Up Close with Aussie Actor Joel Edgerton

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Mar 28, 2017

by JESSICA IRVINE, Associate Editor

Joel Edgerton was once deathly afraid of water but today it’s riding waves that centres the Aussie actor, writer and director.

What is your greatest strength?

Winging it. The bad way of looking at it is that it’s laziness but in my work I use it as a strength. At best, it’s the ability to improvise and give in to the moment without too much premeditation. It’s also a great space to be in to write.

What is your greatest weakness?

At times, I’m too concerned with being appreciated, liked or loved. I think I try to please people too much.

What scares you?

I used to be terrified of water; I’m not now. As a kid, I had dreams that the valley I lived in [in Sydney’s Dural] would flood so I used to climb up to the top shelf of a cupboard. It’s crazy what people are scared of. I know someone who is scared of bananas.

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What virtue do you most admire in people?

Gratitude. It always strikes me how the people with the least are often the most grateful, particularly for things like health, education and a roof over their head.

If you could do another job, what would it be?

I’d be a painter. Art school was the other major consideration for me when I left high school. I sometimes regret I never did that.

What’s one thing about you that would surprise people?

I often lack confidence. I am supremely hard on myself and doubt myself so much.

What’s your idea of absolute happiness?

Happiness is being around the people I love, in particular kids, like my nieces.

If you could have dinner with a famous person, who would you choose?

Once, I was at a dinner with Sergey Bubka, a [Ukranian] world-champion pole vaulter. That was pretty amazing, because I remember trying to imitate him in my yard by setting up an elastic between two trees and using a cut sapling as a pole. I dragged a mattress from my room to break my fall. I told him this and I’m still not sure whether he was flattered or freaked out.

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Who is your personal hero?

[The late] Fred Hollows, though I never met him. And his mate and partner in ending avoidable blindness, Sanduk Ruit, who I have spent time with. Dr Ruit’s selfless commitment to health in his country of Nepal, and the world, amazes me.

How do you switch off?

I surf. I’m not great at it but I love to get into the water, especially in Sydney. If I’m on location, I like to paint.

If you were an animal, what would it be?

I was born in the Year of the Tiger and I’ve always fancied myself as that. I’m more of a dog, though. Settle me into a good family, feed me and I can laze around and be loyal. 

What’s the most Australian thing about you?

I am proud of my accent and will never lose it. Plus my Blundstone and R. M. Williams boots, which travel everywhere with me.

Where would we find you at a party?

Try the bar.

If you were down to your last $20, what would you spend it on?

I’d ask a mate to kick in $5 and give the lot to The Fred Hollows Foundation so it could restore someone’s sight. I’ve been down to my last $20 before. I wasn’t so selfless at the time, just depressed and annoyed but thankful I had a family I could rely on. 

How would you like to be remembered?

As a good person who never gave up. 

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