There’s something about the Aussie actor who’s currently shapeshifting into a Hollywood star...
It might seem foolhardy to step into a role iconicised by Kurt Russell, but having just pummelled Tom Hardy into submission in Warrior, we wouldn’t pick Joel Edgerton as a man to shy away from a challenge. “Carpenter’s version of The Thing was one of my favourite movies growing up, so it wasn’t hard at all for me to say yes,” declares the 37-year-old Sydneyite. “Being such a big fan was part of the lure for me.” Furthermore, Edgerton adds, director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.’s reboot explores different terrain: “I wouldn’t have done it if it was a straight remake but Matthijs has opened up a lovely new chapter that you wish had been told back in ’82.”
Set three days before Carpenter’s claustrophobic, goo-drenched chamber piece kicks off, this new Thing casts Edgerton in the macho role of the helicopter pilot who ferries Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s paleontologist to a remote Antarctic research station staffed by a crew of disposable Norwegians, the pair touching down just as the shape-shifting alien assault begins. The actor is convinced that fans of the ’82 film will find plenty to savour, particularly as several touchstones are carefully in place. “You'll get to see the stretched-face man, you'll get to see the axe in the door, you'll get to see the suicide,” he promises. “It crosses a lot of Ts and dots a lot of Is from Carpenter's movie.”
Following swiftly on the heels of Warrior and last year’s Animal Kingdom, The Thing is the latest step in Edgerton’s bid to join the ranks of Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, Hugh Jackman and Sam Worthington as an Australian actor with starry stature in Hollywood. His recent ascent has been swift – he made it to the final short-shortlist to replace Matt Damon as Jason Bourne and stepped into the wingtips vacated by Ben Affleck as Tom Buchanan in Baz Luhrmann’s currently lensing 3D adaptation of The Great Gatsby.
Playing the ego-bloated millionaire who’s married to ditzy aristo Daisy (Carey Mulligan), shagging blue-collar Myrtle (Isla Fisher) and fending off Jay Gatsby’s (Leonardo DiCaprio) play for his wife will change perceptions that he’s just another hard-bodied Aussie. “Here’s an opportunity to change people’s thinking,” he muses. “People might say Tom’s too aristocratic for me. But some things work out for the right reasons and this was one of them.”
Although he describes his segue from high-school sports star to fledgling actor as an attention-seeking ploy with his father, it was his stuntman older brother Nash who lured Edgerton into the biz. Both brothers featured in Star Wars: Attack Of The Clones – Nash as Ewan McGregor’s stunt double, Joel as young Owen Lars – but the hot streak he’s on now has been a long time coming. He toiled in the sidelines for years (you may have spotted him in King Arthur, Smokin’ Aces and Kinky Boots), returning home to Australia after the latter wrapped and waiting for Hollywood to beckon him back. And waiting and waiting and waiting…
“I thought it was over,” he sighs. But then Gavin O’Connor came calling for Warrior, he squeezed in Animal Kingdom right before flying Stateside to begin his intensive MMA training – and Edgerton's fortunes look to have finally changed for good. Besides Gatsby, he also has a Disney fable with Jennifer Garner, The Odd Life Of Timothy Green, on the horizon and has been pinpointed for black-ops duty in Kathryn Bigelow’s Osama bin Laden project.
“It’s funny – I now have some sort of bluster, this sudden gust of wind,” muses Australia’s new top export. “But sometimes the key to success is experiencing failure along the way…”