Interview : Joel Edgerton

A familiar face to many Australians of late as the star of many locally produced movies and TV series, Joel Edgerton seems to be one endless endeavour of wins. Now, he’s playing one of his biggest parts yet, Aaron Sherritt in the highly anticipated "Ned Kelly", before heading back to Tattoine to reprise his role as Owen Lars for the third "Star Wars" prequel. CLINT MORRIS ties Edgerton down to a chair to talk past, future and backstabbing Australia’s iconic outlaw.

So how was working on "Ned Kelly"?
It was fun. I mean I actually felt like I was really there, you’d look around wherever the cameras weren’t, see all the old cars and everything, and it just felt real. It does a lot for your imagination as an actor. Being part of the story of Ned Kelly was a real thrill, even more fun than "Star Wars". When Gregor [Jordan, the director] said to me I there’s a job in "Ned Kelly" I thought, ‘Fuck, that will be great!’ – Just to be part of that history.

Did you know much about your character, Aaron Sherrit?
I knew a little bit. I didn’t know his name but I knew there was someone who had been attributed to being a traitor to Ned Kelly. I found out about the history of Kelly at school, but just the shell of it. But being involved in the movie, I learnt a lot more than I ever did at school. I really got to pick the bones of my character. I said to someone recently that Aaron Sherritt is like the bible – he’s so open to interpretation. If you look at the evidence, he looks like a traitor. But that doesn’t take into consideration the time frame. You’re talking about a period of several months that he started out as a supporter but once the pressure of it got too much he fell apart. [According to Sherritt] The gang that I’ve been supporting, is not here supporting me and I’ve got a family and I’m under pressure from the Cops. I’m going to have to play ball. Apparently the Kelly’s wrote a letter to their friends and family that said if anyone plays ball with the Victorian Police that they’d gun them down. Apparently it said ‘Aaron come and join us. And if you don’t we know that your heart is black’.

Aaron seemed to be a very three-dimensional character though. He never really seemed malicious
We’ll I like that in the character. You’ve got to find out what made that person’s actions so. It was great that Gregor, not only with Aaron, but also with all the characters, got that same sense of dimensions about them. When I saw the film last week I was intrigued by the character, Fitzpatrick, who was in love with Kate Kelly. To me it was the spark that ignited that whole fucking situation. The political unrest is already there with the oppression and the Irish and the English and the Police, but that guy -you saw it in his eyes – just loved this girl. He’s really taken with this girl, who just thinks he’s a piece of shit. Its not just Ned’s the hero, and they’re the villains though – I think a story has purpose for the villains as well. To me that makes a good match. You don’t want to see a boxing fight where one guy looks like a Stallion and the other guy looks like he’s ready for the Glue factory. Because why would you even bother watching.

You were one of the only Australian actors hired to play an Irish role. How good is that?
Yeah. I was actually very excited. I was weeing in a bush, up top of Winkipop near Bells Beach, and usually your job’s coming from an agent, but Gregor called me on the weekend and said ‘You got the Job’. And I knew they’d been to England and Ireland to try and cast someone, and even though Gregor and I are friends, I knew he wasn’t going to cast me just because of that, he wouldn’t have made any money or anything.

When do you start work on "Star Wars : Episode 3"?
I’ve got one day. It’s probably going to be a smaller role than last time [in "Attack of the Clones"]. I mean my role was much bigger in the last one then what you saw at the cinemas. But it all got cut.

Your "Secret Life of Us" co-star Claudia Karvan was cut altogether from "Clones" though, wasn’t she?
Yes but unlike any other actress that might have taken that job, with all that was happening Claudia wouldn’t have given two shits from being cut from that movie. She was a mum and that was a bigger production than Star Wars was ever going to be.

She did say that she just saw it as one day’s work
Yes. I’ve got to say this about big productions that come to Australia and shoot movies – they actually shoot more than they need to, and you know someone’s just going to get cut. I don’t think they’re taking an actors individual ego into consideration, who are going to take their whole family along to see "Star Wars" and then realise they’re cut from it. My gripe with it at the time was that I was asked to do a lot of publicity with it on the Australian end. I was running around town talking it up and talking it up, and then I go to see the movie and I was like ‘yeah’ part of a forearm and one word. I felt really humiliated.

So what did you think of the film [Attack of the Clones] itself?
Didn’t like it. I thought it was much better than the first, The Phantom Menace, and it’s a visual feast but I thought it was a little flimsy on story. I thought there was too much emphasis on trying to push it into the teen market.

You just worked with Dennis Hopper on "The Night we Called it a Day". Is he a Mad Fucker or what?
Yeah, fur sure, in the past. Sure. But he was less mad than Melanie [Griffith]. Melanie wasn’t too mad, so that’s saying a lot for Dennis. He was a real gentleman. Dennis was a herbal tea and Cigar kind of guy, that was about as wild as he got. He was an incredibly generous actor. The first day I worked with him, he had a two-minute tie raid, which you’ll eventually see in the movie, he did that all day long. He gave us much energy to every other actor’s close-ups as his own, and straight away I was a huge fan, if I wasn’t already.

And what’s up with Blue Tongue Films?
Nash [my brother] and I didn’t realise how hard it was to get a movie up. We just thought we’d click our fingers. We’ve written two screenplays. One of them we sort of put on the backburner because it’s a heist movie, and there’s been a lot of those of late, and if you’re going to do it, it really needs to have a fresh approach to it. But there’s another I’ve sort of got on the go and I’m in talks with a company to sort of generate that, but yeah we’re definitely focusing on making a film within the next twelve months.

Your choice of movie roles, now is that a deliberate choice to distance yourself from the character of Will on "The Secret Life of Us"?
Yeah, We’ll I was one of those actors who said they’d never do Television, but I’d read the script – it was great – and they offered a 6 month contract – as opposed to a 3 year contract – but after that first series I recalled my original goal in this industry, which was to mix it up a bit and get variety and experience, and I had to push aside my love for that job and that bunch of people. And when I left there I really left blindly, I didn’t know what I was going to do. But two weeks later, I was peeing up at Winkipot and Gregor called me to do "Ned Kelly". So it worked out well.

Is it true you’re up for the role of "Superman"? [Laughs]
Funny you should mention that. I just did a test in America for the villain in "Superman". They said ‘I want you to audition for the new Superman’, but because Josh Hartnett and all these guys had said no, I said ‘I won’t do that’. And they said, ‘why don’t you come in and test for the villain’.

Lex Luthor?
No, they’re going back in time to observe a bit of life on Krypton, which is weird because when Superman was sent off in the pod, Krypton blew up. So I think they’re rewriting history a bit. But they’re having trouble finding a Superman, because there’s like six producers, someone wants a ‘name’ and others are like ‘we don’t want that guy, we want a new guy’. So they’re all about flexing their muscles.

So how is L.A?
I’m getting close to some things. I don’t love L.A, but I do think my next movie will probably be there.

Aussies seem to be the flavour of the month in the states, has that helped?
It’s better now – thanks to Russell – than say 15 years ago. The doors are open, but you’ve still got to have somewhat of a reputation here [in Australia] and then you’ve got to go in there and do the right type of tap-dance. It’s still hard work. I mean the amount of work the agents do over there to try and help you and sell you is incredible.

NED KELLY Commences around Australia March 27

Read our review of "Ned Kelly"