True Ro­mance: Joel Edger­ton stars in ‘Lov­ing’

Joel Edger­ton stars in ‘Lov­ing,’ the true story of a mar­riage that changed his­tory

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Amy Longs­dorf For Dig­i­tal First Me­dia

Based on a true story, “Lov­ing” is about an in­ter­ra­cial mar­riage deemed un­law­ful in Vir­ginia in 1958.

Even though he’s toiled in scores of Amer­i­can movies for nearly 15 years, Aussie per­former Joel Edger­ton is far from a house­hold name.

But that could change this sea­son when the ac­tor toplines the al­ready-ac­claimed “Lov­ing” op­po­site Ruth Negga. The film, which was writ­ten and di­rected by Jeff Ni­chols (“Mud,” “Mid­night Spe­cial”), looks at the true story of Mil­dred and Richard Lov­ing, a white man and a black woman who wed in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., in 1958 and then dis­cov­ered that their mar­riage was il­le­gal in their home state of Vir­ginia.

After pre­mier­ing at the Cannes Film Fes­ti­val, “Lov­ing” scored rave re­views and in­stantly be­came a front run­ner for Os­car at­ten­tion. When the nom­i­na­tions are an­nounced in early 2017, Edger­ton’s name is likely to be among those re­ceiv­ing nods for Best Ac­tor.

“It’s very flat­ter­ing,” Edger­ton says of all the buzz. “I’d be crazy and dis­hon­est to say it doesn’t tickle the ego a lit­tle bit, but I’m very care­ful be­cause it’s hap­pened in the past. I bought tick­ets to my own pa­rade in­ter­nally, hav­ing ex­pec­ta­tions about things and I’m just very wary of that.

“But as part of my di­ver­sion tac­tic to that ques­tion, [the at­ten­tion] is really good for the movie. This is a small movie so to have that ex­tra noise around [it] is good be­cause this movie is one of the nicest movies I’ve ever been in, and I really want ev­ery­body to see it.”

While Edger­ton has played Amer­i­cans be­fore, he knew that em­body­ing a South­erner like Richard Lov­ing pre­sented a spe­cific chal­lenge. Along with Negga, Edger­ton stud­ied Nancy Buirski’s 2011 doc­u­men­tary about the cou­ple called “The Lov­ing Story.”

“The doc­u­men­tary was like a com­plete road guide to how to at least cre­ate an im­pres­sion of, or mimic the two of them in terms of their ac­cents, and the way they moved and their pos­ture,” says the ac­tor, 42.

“Then along with makeup and the cos­tume and hair depart­ment, we could look like them. But I feel like a per­for­mance of a real per­son has to go be­yond an im­pres­sion or mimicry. I felt as if you need some­thing more.”

The “some­thing more,” as Edger­ton sees it, was drawn from Nichol’s script and Edger­ton’s own per­sonal feel­ings about the cou­ple and their deep bond.

“I think the real roadmap was Jeff’s screen­play and his very, very de­tailed and lovely ob­ser­va­tion and por­trayal of a re­la­tion­ship that isn’t about over­tures of love or speeches or false dec­la­ra­tions or bil­low­ing cur­tains or love scenes,” says the ac­tor. “It’s about the space be­tween two peo­ple that’s un­spo­ken.

“It’s very hard to lis­ten when there’s shout­ing. It’s very hard to turn a corner when you’re speed­ing. I think that if you can quiet down long enough for a con­ver­sa­tion to hap­pen where peo­ple are lis­ten­ing and ac­tu­ally tak­ing on the broad ideas of each other, that’s a good thing.” — Joel Edger­ton

“Their re­la­tion­ship [was] a con­nected, con­stant dance of, “You lead and I’ll fol­low”, and “You wish and I’ll grant.”

“Lov­ing” doesn’t end with the cou­ple’s mar­riage. After their re­turn to Vir­ginia, they were ar­rested. The Lov­ings were sen­tenced to a year in prison, or given the op­tion of leav­ing the state. They moved to Wash­ing­ton, D.C., where they lived for a few years be­fore chaf­ing at the rules they were forced to obey.

After writ­ing a let­ter to At­tor­ney Gen­eral Robert F. Kennedy, Mil­dred was steered in the di­rec­tion of the ACLU which took the case and fought it all the way to the Supreme Court. In 1967, thanks to Lov­ing v. Vir­ginia, in­ter­ra­cial mar­riage was made le­gal in all 50 states.

The dif­fer­ent ways that Richard and Mil­dred han­dled the re­stric­tions placed on them re­veal much about their char­ac­ters.

“The law set up a fence around them that said, ‘You can’t go to Vir­ginia any more. You can stay mar­ried but as long as you don’t go back.’ I think Richard

PHOTO COUR­TESY FO­CUS FEA­TURES

Joel Edger­ton, right, and Ruth Negga, sec­ond from right, star in “Lov­ing.”

PHOTO COUR­TESY FO­CUS FEA­TURES

Joel Edger­ton, right, and Ruth Negga star in “Lov­ing.”

PHOTO COUR­TESY FO­CUS FEA­TURES

Joel Edger­ton, right, and Ruth Negga star in “Lov­ing.”

PHOTO COUR­TESY FO­CUS FEA­TURES

Joel Edger­ton stars in “Lov­ing.”

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