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Nash Edgerton, Stuntman Turned Director of “The Square”

Nash Edgerton, Stuntman Turned Director of “The Square” (photo)

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Never has Christmas brought such bad tidings as in “The Square,” a darkly comic thriller where tree lights are blamed for setting a house ablaze and holiday cards are used for blackmail. Yet this sordid tale of two cheating spouses (David Roberts and Claire van der Boom) whose plans to run away together go disastrously, spectacularly awry is a gift in the hands of Nash Edgerton, a first-time feature director who may have picked up both a knack for building tension and an appreciation for black humor while cheating death as a stuntman on such films as “The Matrix” and the “Star Wars” prequels.

Based on a story from his brother Joel (who co-wrote the script and has a supporting role in the film), “The Square” caused a bit of a sensation in its native Australia — it was nominated for seven Australian Film Institute Awards and picked up buzz here with a standing-room only screening at last year’s SXSW Film Festival. (As it turned out, it would be the first punch landed by the Edgertons’ Blue Tongue Films’ collective, a group of Aussie filmmakers who descended on this year’s Sundance with the Grand Jury Prize-winning “Animal Kingdom” and “Hesher,” two of the fest’s rare acquisitions.) Although it’s probably best not to know too much about “The Square” going in, Edgerton took the time to talk to me about the transition from stuntman to director, his filmmaking band of brothers and going to this year’s Oscars.

As a stuntman, you’re asked to take everything into account for safety’s sake — does that lend itself to directing a film with such an intricate plot?

I found that being a stuntman is all about being adaptable and about problem-solving. To me, filmmaking is very similar, just on a grander scale. Every day as a director, you’re working against time and weather and egos and always trying to make things better and refine things. As a stunt performer, you’re trying to make something look dangerous but do it as safely as possible and make it repeatable, so I guess I found that similar in those ways. And then the detail of the plot, everything has to tie up. I think I was constantly on top of that.

04062010_TheSquareMovie3.jpgAfter working on shorts and performing stunts, was it hard to keep your own excitement level up over the course of a feature?

It was definitely harder just to pace myself during the process. I had worked on films that had gone for a long time, but just the mental capacity of trying to contain the whole film in your head and shooting it all out of order was totally challenging. The first couple of weeks, I was like “I never want to direct a movie ever again.” But the further I got into the process, you get to know your crew a lot better and you get on a roll, and then I was really enjoying it and I just was dying to make another one.

Your brother Joel had the idea for the story since 2000 — that’s a long time to be living with something.

He didn’t actually start writing it for a while, he just kind of wrote the idea down, put it in a drawer. He and I were writing something else together and we didn’t know how to write a script. We had never written one before, so we were learning as we went. In the mean time, he started writing [“The Square”] on the side and when he thought it was good, he was like “I think you should read this.” He was working as an actor a lot and I was working as a stuntman, we were just both busy doing other things. But I just kept making shorts during that whole process just to practice directing.

One of the things that struck me about the film was how much of it took place in broad daylight, which goes against the conventions of the noir genre it’s been associated with. How much did you want to embrace those conventions or avoid them?

04062010_TheSquareMovie2.jpgI like the idea of working within the conventions and doing things differently — setting it during the day and playing it really straight. I thought the more I could base it in reality, the more tense it would be and the more realistic it would feel. The relationship [between the lovers] is not a steamy sexual affair like you see in the movies — it’s real, they’re having an affair and like in any relationship, it gets a little mundane. Then you hardly ever see what Christmas is like in Australia in movies, Christmas in the summer, so I just thought it would be nice to show that. There’s lots of those little things that I hadn’t really seen on film before.

You’ve spoken before about not wanting to set the film in a specific time or location, but at the same time, it’s set in a suburbia like the one you grew up in.

In the same way “Jaws” is set in a made-up town, I wanted that feeling — the town could be anywhere in any part of the world. It just happens to be Australia because that’s where we’re from. But I like that whole idea of containing it in a town where everyone kind of knows each other and would make [the lovers] feel a little bit more trapped.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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