Old Gringo: Nash Edgerton Finally makes another Feature

May 20, 2018
It's been a decade since one of our best short film makers made the under-appreciated Australian feature The Square, and now comes the equally under-appreciated sophomore feature with the American Gringo.

Can you discuss some of the casting on the film?

Once I had the script, I went about developing the script into the tone, and then, one character in particular I knew I wanted Charlize to play, so when the script was ready to share it with people she was the first person I sent it to. And I’ve known her for a while, and we were friends, and we’d been looking for something to work together on, and she responded favourably to it, and so, having her attached definitely made the project feel more to financiers, and then once I had her I knew I wanted my brother to play something in the film, and I knew I wanted Amanda Seyfried to play Sunny, so I kinda had those three, and then I went about finding someone to play Harold.

Someone had passed David the script, and he really liked it and wanted to meet. I was a fan of his work, and we had dinner, and I think, halfway through dinner I was like ‘this is the guy who’s going to play the role, as far as I’m concerned’.

When David turned around and said, ‘I’d like to play him as Nigerian’, what did you think then?

It was probably like a month after I’d cast him in the film, he invited me around to his house, and I think the night before I’d skyped with Thandie Newton, who plays Bonnie, and she was telling me that the thing she likes about working with David Oyelowo, he makes these bold choices. And then the next day I’m round at his house and he says, ‘I’ve got this idea for the character, I think I should play him as a Nigerian immigrant’. And I was like… ‘okay’, and then he starts telling me his dad’s experience as an immigrant in the UK, and he played out some of the scenes, and instantly, when he did it, I just felt warm inside, like this is an inspired idea and I really want to explore this further. So, we got together with my brother and we tried a few of the scenes and that was it for me, I was like, ‘this is the right thing to do’. And I started adjusting scenes in the film to suit that.

We’ve seen Charlize be pretty badass before, but gosh, some of her lines are just…

They’re quite despicable really. Well, any actor of her calibre, she has incredible range, and if she’s going to play a character – and I wanted all the characters played for truth; as funny as the film is I wanted to cast dramatic actors because I knew they would play it for real, they wouldn’t play it for laughs, the humour comes out of situations – and if she’s going to play a character like that she’s going to lean all the way into it, that’s what I needed for those roles. And I think there’s people who really speak like that, and I wanted to shine a light on those characters. David Oyelowo plays this good natured, kind person, who’s navigating this world of despicable people, and I wanted to show juxtaposition to that.

Sharlto (Copley) is very good as Joel’s brother in this, even though they physically have no resemblance; what made you think of Sharlto for this?

That was a tricky character to cast. At one stage I was thinking, should I get Joel to play twins, and there were people encouraging me to play it. Charlize introduced me to Sharlto and as soon as I met him I was like ‘this is the guy I want’. I’d been a fan of his work for a long time but there’s just something about him. The character, I wanted someone who could be empathetic, and a little dangerous, and funny, and Sharlto has the ability to play all those things at once.

Did you do any of the stunts in this? Because it’s very stunt heavy.

I didn’t do any of the stunts, but I did think about doing them. My friend Tony Lynch stunt coordinated, who I started out doing stunts with. But I was very involved with the design of them, and how I wanted to shoot them – he was encouraging me to double Sharlto at one stage, because I was a good double for Sharlto, but the other producers were like, ‘I don’t know if you should be getting hit by a car right now in the middle of the shoot’.

You’ve got Paris Jackson in this movie, can you tell us a bit about that?

She was someone who auditioned for that role and I really loved her audition. Until I saw her audition I didn’t know she was pursuing acting. I just try to find the right people for the roles, and she did a wonderful audition, and then I met her and thought she was the right person to play that character.

And what was it like filming in Mexico? Is it more dangerous than other places?

It was awesome. I loved it, the crew were great, I loved working with the Mexican actors. The food was great, my family came down, my daughters, we all hung out down in Mexico City.

Do you ever put your girls in the film?

The TV series I just did [Mr Inbetween], I put my 9 year old in, she plays the lead character’s daughter in the TV show. She’d never acted before, I auditioned about fifty or so girls her age, I just wasn’t finding what I was looking for, and my wife suggested I test her and she was awesome.

