An incident in Mexico puts a businessman’s hefty investment at stake in Gringo, a dark comedy mixed with white-knuckle action and stunts. It’s the sort of movie that prolific stuntman Nash Edgerton would immediately sign on for.
But after making a name for himself doing stunts in more than 100 films including The Matrix, Star Wars II – Attack of the Clones and Straight Outta Compton, he decided to direct instead.
His 2008 feature directorial debut, The Square, had been well received and, ten years later, he was ready to try his hand again, this time assembling an A-list cast including his brother Joel, Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried and David Oyelowo.
Gringo is a fast-paced satire that coaxes atypical performances from its leads; Theron shocks as an unscrupulous foul-mouthed sex addict, while Edgerton is a stone-cold hustler devoid of any moral compass.
“My brother couldn’t be a more generous, loving person, so to get him to play such a douchebag was really good fun,” says Nash, 45 – two years older than his brother for whom he regularly works as a stunt double. It’s a simpatico sibling relationship.
“When he’s directing a movie and he’s in it, I kind of direct the set so he can concentrate on the character. But he’s my little brother, I’ve been telling him what to do since we were kids, so it feels like an extension of that when I get paid to tell him what to do.”
Joel Edgerton in Gringo
Growing up in the Sydney suburb of Dural, the Edgerton brothers dispensed with any sibling rivalry at a very early age. “We lived on the edge of a national park, and we’d throw rocks and sticks at each other, but we got that out of the way by the time we were twelve,” says Nash.
“Since then, we’ve just always got on really well. We have lived together multiple times, worked together multiple times, we speak all the time, I think we have skills that complement each other and we love storytelling and filmmaking. Making movies together is just an extension of us playing together as kids. We’re best of friends, with a great shorthand and a similar sense of humour.”
Nash had intrigued Charlize Theron since his 2007 short Spider. “I was so impressed, I asked to meet him, just as a fan,” she says. “We hit it off straight away and became friends. For a while now, we’ve been looking for something to do together.”
The director never doubted Theron’s capacity to play nasty: “She has incredible range, and if she’s going to play a character, I know she’s going to lean all the way into it.”
Nash Edgerton and Harry Treadaway
The eclectic ensemble cast also includes Sharlto Copley, Thandie Newton and Harry Treadaway, and introduces Paris Jackson in her film debut.
“Until she auditioned, I didn’t know she was pursuing acting,” says Nash. “I just try to find the right people for the roles, and she did a wonderful audition, and then I met her and thought she was the right person to play that character.”
Working with Gringo’s screenwriters for more than three years to ensure they got the right tone, he was momentarily blown off course when a month after casting David Oyelowo as his “Gringo”, the British thespian announced over dinner that he would like to make his character a Nigerian immigrant.
“I was like ‘okay…’ but then he starts telling me his dad’s experience as an immigrant in the UK, and started playing out some of the scenes, and I just felt warm inside, such an inspired idea.”
For Oyelowo it was a chance to try his hand at lighter fare. “I’ve played all these roles that are quote-unquote important, so the goofy side of me has always been reserved for my kids and friends. Gringo is really my first dark comedy.”
If the Edgerton brothers have truly conquered Hollywood, while also continuing to work in Australian cinema, then Nash warns of a new Edgerton in town.
Recently directing TV series Mr Inbetween – which follows a charismatic and volatile hitman as he navigates work, parental responsibility and romance – Nash cast his nine-year-old daughter as the protagonist’s child.
“She’d never acted before. I auditioned about 50 girls her age and just wasn’t finding what I was looking for. My wife suggested I test her and she was awesome. But I feel like I created a little monster,” he laughs.
Gringo is in cinemas now.