I recently had the pleasure of talking to filmmaker Nash Edgerton about his film The Square, which opens in Asheville on Friday. I have to say I understood the film a little better after our conversation, especially as to why it’s so short on dialogue. Why? Well, Nash Edgerton isn’t the most talkative person I’ve ever interviewed. But when he does say something, it’s something worth hearing.
Xpress: I’ve seen your film two times now and I’m very impressed with it and I understand that your short film Spider — which was on the screener I saw — will be attached to it.
Nash Edgerton: Yeah, it’s on the front of every print.
Xpress: You’ve been making short films since 1996. How did you come to make the leap to features with The Square?
N.E.: The success of the short films at various festivals was a big help in us getting financing. During that time when I was making shorts, my brother [Joel] and I were always talking about making bigger films and he started writing one, and when he thought it was ready, we started shopping it around to try to raise money for it.
Xpress: What was the impetus behind this particular film? How did this get started?
N.E.: It’s based on an idea Joel had. He’s always been fascinated with these small crime stories in the paper that usually involve ordinary people doing out-of-the-ordinary things, and it kind of spawned from that. He thought it out and he started writing the screenplay. When he first gave me a draft of it, I just immediately responded to it.
Xpress: It’s such a wonderfully thought-out script. Everything comes together so precisely, and this becomes really apparent on a second viewing.
N.E.: A lot of that was in the very first draft he wrote. Joel has a very creative imagination about situations.
Xpress: And you certainly handled the direction very well, too. I mean a script is only part of the deal, though I’m assuming you had a hand in some of that, too.
N.E.: Oh, yeah, I was coming in to help on it for three or four years. I was definitely helping to shape it into what I thought was the right way to play it.
Xpress: One point I’m curious about, because it’s fairly rare with independent films, was your decision to shoot the film in full 2.35:1 wide-screen.
N.E.: Personally, I just love wide-screen. I love going to the movies and seeing the screen get a little bit wider. Even most of my shorts are wide-screen — Spider is. I’m a big fan of wide-screen, always have been.
Xpress: You, of course, are being called the “new Coen Brothers” by a lot of the press. How do you feel about that?
N.E.: It’s strange. I mean it’s flattering, but I think it’s mostly that we’re brothers, and like them with Blood Simple, our first film is essentially a film noir — and of course, my brother’s name is Joel. But other than that … Well, they’ve made a lot more films than us. It’s very flattering, but we’re going to have to wait till we make some more films! And there are other influences. I like Spielberg’s work and I like Tarantino’s work and I like Hitchcock’s work — and, oh a bunch of other influences.
Xpress: Oh, there’s definitely some Hitchcock in The Square, but it’s not in the specifics like DePalma, it’s more in the feel of parts of the film.
N.E.: Yeah, my whole idea of referencing other filmmakers’ films is usually my memory of how the film made me feel as a person. It’s not trying to copy a shot for its own sake, but to use it to try to create the feeling I had when I saw it.
Xpress: How did you cast the film?
N.E.: Some of the smaller roles were people I’d used before, but most of them I auditioned. The lead guy — I saw a number of guys in that age bracket — and David Roberts was just clearly the right actor for that part. He had the look, the quality, everything I was looking for. He just had that look on his face like he was in trouble and out of his depth. That’s what I felt the character needed.
Xpress: I think the only person I recognized in the cast was Bill Hunter, and that’s mostly because The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert from back in 1994.
N.E.: I wanted to cast people who looked like they all could be in the same world — that the audience could believe were those people. And I thought the more unknown the actors were, the more realistic the film would feel and, hence, the more intense it would feel.
Xpress: Do you plan on staying in the crime-film genre, or do you see yourself branching out?
N.E.: Oh, I’m definitely fascinated with crime, but I like all kinds of films, so I don’t want to necessarily just make film-noir crime thrillers, but I definitely am a fan of those kind of films.
Xpress: So what are you doing right now?
N.E.: I’m writing another film with my brother, which definitely has crime elements to it. It’s a different kind of film than The Square, though. It’s a road movie and I guess it has some kind of horror elements to it as well — a kind of blend of genres.
Xpress: Are you planning on doing that in Australia or are you planning on doing that in Hollywood?
N.E.: There’s a greater chance I’ll do it here because of where it’s set. It’s kind of set in the snow and the desert — maybe New Mexico or something like that. I don’t think I have to shoot every film in Australia. I’ll shoot wherever the story fits best.
Xpress: I shouldn’t think you’ll have much trouble getting it going after the response to The Square.
N.E.: Yeah, it’s been really wonderful, the response the film’s had. It’s great that it resonates with audiences outside of my own country, but my brother and I set out to make as universal a story as we could. The situation — the film — would have worked if I’d shot it here or any other country.
Xpress: I think that’s why the film does resonate with audiences. It’s not so much an Australian film as it’s a film from Australia.