“I used to prank my mum all the time with a little rubber spider. I actually still have it,” recalls Edgerton when we catch up with him at Toronto International Film Festival, where Shark is playing in the Short Cuts selection.
“There’s been a prankster in me since I was a little kid, so I had the events in Spider in my mind for some time and kept thinking about it, so I felt like I needed to make a film about it to get it out of my head,” says the prolific director/actor/stuntman.
“But Spider had such an enthusiastic reception which I hadn’t really expected,” says Edgerton, who found fans would constantly ask if Jack and Jill (Mirrah Foulkes) stayed together or did Jill survive?
“I really hadn’t seen any sequels to short films before, so I wanted to see if I could make something that lived up to that film but could be its own film as well, so that’s what convinced me to make Bear, which was also received really well,” he says of the short sequel, co-starring Teresa Palmer.
He’d been mulling over an idea for a third film for almost ten years, trying to figure out what Jack would be doing now. “Jack always sits somewhere at the back of my mind as this guy who is getting older but hasn’t really grown up,” he says.
With Shark, Edgerton’s longtime friend Rose Byrne – who was also in Australia at the time – was happy to join in the fun, portraying Jack’s girlfriend Sofie.
“We made Shark almost a year ago during that moment when Australia opened up because numbers were so low here. I knew that I needed to get to an island to shoot Shark and a line-producer I knew suggested Lord Howe island, which I’d never been to, and they had recently opened up and not many people were going there,” says Edgerton who was in pre-production to direct his TV series, Mr Inbetween, while making Shark.
“Shark is definitely my most ambitious short film and bigger, just because I had to shoot more days. Spider took two days, Bear three days and this one took seven. I try to keep it minimal because it’s not like these films are going to make millions at the box office,” he says.
Without giving away too many plot-spoilers, Shark sees Jack prank a dentist – a scene which Edgerton says is almost identical to a prank he pulled off on a dentist in Los Angeles.
“I did it about three years ago. She freaked out, telling me how she could have drilled into my brain by accident. She never forgot me every time I would go in there, but she did laugh, saying how nobody had ever done that to her before.”
Shark’s various other pranks were dreamed up by Edgerton and his writing partner David Michod. “We just started writing about the pranks we’d either done or had done to us, so we used some of the pranks that his girlfriend Mirrah had done to him, and we also cast Mirrah as Jack’s girlfriend in the first film. The pranks in Spider were so familiar to me, the spider under the napkin next to the dinner plate is something I’ve done to my mum so many times – and it works basically every time,” chuckles Edgerton, 48, who remains hugely in-demand as a stuntman and stunt co-ordinator, providing stunts for the hugely successful MCU film, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings among many other films including Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, Straight Outta Compton and The Wolverine.
Shark features a hilarious wedding scene inspired by Edgerton’s own wife, Carla Ruffino, who pranked him at the altar seven years ago. “We actually got married on April Fool’s Day because she thought that date suited me and I was asked to promise not to prank – which I didn’t. But she had this whole thing planned and it was amazing the reaction it got. I was so impressed by what she did.
“So, David and I have always thought it was fun to include our own pranking experiences in our films,” he says, recalling how he and his much more recognisable brother Joel had been dining out with friends in Los Angeles when a waitress approached Joel and asked if Nash was “the guy from Spider”.
Rose Byrne took little persuasion to take on the role of Shark’s Sofie, a woman who can out-prank even Jack.
“Rose was in one of my earlier short films, The Pitch, 20 years ago and she knows my wife, so she knew what she was getting herself into. I always try and fill my films with friends and whenever you’re playing a couple on-screen it’s always good to do it with someone you already have a relationship with. Rose has a wicked sense of humour too.”
Edgerton is happiest when he’s directing shorts, despite the fact that he’s also directed feature films, The Square and Gringo.
“There’s some stories that are just meant to be short – like there’s novels and there’s short stories,” he says.
If audiences might imagine that Shark marks Jack’s final adventure, then Edgerton prefers to keep it open-ended. “With Bear, he gets shot but then I decided to not show where he got shot, so this film is similar. Anything could happen,” says the filmmaker, hinting that Jack might live to fight another day.
“I deliberately left it open. We all have relationships that end and then we start new ones. I feel like it’s up to the viewer – so, maybe Jack will survive and maybe he won’t?”
Ask Edgerton if he’s had any close shark encounters himself, he says, “I’ve definitely seen them when I’ve been snorkeling but no near misses. But I am fascinated by sharks, they’re amazing creatures.”
Touching wood, he adds, “But I will say that after I made Spider, I did get bitten by a spider so I’m hoping the same doesn’t happen with Shark.”