Outside the window, white flakes keep falling, a snow day at the Sundance Film Festival, but inside this bar on Main Street, actor Joel Edgerton and screenwriter/actress Felicity Price’s thoughts are on Cambodia and their home base Australia, the locations of Wish You Were Here. Directed by Kieran Darcy-Smith, Edgerton’s friend and partner in the Blue-Tongue Films collective and Price’s husband and co-writer, the film is a hybrid of mystery and melodrama kicked into gear when long-married couple Dave (Edgerton) and Alice’s (Price) Southeast Asian holiday takes an ominous turn.
“I tell you what is weird: playing the husband of one of your best friends’ real-life wife in a movie. That was weird,” says Edgerton. “He was just watching us on the monitor. We didn’t have to do any serious hanky panky, but there was one day when we had a bed scene. It was more about the conversation, but then it was getting kind of a little bit romantic and Kieran just didn’t yell ‘Cut!’ for the longest time.”
“He likes to keep rolling and see what might happen,” laughs Price. “Kieran was just watching as a director. He couldn’t care less how far it went. ‘I’ve got to get this take. Is the lighting right?’”
Life is no picnic for Dave and Alice, but from the outside at least, their marriage looks strong. They are the parents of two with another on the way. The vacation they share with Alice’s sister Steph (Teresa Palmer) and Steph’s boyfriend Jeremy (Antony Starr) is a happy foreign adventure that ends in disaster and sends a jolt through the couple’s relationship.
“I was thinking about writing a film kind of about growing up and having small children and having to take on the responsibility of small children and being torn,” Price says. “Finding yourself loving your family and your children, and your relationship becoming a little more long term, but yearning for a bit of freedom, a bit of partying, a bit of change. I was interested in that kind of discordance. I wanted to explore that in a relationship and how hard you have to fight for a relationship. But then I guess I wasn’t interested in just writing a relationship drama. I wanted to write a mystery thriller. So the second part of it, I mashed together a story that’s kind of based on a true story that I heard about two couples traveling to Southeast Asia.”
“It’s no idyllic Hollywood relationship,” adds Edgerton. “They’re a couple who have two kids and probably spend very little time putting care and energy into each other and more into just the day-to-day pragmatism of looking after the kids. But the relationship is solid; we wanted it to feel like they’re there to stay. Then this situation erupts and upsets their equilibrium.”
Edgerton most recently played Tom Buchanan in fellow Australian Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby. He has also found success in far from home, appearing in – among other films – Star Wars: Episodes II and III, Kinky Boots, Smokin’ Aces, Warrior, The Thing and Zero Dark Thirty. But he was happy to return to the small-budget world of Blue-Tongue Films, where the partners include, in addition to Edgerton and Darcy-Smith, Luke Doolan (the Oscar-nominated short Miracle Fish), David Michôd (Animal Kingdom), Spencer Susser (Hesher), Mirrah Foulkes (the short Dumpty Goes to the Big Smoke) and Edgerton’s older brother Nash (The Square).
“I love being home,” he says. “I love the movies we’ve been making. I just love working on good things. There was almost a scenario where I wasn’t going to be doing this film, for various reasons. I would be genuinely disappointed if I was seeing the movie at Sundance and I wasn’t in it, particularly with another actor playing my part.
“I love what we’re doing at Blue-Tongue,” he avers. “We’re very proud of that work. It’s interesting. A couple of years ago when I did Animal Kingdom, there was always that thing of, ‘Look, you can work in North America, why not keep doing that? Why go home and make smaller movies?’ But after all my years of working in L.A., Animal Kingdom, that little movie that I made back home, kind of makes the most waves out of any other thing that I’ve worked on. It set a really good precedent. I would never dream of not going home to work, particularly on anything that’s Blue-Tongue-related. When it’s good writing, you just do it.” –Pam Grady