Go See Gringo — An Interview with Director Nash Edgerton
This interview couldn’t have come at a better time. I finished reading the Union-Tribune, and was disgusted to see that syndicated film critic Katie Walsh gave a bad review to Gringo, while giving 2 ½ stars to A Wrinkle in Time, which is going to be on many critics’ “worst of the year” lists. One of her complaints mentions “body shaming” a character, but she missed the point. The person doing the body shaming was an evil woman, and we’re supposed to hate the things she says and how she treats people. So please, instead of listening to all the critics that aren’t going to get it, take my word for it. Go see Gringo. You’ll be glad you did.
I’ve interviewed lots of people over the years, but this is the only director I’ve interviewed twice. He’s also the only person I’ve ever interviewed while I had a migraine. It was when he was in San Diego to promote The Square 10 years ago, and I would’ve just cancelled the interview, except that it was one of the best movies I’ve ever seen.
Here’s my recent interview with director Nash Edgerton, and my head was free from any pain while it was conducted.
JOSH BOARD: Why has it been eight years before you directed again?
NASH EDGERTON: I was trying to find the right thing to make and films take time to get up and made. I read the first draft of what became Gringo in 2013. In the meantime I was working on other projects like directing shorts and music videos, helping my brother on The Gift, stunt work, etc.
JOSH BOARD: This might be the best performance I’ve ever seen from David Oyelowo, and I’ve seen all his movies. The accent, his naivete…it was brilliant. How did you guys decide on that accent, and how easy was it for him to do the accent?
NASH EDGERTON: David playing Harold as a Nigerian was his idea which I thought was inspired. Although he was born in the UK, his parents are Nigerian and he went to school in Nigeria so the accent came very easy for him.
JOSH BOARD: As a huge Beatles fan, I loved the drug cartel discussing Beatles albums. It’s funny enough seeing friends argue over stuff like this at dinner parties, but to know somebody might shoot you for the wrong answer…but why in the world did they go with “Let it Be” as a better album than Rubber Soul, Abbey Road, or the White Album? This is going to drive the Beatles fans nuts!!!
NASH EDGERTON: Ha. We did various takes. Carlos Corona, who played Villegas, suggested ‘Revolver’ as that is his favorite. ‘Let It Be’ felt right in the edit.
JOSH BOARD: And on the subject of the Beatles, couldn’t a Beatles song have been slipped in? Or, a song by Harry Chapin or Harry Connick, Jr…after the funny scene involving the name Harold versus Harry. -side note, hearing “Just Like Heaven” by a mariachi band was fabulous.
NASH EDGERTON: We did talk about having a Beatles track in there. Ultimately it came down to budget restraints. But “Just Like Heaven” is one of my favourite songs.
JOSH BOARD: Since “Black Panther” plays a part in this movie, when it was being made, did you realize it would be coming out the same time the Marvel movie Black Panther was dominating the box office?
NASH EDGERTON: (laughs) Not at all. Weird coincidence.
JOSH BOARD: I loved that the trailer for this made it look so interesting, but did a good job disguising things that were fun to find out while watching it. Do the directors play a part in how trailers are made? I read an article in the ’80s, that only Hitchcock and Kubrick got involved in how the trailers were edited. They didn’t want things spoiled, and…I always wonder why more directors weren’t doing that.
NASH EDGERTON: Yes, as a director you get to consult on the trailer. Well I did anyway. It was important to me not to give away too many spoilers in the trailer. I feel like too many trailers give away so much these days, which I think taints the movie going experience.
JOSH BOARD: There were a few good stunts, which leads me to want to ask — were you involved in any of them? And if not, why? It would be the first time, that I know of, that a director did stunts in his own movie.
NASH EDGERTON: Yes, I was in involved in the design and execution of the stunts but I didn’t perform them. I almost doubled for Mitch (Sharlto Copley) at one stage. But I already had my hands full directing the film.
JOSH BOARD: And, I hate to sound like your mother, but why in the world do you still do such dangerous stunts? On Conan O’Brien recently, you talked about them vacuuming glass out of your hand after one stunt, while your brother had a towel around him sipping hot chocolate.
NASH EDGERTON: The little boy inside me still likes to jump off things.
JOSH BOARD: One of my all time favorite action/comedy pictures was Midnight Run. A few scenes in this reminded me of that. What movie did this most remind you of, or what type of movie were you shooting for?
NASH EDGERTON: I feel like so many films I loved growing up in the ‘80s had a sense of danger, as well as a sense of humor. I was going for that.
JOSH BOARD: It did have that vibe. It was like the fun I had watching Lethal Weapon, Jackie Brown, and Get Short. This movie had such a terrific and satisfying ending. I also loved the ending of The Square, but when I recently had a friend watch who had never seen it — he was frustrated by it, feeling it wasn’t the “happy ending” he had hoped for. How hard is it to make an ending that you think will work?
NASH EDGERTON: It’s tough. I think the ending of the film should coincide with the journey the lead character is on. It should feel satisfying.
JOSH BOARD: One of my pet peeves, from the time I was a kid, was when movies use the same titles as movies that were already made. An example of that this year is with the Oscar nominated foreign film The Square. What was your initial reaction when you heard that was the name of the movie?
NASH EDGERTON: It’s definitely weird.
JOSH BOARD: I’m glad Joel is in this movie. Is it weird for you to see how famous your brother has gotten?
NASH EDGERTON: Not really. I think he’s really talented but at the end of the day, he’s still the same brother he was before other people started recognizing him.
JOSH BOARD: On the subject of Joel, does it often work that you’ll be involved doing stunts on a movie…like Great Gatsby or The Gift…because he’s also in the movie?
NASH EDGERTON: It varies. Sometimes I’m on the film before he gets cast, sometimes I get asked because he’s cast. Bu we love working together so whatever way it happens we are both always happy that we get that opportunity,
JOSH BOARD: As someone that’s been to many film festivals and tries to watch everything I can, I’ve been exposed to many shorts. One of my all-time favorites is your short “Spider.” Do you still make shorts, or will you ever do any more in the future?
NASH EDGERTON: Yes, I still love making shorts and I do have another planned.
JOSH BOARD: How early in the process did you know that you had Charlize Theron for this? And, it’s got to be a big thrill, because you know the studio will promote the movie more, and audiences are more likely to go see it than if it’s someone that’s not an A-lister.
NASH EDGERTON: Charlize was the first person I sent the script to when I thought it was ready to share. We were both keen to work together and this felt like the right project for us.
JOSH BOARD: Does the director have any say on who is cast in a film, or is that more the producers and people like that?
NASH EDGERTON: Yes, definitely.
JOSH BOARD: As much attention as David and Charlize will get, I’m also stoked about Sharlto Copley. He’s funny, and ever since District 9, I’ve been a fan. What can you tell me about him?
NASH EDGERTON: Sharlto is awesome and I was so happy to get to work with him. He is a great ball of energy and ideas, and is a pleasure to have around.
So if you want to see a great movie this weekend, and don’t want to be disappointed with what Oprah gave you, and you aren’t up to seeing Black Panther a second time — spend some time with the “Black Panther” in this movie.