Joel Edgerton plays FBI agent John Connolly in the crime drama Black Mass, out now, which tells the inspired-by-real-events story of the rise and fall of Boston Italian mob legend James "Whitey" Bulger. The film, directed by Scott Cooper, while being subject to mixed reviews, is simultaneously being praised for its all-star cast that also includes Johnny Depp, Dakota Johnson, Julianne Nicholson, and Benedict Cumberbatch. So how does Edgerton really feel about the film and his co-stars? We caught up with the Aussie actor when he stopped by our InStyle pop-up portrait studio to promote the film during the Toronto International Film Festival.
"In the last five years particularly, I’ve had the opportunity to star in and make movies that I feel really proud of," he told us. "This one definitely exceeded my expectations.” We were intrigued to learn how, and he explained with quotable quotes that surprised and delighted us. Scroll down to find out why.
The director blew him away.
"You can only hope sometimes that the movie you’re in you’re 80 percent happy with—or even 75 percent. If you’re lucky, you're 90 percent happy with it. If you could be 100 percent happy with it, that’s a rare condition, and [director] Scott Cooper has done that with Black Mass for me. I’m so happy that I’m in it. He takes an actor who’s already known to be good and he gives them a chance to show another dimension of themselves. Look at the ensemble that he gathered for this. It’s rad."
He always wanted to work with Johnny Depp, who plays Bulger.
"Johnny is someone that I’ve been a fan of since I was very young. Also, I love gangster movies. I’ve always wanted to be part of them."
Julianne Nicholson plays his wife, and he adores her off-screen, too.
"Julianne is a brand-new discovery for me in my Hottest Actors of All Time category because she’s so f—ing good. She's always exceptional. I think she’s got the Meryl Streeps about her. Also, I’m a director now, so I’m sitting there thinking, 'How do I put her in a movie? In what way could I make the most of her in a larger capacity?' Because someone needs to. If the right opportunity arises for her to just take on a massive challenge, I think the world would have someone else to star in movies. Plus, you gotta love the girl with the freckles."
That led to an interesting conversation about freckles …
"Someone shook me too hard, and mine fell off. I had tons of freckles growing up. As a kid, I spent my entire summer peeling. Big freckle kid. So when I saw Julianne, I was like, ' she's got the freckles.'"
… and that led to an interesting conversation about self-esteem.
"We all have these things about ourselves that we magnify in our own minds. For me, it’s like, 'my eyes are so small,' and everyone’s like, 'you've got nice eyes!' But they’re too small. They’re too close together. It’s interesting because as an actor, I think the great actors are the ones who embrace their flaws and who don’t infuse their work with too much vanity, because vanity is like kryptonite to an actor."
Black Mass is in theaters now.