Filmmaker Thomas M Wright said Australian actor Joel Edgerton had “lost a lot of weight” and was “too sober” for his lead role in The Stranger.
crime drama starring Star Wars actor Edgerton as an undercover cop trying to gain trust and get a confession from a murder suspect, played by Mission Impossible star Sean Harris .
Wright, who made the film based on Kate Kyriacou’s book The Sting about the real-life murder of 13-year-old Daniel Morcombe, said he decided not to leave the violence on screen.
He told the PA news agency: “I had a strong reaction to this material… I was really scared to handle it and my partner actually said to me, ‘I don’t want you to make the movie. this because I know where it is. ‘I’ll take you and I know where you’re going.’
“You could just make an unwatchable version of this film but as I sat with it and spent time with the documentary, I started to see a movie there that wasn’t defined by violence at all.
“While it is clear that violence is the reason for the film, it is not its theme. Its theme is how do you make sense after violence. When violence threatens to make everything meaningless, how do you make sense and move on.”
Wright, whose film will have its UK premiere at the BFI London Film Festival on Saturday, said it was “defined by empathy” and even featured his son.
He told PA: “I care about (empathy) being the bond of the film and that’s why I built it around the absence of the victim.
“That is why there is no representation of any of the victims. Not representing the family, not representing any violence because I’m asking the audience ‘Who are you most interested in? That’s what makes life worth living for you’. Because for me, that’s my son and that’s how he ends up in the movie.
“He and Joel worked together for a year. They built the whole idea of a family just between the two of them and those were the only scenes in the movie that were almost completely improvised, because I wanted them to be like father and son.”
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Wright describes Edgerton, who also serves as the film’s producer, and Harris’ commitment to their roles.
“Joel has been preparing for two years to do this part and he really threw everything into this and he threw all his weight behind me,” he said.
“Joel’s physical preparation for this is phenomenal. Sean and Joel’s commitment, I’ve almost never seen anything like it, this was a very difficult movie to shoot.
“It was a very intense, very difficult shoot. There’s a lot of tension between all of us as we’re maintaining a movie with almost no release.
“The movie is all about tension and it’s all about a kind of hidden tension, permanently buried in characters built on these really major personalities, none of which are and it’s a relationship based entirely on lies.
“Maintaining the tension of that mentality, and the weight and gravity of the reason for the film created a real scratch on our record.”
The director, 39, explained that British actor Harris’ father died in the first part of the film and that he had to fly to Australia to shoot in the midst of the pandemic.
He said: “He (Harris) was quarantined and locked in his room for two weeks, then he came out and had to turn himself in to Henry Teague.
“Sean’s commitment is obviously very well known and I think in this case he has gone further and deeper and the transition is complete.
“Then his partner actually said she couldn’t see him in this part, she didn’t recognize him at all and I think that’s a testament to where they’ve gone.
“As for Joel, he discovered part of the making of the movie that he was going to be a father. He’s playing the role of father to my son, which has become too personal for all of us.”
Wright added that both actors underwent physical transformations to prepare for the role.
He said: “Joel prepared a lot of strength and lost a lot of weight.
“Actually, both Sean and Joel have lost a lot of weight and I know Sean has suffered a lot of muscle loss and muscle deterioration because he let his body go to sleep in a very strange way, transformed while Joel was almost in a state of hyper-awakening. “
The Stranger comes to Netflix in the UK on October 19.
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/movies/joel-edgertons-physical-preparation-was-extraordinary-says-the-stranger-director-42063918.html Joel Edgerton’s physical preparation is phenomenal, The Stranger director said