Win­ter clothes needn’t be thick and heavy and dark. This sea­son, de­sign­ers of­fer coats and cardi­gans that shrug off sea­sonal stric­tures. Here, Joel Edger­ton feels the ben­e­fit

Esquire (UK) - - Contents - — Char­lie Teas­dale Bright launches on Net­flix on 22 De­cem­ber

Aus­tralian Joel Edger­ton fends off the North­ern Hemi­sphere chill in the sea­son’s sleek­est menswear

JOEL EDGER­TON must be ex­hausted. He’s 35 days into the shoot for Boy Erased, the film he has writ­ten and is in the process of di­rect­ing, pro­duc­ing and star­ring in. It’s taken time for the 43-year-old to get to this point of poly­mathic author­ity, but he’s glad that suc­cess came rel­a­tively late. “If I’d come to it too young, I’d have blown it in some way,” reck­ons the Aus­tralian ac­tor. “You know, by be­com­ing one of the ca­su­al­ties of war, the ca­su­al­ties of too much at­ten­tion. To be very frank, a slow-burn­ing ca­reer has given me the op­por­tu­nity to fail on a smaller scale.”

That slow burn be­gan in the mid-Nineties. Af­ter drama school in Syd­ney, Edger­ton and his brother Nash hatched a plan to make short films that al­lowed the pair’s re­spec­tive act­ing and stunt­man abil­i­ties to shine, but af­ter years of graft, it wasn’t un­til 2010 that Joel crossed the bridge to the big time. There were ap­pear­ances in ma­jor pro­duc­tions along the way — King Arthur (2004), Smokin’ Aces (2006) and even a turn as Luke Sky­walker’s un­cle Owen Lars in Star Wars: Episode III — Re­venge of the Sith (2005) — but it was his work in Gavin O’Con­nor’s MMA movie War­rior and Aussie crime drama An­i­mal King­dom, that got him no­ticed by the right peo­ple.

“Nei­ther lit the box of­fice on fire,” re­calls Edger­ton, “but I think film-mak­ers like to watch good films, and both An­i­mal King­dom and War­rior were well-re­alised movies. The op­por­tu­ni­ties sud­denly be­came avail­able that weren’t there be­fore. I was al­ways look­ing at the level up, the qual­ity of scripts that was a lit­tle out of my reach. Movies like War­rior and An­i­mal King­dom, they lift you up so you can reach the bet­ter scripts.”

He hasn’t taken his foot off the gas in the past seven years. There was hunt-for-binLaden thriller Zero Dark Thirty (2012), Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby (2013), Ri­d­ley Scott epic Ex­o­dus: Gods and Kings (2014), Black Mass (2015), and thriller The Gift (2015), his di­rec­to­rial de­but. The story of a bul­lied man ter­ror­is­ing his ag­gres­sor years later didn’t smash any at­ten­dance records but it en­joyed crit­i­cal ac­claim — The New York Times called it a “su­pe­rior spec­i­men” — and was fur­ther vin­di­ca­tion for Edger­ton’s late ar­rival to Hol­ly­wood’s top ta­ble.

In 2016, he starred along­side Ruth Negga in Lov­ing, Jeff Ni­chols’ story of a cou­ple ar­rested for in­ter­ra­cial mar­riage in Vir­ginia, USA, in the Six­ties. Edger­ton was nom­i­nated for a Golden Globe for his per­for­mance as hus­band Richard Lov­ing, but the film brought the ac­tor some­thing more pro­found than a tro­phy. “I think Lov­ing lit a fire un­der me,” says Edger­ton. “I re­alise that tales of peo­ple’s lives be­ing shut down, sim­ply be­cause of the way they’re born, when rights and free­doms are taken away… I get re­ally arced up about it.”

