Joel Edgerton Talks Subtlety of Playing Coach in ‘Boys’ Film

Joel Edgerton Talks Subtlety of Playing Coach in ‘Boys’ Film December 18, 2023

In the new film “The Boys in the Boat,” releasing on Christmas from Amazon MGM Studios, Joel Edgerton stars as Coach Al Ulbrickson, who leads a fresh-faced junior varsity team to a historic victory. The film, based on the #1 New York Times bestseller by Daniel James Brown, is directed and produced by George Clooney and also stars Callum Turner and Hadley Robinson.

“The Boys In The Boat” – (l-r.) Chris Diamantopoulos stars as Royal Brougham, James Wolk as Coach Bolles, and Joel Edgerton as Al Ulbrickson in director George Clooney’s THE BOYS IN THE BOAT An Amazon MGM Studios film

Edgerton, known for roles in the “Star Wars” prequels and the “Obi Wan Kenobi” series as well as “The Gift” and “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” goes low key while stepping into Ulbrickson’s shoes, playing a sort of grumpy, not easily impressed coach to the young men. He relies mostly on facial expressions and subtlety through his duties, saying a lot with very little.

“A key moment where I smile after the Poughkeepsie race and my wife says to me, ‘It looks good on you’ and essentially that I should do that more often,” he said. “And Rob Braun, the wonderful sportscaster, asked me if maybe I’ll crack a smile this season, that’s the clue of who Coach is.”

The actor joked that the coaches frequently depicted onscreen are that way “because they care too much and are on the verge of dying with stress.”

Clooney agreed, saying that Edgerton never “copped out” to “show too much.”

“You remember Danny DeVito in Taxi, he played a jerk, and he never sort of cheated it,” he said. “He never all of the sudden was kinda nice.  And not that (Joel) played a jerk, but you never gave us the idea, for such a long period of time anyway.  You weren’t always going, ‘Don’t worry, I really am a good guy.’  You let us get in slowly.  And you know, it takes a lot of nerve as an actor.  I remember, the studio would call after dailies and going, ‘Why is he so mad?  Why is he so grumpy?’  And I was like, ‘Relax’.”

Toward the end (SPOILER ALERT), especially as the victories keep coming, the Coach warms up, slowly.

“I just loved the idea of playing that guy, because the cracks will show, the warmth will come through at some point, but he’s not effusively handing it out easily, you know,” he said.

“The Boys in the Boat,” directed by George Clooney and starring Joel Edgerton, Callum Turner and Hadley Robinson, will release Dec. 25 from Amazon MGM Studios.

Watch an exclusive interview with Joel Edgerton, George Clooney, and DeWayne Hamby below.

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