In Jeff Nichols’ sci-fi thriller, Midnight Special, Joel Edgerton plays a supporting role alongside Nichols regular Michael Shannon (Take Shelter, Shotgun Stories). Edgerton's character Lucas is an old friend Shannon's Roy contacts in order to help him move his son with extraterrestrial powers (Jaeden Lieberher from St. Vincent) to a special location. Edgerton, an accomplished director himself, having made The Gift, relished the chance to work with Nichols and went back for a starring role in the director's next film, Loving, which will premiere in Competition at the Cannes Film Festival next month.
What attracts you to work with Jeff Nichols?
There are some directors who shoot miles and miles of footage and work out what their movie is in the editing room--and some great movies have been made that way. Then there’s the kind of director who has a clear, specific vision about what he wants and the pieces he is collecting and Jeff is one of those. He goes about collecting those pieces in a very elegant way. As an actor that makes you feel part of his vision and a collaborator to his vision. There isn’t a square inch of the movie Jeff hasn't walked around in and looked at from every dimension.
What did you find interesting in the Lucas character?
He’s not the father of the child, he’s not related in any way and yet he’s on that journey for his own reason. He caught a glimpse of something that gives him comfort and an idea that there’s a purpose beyond what he’s imagined before. He’s willing to continue on that journey in order to reach a deeper understanding or some sort of confirmation that the thing that he first caught a glimpse of is true. It was nice for Lucas to watch the family reunite and to feel safe and I guess he’s the person in the story who represents the audience’s point of view.
"[Actors] can’t succeed on our own merits as much as we might think we can."
Is Lucas heroic?
When I first read the screenplay I felt he was some kind of soldier in that he’s in the service of other people. He has a willingness and a dedication to somebody else’s purpose.
You have returned to play the title role in Nichols’ latest movie Loving, which follows the real-life story of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple living in Virginia in the 1960s. Why did you do that?
If you’re an actor and you meet a filmmaker who knows what they’re doing and that thing they’re doing is interesting and they’re doing it well, you want to stick around, because actors need that. We can’t succeed on our own merits as much as we might think we can. To be around great filmmakers is a real privilege and when you continue a relationship there’s a great shorthand. There’s something about my head that is a little reminiscent of Richard Loving’s head so there was all the synchronicity of that as well.