Stuntman-turned-director bases characters on reality

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Wednesday, April 21, 2010 7:59pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

The moviemaking business is full of hyphenates: writer-director, producer-star. But stuntman-director is one of the rarer job descriptions.

It fits Nash Edgerton, an Australian filmmaker who has spent a couple of decades in the stunt business, but has also been directing short films on the side.

Now Edgerton has directed his first feature, “The Square,” a very satisfying modern film noir.

He made the movie in collaboration with his brother Joel, himself a hyphenate: co-writer-actor (Joel, who’s been carving out a busy career acting in movies such as “Smokin’ Aces” and the last two “Star Wars” pictures, wrote himself a modest supporting role in “The Square”).

Nash Edgerton came to the area recently to promote “The Square,” and I talked to him in his hotel room. I began by asking how you plot out a movie full of twists and turns without making it seem gimmicky.

“I tried to base the characters in some kind of reality,” he said. “The more you believe it, the more tense it would be. I made the characters not typical bad guys and good guys.

“People expect the mistress to be a typical film noir femme fatale, and we can play with those assumptions. The main character’s wife is not a nag, or a drunk, she’s just a regular wife. And he’s not a wife-beater, he just doesn’t know how to communicate with her any more.”

“You have to think like a chess player,” when you’re outlining a film like this, Edgerton said.

“We used to have more story lines, and I’d cut them, because I wanted you to be able to draw your own conclusions about some things, and I wanted you to discover people as the main character discovers them.

“Then you don’t feel like you’ve been tricked. I like the ending of ‘The Sixth Sense,’ because it works without you having been tricked, where with something like ‘Fight Club,’ which I like anyway, you’ve been visually tricked the whole time.”

Edgerton got his foot in the door in the stunt business in DIY fashion: He and his brother made a short film in 1996 expressly to draw attention to their abilities as stuntman and actor: “So it was basically a dialogue scene followed by an action scene. And I co-directed and edited it, because we had nobody else to do it, and I just really enjoyed the whole process.”

He said that filmmaking now gives him the same kinds of problem-solving challenges that stuntwork used to provide.

“I like the excitement of being a director and thinking if there’s something I want to try, I can try. I don’t need to do certain stunts again.”

And yet Edgerton is still working as a stuntman — he’s listed in the stunt credits of the upcoming Tom Cruise film, “Knight and Day,” for instance.

I asked Edgerton what kind of stuntman he was.

“I’m a good all-rounder,” he said. “In the Australian film business, you have to do a bit of everything. Falling down stairs, getting hit by cars.”

Has he ever been seriously injured?

“I wouldn’t say seriously. Burned. Bruised. Knocked about. I’ve had some close calls.”

He reaches over and raps the nearest piece of wood furniture — something directors don’t always have to worry about.

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