NASH EDGERTON has appeared in dozens of movies, including some you've probably seen—The Matrix, Star Wars: Episode II and III—but it's unlikely you'd recognize him walking down the street. That's because the bulk of Edgerton's credits are for stunt work. But the Australian has cultivated a parallel career as a budding filmmaker, amassing a string of short films and music videos under his belt. (Bob Dylan's gonzo holiday video for "Must Be Santa" was his work—in fact, that's Edgerton racing through the house, smashing glasses and jumping through a plate-glass window.) Now Edgerton's first feature, The Square, is finally getting a stateside release.
The Square comes from a script written by Nash's brother, actor Joel Edgerton, who played Uncle Owen in Star Wars: Episode II and III and also has a supporting role in The Square. ("I didn't cast him because my mum said I had to," says Nash. "He just was right for that role.")Ray (David Roberts) is having an extramarital affair with Carla (Claire van der Boom), and the two hatch a plot to run away with a bag of money stolen from Carla's mulleted dirtbag of a husband. It's worth mentioning that Ray and Carla are both guileless up to this point—they're naïvely and genuinely in love with each other—and when their plans unravel, the spiraling repercussions are immense and almost absurd. The Square follows a gripping, increasingly intense coil of a plot, resulting in an exhilarating, grimly hilarious, and surprisingly moving film. It's one of the most satisfying thrillers in recent memory.
Some critics have called it film noir, but The Square defies stylistic conventions and—despite the increasing desperation in Ray and Carla's plight—even shrugs off the relentless pessimism of the genre. Edgerton doesn't mind the comparisons. "They work in our favor, because of people's expectations," he says. "I set to play the film as straight as possible, and base all the characters and situations in reality. And then because there's been so many film noirs before, people have expectations. For example, treating Carla as a typical femme fatale—people just expect what's going to happen. And we play against that, which really works in our favor."
Edgerton isn't even a particularly huge fan of film noir, or at least he wasn't while making The Square. "Critics have referenced Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice. I personally have never seen those films. I actually bought them the other day because they were being referenced so much. I rang my brother and I was like, 'Hey have you seen these?' I figure he's sort of referenced those in his writing of the script, but I haven't had those in terms of a reference point for me as far as style or way of filming it."
The Square is preceded by a screening of one of Edgerton's short films, Spider, which has the same nail-biting characteristics as The Square, including one huge jolt at the film's end. "I figure my take on it is that situations in life can be both funny and tragic," Edgerton says. "By playing it straight and basing it in reality, the audience decides from their perspective what is uncomfortably funny and what is tragic. Everyone has their own threshold. When I first started screening Spider at film festivals you could tell quite quickly that people couldn't tell if it was a drama or a comedy. That's because it's neither. Most people find it darkly funny. Every now and then during Q&As, I have someone go, 'Is there something wrong with me? All the audience is laughing and I was just really traumatized.' I say to them, 'No, there's nothing wrong with you. There's something wrong with everyone else here.'"