Joel Edgerton stays grounded at SXSW

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Joel Edgerton as Lucas, Michael Shannon as Roy, Jaeden Lieberher as Alton and Kirsten Dunst as Sarah in director Jeff Nichols sci-fi thriller "Midnight Special." (Ben Rothstein)
Joel Edgerton as Lucas, Michael Shannon as Roy, Jaeden Lieberher as Alton and Kirsten Dunst as Sarah in director Jeff Nichols  sci-fi thriller "Midnight Special." (Ben Rothstein)

Joel Edgerton as Lucas, Michael Shannon as Roy, Jaeden Lieberher as Alton and Kirsten Dunst as Sarah in director Jeff Nichols sci-fi thriller “Midnight Special.” (Ben Rothstein)

By John Laird, special to the American-Statesman

Australian Joel Edgerton, star of “Black Mass,” “Warrior,” “Midnight Special” and lots more, dropped into the Convention Center on Saturday for an hour-long talk with Scott Dadich of Wired during South by Southwest Film. With any talk that features a famous member of Hollywood, usually something is said that makes you want to roll your eyes right out of your head. This didn’t happen with Joel. In fact, Mr. Edgerton couldn’t have come across as more real and grounded than he did while talking to Wired’s editor-in-chief.

He spoke about how he and his brother, Nash (stunt-guy-turned-editor-turned-director), grew up loving ’80s action movies and anything the two of them could find “with ninjas.” He didn’t even watch anything that most film fans would consider legit or of substance until he started drama school, and when it came to screenwriting, he learned by reading books on the subject at a local store that would allow him to hang out without actually having to pay for anything. He had, as you can see, a humble, if almost casual start to a career that’s truly blossomed in variety of directions.

Last year Edgerton directed, wrote and co-starred (alongside Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall) in “The Gift,” which was met with a wave of positivity (it currently holds a 93 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes). When asked if he was nervous about directing his first film, he quickly responded with a “yes” but then explained that it was less because he didn’t think he was capable, and more that he was worried about how he would handle being the boss.

In listening to Edgerton talk, it’s clear that he’s interested in finding the “right place” (how he describes being with director Jeff Nichols) and interacting with actors and crew members in an a solution-oriented manner because “they may surprise you.” He also likes to learn and then go to work because as he noted, “If you’re doing something on film, you should know what you’re doing.” It’s always humorous when someone yells out “stars, they’re just like us,” but in the case of Joel Edgerton, it appears to be true.

You can see Joel Edgerton next in “Midnight Special,” which premieres Saturday at SXSW Film and is scheduled to open in theaters on Friday.


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