, and how he’s hopeful Boy Erased will premiere at Telluride or Toronto.
Check out what he had to say below.
Finally, while you have a lot of choices for what you can do with your time and money, I strongly recommend checking out both Red Sparrow and Gringo. Both are very well done and worth seeing in a movie theater.
Collider: I’m going to start with- the funny thing is I’m sitting at the Gringo press junket in L.A. where a member of your family is doing press.
EDGERTON: No way!
Yeah, I literally just did Gringo. I’m also doing Tomb Raider out here.
EDGERTON: Wow! Nash is doing a press tour there today. I’m coming to join him in Miami and so on. I’m doing double duty.
So, the big question is, and this comes from Nash, how come you’re not in LA today promoting Gringo?
EDGERTON: (laughs) Ask someone at Fox about that. I’m kind of splitting my duties, I’m joining him for the Miami and LA premiere and a bunch of other stuff. I’m also stuck on the other movie. It’s terrible timing that two movies come out too close together. Obviously, if I had to put my allegiance somewhere, and I wouldn’t get in trouble, I would be doing the legwork for Gringo.
I’m sure he is obviously teasing. Jumping into Red Sparrow, I thought it was fantastic.
EDGERTON: Oh, awesome.
I really enjoyed this movie. Talk a little bit about collaborating with Francis Lawrence and maybe what it was about the script that said I want to do this movie.
EDGERTON: Well, It was an unusual one for me because, you know, my interest in sort of, jumping on a movie and hiding behind movie stars. It’s one of my favorite escapades. To just, you know, work with great people and play support to really great actors. This was sort of one of those, in the sense that, you know, I love Jen, I love watching her work. So, it sort of my interest to work with her. I didn’t want to let that opportunity pass. The other massive part of it, and yes, Francis is a great person and I love meeting with him, and I think he’s an excellent human being. The big second draw card was that it was one of those scripts and movies that plugged into a childhood fantasy of mine. You know, the clear memory at the age of 10-12 of having a spy kit, you know, like binoculars, and radio transmitting listening device. There’s something about espionage that was a childhood curiosity of mine, and so along comes this script, and it felt like I was plugging back in to a 10 year old version of me.
One of the things I really liked about the movie is that it’s not a technology based movie, it’s about people. Can you sort of talk about, that it’s not one of those movies where it’s just people at computers, pretending to get through firewalls in two seconds.
EDGERTON: Well, what I love about Jason’s book, Red Sparrow, it’s sort of- you know, I’m a spy, relationship man, and they’re generally male driven stories. At some point in those male driven stories, in the James Bond world, usually encounters upwards of two women per movie and they have sort of flings. Usually, there’s a female, seductress type character who saddles up to the spy in a car or locks eyes from across the room and you know, so begins a relationship, and that’s the plan, but she’s torn or she gets a feeling. This is the same movie, but it’s told maybe around that girl, rather from the male perspective. I thought that was kind of cool. You’re right, it isn’t a gadget movie. It isn’t basically just one long string of cars flipping and gun fights. It’s a bit more cat and mouse and more of a psychological and emotional chess game. Essentially, what makes it relevant, you don’t have the cold war nostalgic vibe about it. What makes it really relevant is not so much the Russian/American politics in the news anymore so much as, a story about a girl who is sort of degraded and sexually manipulated and pushed into this degrading shame by the men in her life, and who is underestimated and uses strategy and intelligence to get back at the men. That’s what feels relevant right now.
Completely. One of the other things about the film is that it’s pretty brutal at times, where you almost need to turn away from the screen from some stuff. Which, for me, I really enjoyed that. Can you sort of talk about that aspect? That it’s not some PG movie.
EDGERTON: Well, yeah, the book is graphic and brutal on a violent and sexual level, and sometimes both, which is definitely hard to watch. In order for that journey of Jennifer’s character to really feel like the audience was behind her need to get out and to get revenge and so on, it felt natural to Francis and to Jen to be unflinching in their treatment of that stuff. To not sort of, shy away from the graphic nature of the sex and the violence. In order, though, that it could be to bolster the nature of the characters revenge, rather than for it to be any kind of titillation or vanity sort of treatment for an audience. You know, I don’t think Francis and Jen would ever have gone down the road of going, “Oh, let’s make a Basic Instinct or slicker version of Red Sparrow.”
It doesn’t play like that at all. It’s not sexualized in that sort of way. It’s just brutal.
EDGERTON: For me, it’s funny sometimes the scenes that you think are going to be the hardest to shoot end up being strangely silly or fun to do. The obligatory, you know I’m talking about the kitchen thing with Jen and I, is just a party. I expected that to be so tricky. When you get into the business of being tied to a chair or dealing with physical constraints or anything that becomes physical, like a physical fight, it ends up feeling to me like there’s no real acting required because it takes little effort, that it strangely becomes easier than you expect.