For his brilliantly emotional turn in true story Loving, multi-faceted screen talent and Blacktown boy, Joel Edgerton, earlier this year gained his first major award nomination of a distinguished career.
Golden Globe foreign press voted in various categories for the amazing story of Loving, which tells of the absolute struggles of an interracial couple dealing with social upheaval, segregated opinion, and shallow authority dealt their way to break up the union.
He doesn’t have to say anything at times due to acting nuances on such articulate point. Blue collar worker and proud house builder Richard (Edgerton) falls in love with Mildred (Ruth Negga). Loving is set in a past era of fear, hatred and single-minded racial mentality, some things never change.
Australian actors on the Hollywood scene gaining longevity can be a tough proposition with so much competition of significant roles tight as movie studios supposedly scale down on bloated budgets. But Joel successfully selects intricate independent projects mixed with roles in larger productions.
Joel made an impression appearing twenty one years ago in little known Race the Sun (1996) made on the Gold Coast. This kids adventure just happened to star then Hollywood heavyweights Halle Berry and James Belushi alongside recent best actor Oscar winner Casey Affleck. Smaller roles in festival favourites but mostly unseen local films Praise (1998) and Sample People (2000) featuring singing budgie Kylie Minogue.
Long-running television drama had Joel in a prominent part rising his local profile however it was a hand-picked part from director George Lucas in his Star Wars Episode 2 Attack of the Clones (2002) as Owen Lars, the surrogate young uncle of Luke Skywalker, that soared demand and his international career trajectory.
European productions such as the lead in film version, before the musical of Kinky Boots and the underwhelming sword saga King Arthur, preceded a call to Hollywood in all-star ensemble crime caper, Smokin Aces (2006). The Square (2008) was a tour-de-force for Joel as he showed mannerisms of mighty degrees in the lead role of this fantastic dark comedic murder tale.
Work in quality productions did not stop but it was the 2010 acclaimed award winning drama of an Australian crime family committing atrocities in Animal Kingdom, which catapulted Joel to the extreme limelight even spawning a recent US television adaptation. Co-star Jackie Weaver may have been nominated for the Oscar, her surrounding cast were equally impressive.
2011 brought mixed martial arts epic Warrior, with Tom Hardy and Nick Nolte, followed by a better than first reviewed remake of The Thing. The hardcore war film Zero Dark Thirty (2012) added awareness of Edgerton and then Baz Lurmann goes and casts him in the major role of Tom Buchanan which originally caused uproar among purists of the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel.
Thankfully the flamboyant reworking of the classic and Joel turning in a magnificent performance convinced many a true star had finally emerged. Writing swift Australian crime feature Felony (2013) led to writing, directing, starring in The Gift (2015) – a taut thriller made independently with success outdoing all expectations becoming a sleeper box-office hit. The fact Black Mass opposite Johnny Depp raised critical acclaim the same year didn’t hurt his profile.
Stretching the deep connection of human spirit and love into cinematic heartache, solid chemistry with co-star Ruth Negga is obvious while interpreting the chronicle of Richard and Mildred Loving. Tissues will be needed.
Having interviewed Joel Edgerton through various moments of his ascending career, it was always obvious that he is not only a great genuine individual, but also a smart guy bursting with talent that I suspect has only scratched the surface of award worthy contributions for years to come.
LOVING (Rated M, 123 min) IN CINEMAS NOW
Shane A. Bassett