Joel Edgerton on His Suit of (Beige) Armor in ‘Black Mass’


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Joel Edgerton, in “Black Mass.”

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Warner Bros. Pictures

This fall, Oscar predictions were running high for Joel Edgerton. His swaggering, cock-of-the-walk depiction of the F.B.I. agent John Connolly was one of the high points of “Black Mass,” starring Johnny Depp as Whitey Bulger, the murderous Boston gangster who spent 16 years on the lam before being convicted in 2013 of 11 murders and other crimes.

Yet so far, the only nod Mr. Edgerton has received was best breakout actor from the Hollywood Film Awards, which are chosen by about a dozen people and largely viewed as a joke. Why Mr. Edgerton hasn’t received more awards love remains a mystery to the Bagger. However, the Australian actor is still having a good year. His directorial debut, the twisty stalker film “The Gift,” which he also wrote, produced and starred in, was a critical and box office hit last summer. He’s also starring in the coming film “Loving,” about the interracial Virginia couple whose fight against the state’s anti-miscegenation statute went to the Supreme Court and resulted in the ban being struck down in 1967.

In October, Mr. Edgerton, energetic and garrulous despite being out late the night before, sat down with the Bagger over morning caffeine at the Greenwich Hotel to chat about playing Mr. Connolly, currently imprisoned for multiple crimes stemming from his relationship with Mr. Bulger. The actor was sporting a postapocalyptic blond crew cut for the “Loving” role. “I’ve just been rebleached so I look a little bit like a polar bear right now.”

Q. Did you have any contact with John Connolly to prepare for the role?

A. No, not at all. But I had tons of footage of him in court, testimony, daytime interviews on TV. He vigilantly defends his position as someone who was sanctioned under the criminal informant program to move in very much a wider gray area. The F.B.I. thought John went a bit rogue and he said, “That’s exactly the point.”

Was it fun doing the accent?

It was terrifying. When I came into the States, I had a border patrol guy from South Boston. He knew I was an actor, and asked me what I was doing, and he said, I swear to God, “Don’t [bung] it up.” But I had recordings of [Mr. Connolly] talking suave, defending his rights as a criminal informant F.B.I. handler. And heartbreaking things where he’s standing up in court, like a cat in a corner, defending himself.

I got amazing feedback on set from the prosecutor. And the real help you get as an actor, especially on a movie like that, is from the people who get to make you look closer to what that person looked like. I could go buy the hair dye and give it a shot, but not the blow-drying. And I reckon a suit could affect your performance –— how tight it is, how you walk.

How did the suit feel?

It was like armor. Beige armor.



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