Film Short: Screenwriter/Actor Joel Edgerton Finds Success with “The Square”
“The Square”, a Film Noir thriller produced by Australian siblings Joel and Nash Edgerton’s Blue-Tongue Films, has been generating positive reviews from publications including The New York Times, GQ and Variety, while drawing favorable comparisons to such classics as “Body Heat”. Prior to a screening held during ShoWest, I had the pleasure of speaking with screenwriter and actor Joel Edgerton.
This is the first feature for Joel and Nash, who also directed. However, Joel began writing the script, which was originally intended for someone else, back in 2000. “It started really as an idea in my head many, many years ago,” he explained. describing his foray into writing. “It’s a really nice hobby that’s starting to take shape. I’m basically doing a lot of other stuff, but writing initially started as a way for us to make our own projects and Nash wanted to direct and edit and do stunt work. We needed someone to write the projects, so initially we did it because we felt like we had to and later on it became a passion for us, so I do a lot of writing now and I have a lot of things in development,” he continued.
That said, Joel’s first love remains acting. This comes as no surprise to anyone familiar with his credits, which include starring in “A Streetcar Named Desire” opposite Cate Blanchett in 2009 and appearing in the TV series The Secret Life of Us. The latter earned him an AFI Australian Academy Award in 2002 for Best Actor in a leading role in a television drama. In addition, Joel has over 40 screen credits counting “Kinky Boots” and “Ned Kelly” and has recently signed on to play in Universal’s prequel to the horror classic “The Thing”.
The script for “The Square” sat in a drawer until after 2003, when Joel decided to show it to his brother and the project began to take shape. Matthew Dabner, a USC School of Cinematic Arts graduate who began his career at Mel Gibson’s Icon Productions and then went on to become Head of Development at Mystery Clock Cinema, came on board to co-write and also became the movie’s Executive Producer. The screenplay won the 2009 Film Critics Circle of Australia Award for Best Original Screenplay.and was also one of 12 films selected to premiere in official competition for the inaugural Int’l Sydney Film Prize at the 2009 Sydney Film Festival.
Looking at how the investment of time and effort is paying off for him, Joel admitted, “The doubting part of me is still amazed that we got this movie out. There was a point where I wondered will we ever make it? Are we responsible enough, talented enough and have stamina enough to get it made?” Although the film is the Edgerton Brothers first feature, they have been making movies since childhood when they collaborated on projects to show their mother and an aunt living in America. In the first real film they worked on together, Nash was a stunt man, while Joel acted. After that they made a number of shorts together before taking on the challenge of a feature. Edgerton recommended to new filmmakers, “Just get in and do it. My advice to anyone is. if you’re thinking about becoming a filmmaker. just start small, but start. We made a lot of shorts and they were short shorts and then they became longer shorts.”
Edgerton said that it took a long time to raise the financing for “The Square” and then came weeks of pre production and shooting. “You’ve got to take your first step. If you’re going to climb the mountain, you’ve got to take your first step. Filmmaking should be the same. Getting started that’s the key I think. We just tried stuff and we tried stuff. Just get out and get started basically. Getting started teaches you everything that you need to go out and make your next mistake. Basically you always make mistakes, but each project will become more enriched by the skills that you learn,” he advised.
Looking back on the film’s production, Edgerton continued, “It’s a battle. At least one point in the day I’d feel privileged and at least one point in the day I’d feel frightened. Interestingly enough, once the war is over you want to go into battle again.” Now that it is finished, he is pleased, however. “We’re really happy with the result of it. I took a look at the film again recently after a long absence. I think I was even more proud of it recently than I was months ago when I watched it,” he reflected before adding, “Hopefully, like a good bottle of wine it’ll keep, so that I can sit down and have a good sip of it in the future.”