So there’s going to be a new Edgerton in town.

I feel like I created a little monster.

What’s it like working with your brother? I know he was in The Square too, so this is really the second time you’ve directed him.

I guess, and the shorts, also when he’s directing a movie and he’s in it, I kind of direct the set so he can concentrate on the character. But you know, he’s my little brother, I’ve been telling him what to do since we were kids, so it feels like an extension of that where I get paid to tell him what to do. But, we’re best of friends, we have such a great shorthand, we have a very similar sense of humour… my brother couldn’t be a more generous, loving person so to get him to play such a douchebag was really good fun.

Can you just tell me a little bit about you guys growing up together, because it’s such a unique relationship? Did you fight when you were boys? Have you always just been really close?

Of course, we fought when we were younger, like we probably got that out of the way by the time we were twelve. We grew up in a place called Dural and we lived on the edge of a national park, and we’d throw rocks and sticks at each other. But we have always got on really well, we’ve lived together multiple times, worked together multiple times, we speak all the time, I think we have skills that complement each other and we love storytelling and filmmaking, it’s just an extension of us playing together as kids, making movies together.

When did you first get the idea that this was what you both wanted to do, and did you both go to a film school?

Neither of us went to film school. Joel went to drama school, he studied theatre after high school. I started working as a stuntman straight after high school, when he was still in his final year. I think as kids we were always making stuff, but we didn’t realise this was a career you could have, we didn’t know anyone in the film industry.

There wasn’t a Super 8 camera lying around the house was there?

Well yeah, my dad had a video camera, so we’d play with that, but it wasn’t something we thought would be a career. Once we left high school we had to think of what we were going to do, we started gravitating towards that.

And there’s no one else in your family that does this?

No, but I think our dad’s a closet entertainer, he’s always dressing up as characters, like when there was a school fair, he’d always be dressing up and be emcee, he was always a very funny man.

It’s ten years since you made The Square, is it hard to get stuff greenlit in Australia?

I wanted to find the right project. Since I read the Gringo script, it’s probably been about four or five years. I was offered other things after The Square, but I wasn’t finding things that I actually wanted to do. And then I was doing other things, I was working as a stuntman and stunt coordinator, I was director short films and music videos, I was helping my brother with The Gift and various other friends in the gang of friends that I make stuff with. But if I’m going to spend a couple of years of my life, I want it to be something I really want to make. And ultimately, if you want to make original films these days, it does take time to get them up, and find the right group of people to make them with.

Are you always looking for more projects to do, more stories to tell, in Australia?

I love working in Australia, and I love working with Australians, but I’m happy to work anywhere. But any chance I get to work at home is obviously a joy.

You’re on the credits for Boy Erased, Joel’s next film as stunts and stunt coordinator, does your body just feel like it can’t take anymore?

Yeah, as you get older the recovery time just isn’t what it used to be. I love doing stunts, and if it’s for someone I like, or filmmaker’s work I admire, I just like being part of the filmmaking process. And anytime my brother’s making something, again, it’s a great opportunity for us to work together.

Have you ever badly hurt yourself doing those?

Yeah, I’ve been doing stunts for 25 years, I’ve had some injuries, nothing that’s stopped me from working, but I’ve knocked myself about a bit.

Blue Tongue Films, how long ago did you set that up? It’s a real Aussie collective.

Yeah, we’ve been friends for a long time, I think it started when we first started making short films over 25 years ago. We’re all really good friends who love making stuff together, but everyone’s off doing their own things; any chance we get the opportunity to collaborate we do. When I was making this, Spencer (Susser) came down to Mexico, and so did Sean (Kruck), and obviously my brother was there, and then I went and helped out Joel on Boy Erased, and Mirrah’s [Foulkes] about to make a film so I’m going to help her out on that, so we all try.

So, you keep each other busy.

Yeah, everyone watches cuts, and reads the scripts, and gives each other feedback – it feels like a good support network. We like collaborating with each other.

Gringo is in cinemas from May 31, 2018, including a very special The Artists Room screening in Sydney on May 31 with a post-screening Q&A with Nash.

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