“I think we’re dealing with pretty primal forces of right and wrong with this story,” Australian writer/ director Thomas M. Wright said during a discussion about his new film The Stranger at Deadline’s Cannes studio.
“It was a very difficult film to make just in terms of managing the amount of info in it,” Wright added. “That was a challenge too. It was a frightening film to take on.”
The Australian story follows Mark—played by Joel Edgerton, who also produces—a cop working deep undercover to try and trap Henry (Sean Harris) for a child murder he committed years earlier.
Edgerton had optioned the tale, which is based on a real-life sting operation, and had initially considered directing it himself, but when he saw Wright’s first film Acute Misfortune, which was also based on a true story, he knew Wright was the right choice.
“[I thought], this guy’s so much more qualified that me to make that film, and to make that film in the most unobvious way that this story could be made, and to allow me to be in the frame and to concentrate on that. And I’m so pleased with the journey so far and that we’re here… It feels like something we feel is very sacred and we’re very proud of where it’s landed.”
While the backstory is harrowing, Edgerton said he was pleased with the way Wright’s script handled that. “It’s a film that deals with so much violence and yet but one of the great ways about how Thomas rendered the script that came out of that book, is that the violence is always looming, but it’s not a film that is dripping with violent action.”
For Harris, the process of stepping into the complex and dark role of Henry was actually helped by Covid-driven cancellation and quarantine.
“I had the luxury of having the script and being with Henry for a year because we were going to film and the the film was pulled because of Covid. So, I had to sit with Henry for longer. I started to grow the hair, the beard… Then when I got there I was in quarantine for 14 days, so I was in a hotel room on my own and Henry really started to come alive then. They were shipping in costumes, because I wasn’t able to do costume fittings and I started to really feel Henry then in the isolation of those rooms.”
Wright also sent some character-themed music to the hotel for Harris, which further inspired him.
“I started to do these little videos of the birth of Henry in a sense,” he said. “That was really me saying, ‘This is who you’re going to meet and this is what’s coming alive,’ and it was a very very interesting preparation because I’ve never been put in quarantine before.”
“It really did take us to some very very dark and difficult places,” Wright said of the trio’s journey on the project.
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Monica has a BA in Journalism and English from the University of Massachusetts and an MS in Journalism and Communications from Quinnipiac University. Monica has worked as a journalist for over 20 years covering all things entertainment. She has covered everything from San Diego Comic-Con, The SAG Awards, Academy Awards, and more. Monica has been published in Variety, Swagger Magazine, Emmy Magazine, CNN, AP, Hidden Remote, and more. For the past 10 years, she has added PR and marketing to her list of talents as the president of Prime Entertainment Publicity, LLC. Monica is ready for anything and is proudly obsessed with pop culture.