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Exclusive: Joel Edgerton on 'The Thing,' 'The Great Gatsby,' and More

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Oct 11, 2011 | 4:05pm EDT

7836321.jpgAussie import Joel Edgerton was last seen tussling with a hulking Tom Hardy in Gavin O'Connor's acclaimed MMA drama Warrior. This week, he goes toe-to-toe with an even fiercer foe in the horror flick The Thing, which, despite the selfsame moniker, is actually a prequel to John Carpenter’s 1982 frightfest and not remake. In an exclusive interview, the Edgerton spoke with us about revisiting a monster-movie classic, his recent career upsurge, and his upcoming turn in Baz Luhrmann’s 3D adaptation of The Great Gatsby.

Carpenter’s original Thing is considered a near-masterpiece by genre aficionados. Were you a fan?

Yeah, definitely. That was one of the biggest hooks that snagged me into this movie. That, and knowing that they weren’t going to do a remake, that they were opening up this chapter from the Carpenter movie that I thought was really cool, and a really great reason to do a prequel.

Were you hesitant at all to do a horror flick? Some actors can be dismissive of the genre.

I always have hesitations about every project. [Laughs] I’m definitely not really someone who really goes for the horror movies. I like to watch them now and then, but I’ve never really seen myself in them. Being that [The Thing] was a partner piece to the Carpenter movie of ’82, I was definitely enticed into at least reading the script and meeting the guys. Then I was sold.

How was exactly was the creature in the film represented on set? I’m assuming the final rendering is some combination of practical and CG effects.

There was a mix of both. There were practical elements of the monster everywhere, various incarnations. As you can probably tell from watching the movie, there’s all different incarnations of the monster, different manifestations, and there were always practical versions of that to look at. There’s one particular sequence where I had to do a bit of acting with a tennis ball on a stick, which I find really difficult, but for the majority of the time we at least had some element of practical effects working in a scene, so we at least had something to look at, to focus on.

You’ve been on quite a run recently, with Warrior, this film, and the upcoming Disney drama The Odd Life of Timothy Green. How gratifying is it to finally be breaking through in the States?

Yeah, it’s cool. Tom Hardy and I were both musing on it when we were doing press for Warrior. It just becomes an exciting feeling to get the opportunity to do the things that you think you have to offer, to take on the challenges that you think you’re capable of taking on. That is always the frustrating thing about being an actor, when you’re not really being utilized that much. You’re sitting there going, “Come on, I’ve got all this stuff in me. Give me the opportunity to show you.” And you want to do more work. So finally getting the opportunity to do that is cool. I love it.

After this, you’re headed Down Under to begin work on The Great Gatsby, which director Baz Luhrmann is shooting in 3D. 3D seems like an unusual approach for this kind of material. What’s your take on it?

There’s sort of a couple of different ways to look at 3D. One is the real spectacle version of 3D, where elements pop out of the screen and startle the audience. And then there’s the version of 3D that’s really immersive, where it draws the audience in and allows them to feel like they’re actually in the movie. I think the latter is the real ideology behind Gatsby being shot in 3D. It’s inviting the audience into the world of the movie, rather than using it as any kind of kitschy sort of spectacle.

You played Uncle Owen in the first two Star Wars prequels. How often do you get approached by Star Wars fans?

Every now and then. I had this funny situation once where I was out with some friends singing karaoke, and I must have been incredibly drunk, because I don’t sing karaoke unless I’m really drunk. I was about to write down what song I was going to sing, and the guy next to me goes, “What are you going to sing, Uncle Owen?” We both had a good laugh.

The Thing opens everywhere this Friday, October 11, 2011.

Click on the image below for more shots of Joel Edgerton:

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