Boy Erased is the fruit of that fire. The film is the story of Gar­rard Con­ley, a gay man sent by his par­ents to un­dergo con­ver­sion ther­apy in Bap­tist Arkansas when he was 19, and based on the pro­tag­o­nist’s memoir, which Edger­ton only read for the first time in Jan­uary. “It’s in­cred­i­bly re­ward­ing and sat­is­fy­ing to know that we’re do­ing some­thing im­por­tant in terms of sub­ject mat­ter,” says Edger­ton. “I re­ally feel like ev­ery day we have the abil­ity to change things; to change peo­ple’s at­ti­tudes and change some peo­ple’s lives by shin­ing a light on some­thing that’s quite in­sid­i­ous.”

Edger­ton is elo­quent, well-in­formed and ex­tremely pas­sion­ate, but some­times that Aussie nature shines through. “On a pro­duc­tion level, it’s a con­stant kick­bol­lock-scram­ble ev­ery day. All movies are.” The An­tipodean com­mu­nity in Hol­ly­wood is strong, and Edger­ton has en­listed a se­ries of the gang’s bright­est lights to make up his cast. Rus­sell Crowe and Ni­cole Kid­man star as Con­ley’s par­ents, and there’s a role for YouTube sen­sa­tion and promis­ing young dra­matic tal­ent Troye Si­van, and even Michael Peter Balzary, the bassist bet­ter known as Flea from the Red Hot Chili Pep­pers, who was born in Mel­bourne.

Edger­ton is adamant there was no cul­tural nepo­tism dur­ing the cast­ing process. “It just hap­pened that two of my lead char­ac­ters are Aus­tralian,” he says, “and I’m there — but there’s no way I’m cut­ting my­self out of a job.”

If you’re will­ing to look for it, a res­o­nant theme of in­jus­tice can also be found in Bright, the buddy cop movie that’s set to air this month on Net­flix. But by his own ad­mis­sion, the anal­ogy is “very much on the sur­face”.

“It’s a mash-up,” ex­plains Edger­ton, “a buddy-cop movie gene-spliced with The Lord of the Rings, you know?” Edger­ton is Nick Jakoby, the first orc to join the LAPD in an al­ter­nate present day, where his kind, hav­ing served the “dark lord” thou­sands of years ago, are the sec­ond-class cit­i­zens of the western world. His part­ner is Daryl Ward, a hard-nosed hu­man played by Will Smith. They might not get along but god­dammit do they re­spect each other. It ac­tu­ally looks like a lot of fun, and for all his virtues, Smith is never bet­ter than when he’s wise-crack­ing, gun-tot­ing and takin’ names. “It’s like you’re told you have to play dou­bles and then see that Roger Fed­erer is your part­ner,” Edger­ton says of the pair­ing. “He’s the buddy-cop cham­pion.”

There have been moments, but Edger­ton, un­like Smith, isn’t known for lev­ity. “Be­ing in a movie that’s funny, [with] wry hu­mour, a twin­kle in the eye, it doesn’t come easy to me,” he ex­plains. “But I like to think I’m a fun per­son and that I have a sense of hu­mour, and that I don’t walk around with a big dark cloud over my head like I do in the movies.”

With Christ­mas upon us, will Edger­ton in­dulge in some long-over­due time for him­self? “I’m cur­rently five days away from fin­ish­ing shoot­ing, and I’m start­ing to plan hav­ing ac­tual hol­i­days. I’ll go back to Syd­ney to see the fam­ily, [but] I’m try­ing to con­vince my ed­i­tor to come out for a few weeks so we can work.”

Time off doesn’t nor­mally in­volve col­leagues and com­put­ers and work of any kind; that’s why it’s called time off. You get the sense he’s not so keen on the con­cept.

Pho­to­graphs by Joss McKin­ley Fash­ion by Grant Wool­head

Ermenegildo Zegna Cou­ture Beige calf skin belted trench coat, £5,840; white cot­ton T-shirt, £200; beige wool trousers, £860; brown/rust leather sil­i­cone shoes, £855, all by Ermenegildo Zegna Cou­ture

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