Writer-director Paul Dano and Ed Oxenbould on the set of ‘Wildlife’. 

Ed Oxenbould rates his role in Paul Dano’s Wildlife, in which he stars alongside Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal, as among his favourites.

In the film, Oxenbould (The Butterfly Tree, Paper Planes, Puberty Blues) plays 14-year-old Joe, who has just moved to Montana with his parents Jeannette (Mulligan) and Jerry (Gyllenhaal). The ‘60s set coming-of-age tale centres on him as their marriage slowly disintegrates.

Oxenbould tells IF that Joe is a complex, interesting character, who was bolstered through the writing of Dano and partner Zoe Kazan, who adapted Richard Ford’s novel of the same name.

“It was really different to anything I’d done before. It required a lot of emotion and a lot of watching, a lot of observing. That’s what made it seem really interesting; I thought it would be a great challenge.”

Wildlife, currently in limited release via Roadshow, had its world premiere at Sundance earlier this year, screened in Cannes Critics Week and at the Toronto International Film Festival, and opened the Melbourne International Film Festival in August.

It is Dano’s directorial feature debut after having worked extensively as an actor. Oxenbould says the director approached the film with an actor’s mindset, and together with Mulligan, they did a lot of rehearsals and exercises to get to know each other.

“I don’t think anyone could ever tell that it was his first time directing. It was so effortless. He had such a clear vision; he knew what to do every step of the way,” says Oxenbould.

Working with actors of Mulligan and Gyllenhaal’s calibre was also a treat for Oxenbould, who regards them both as generous and welcoming collaborators.

Ed Oxenbould and Jake Gyllenhaal in ‘Wildlife’.

“Working with them was just a dream; when they bring their all it just makes you bring your all. Whether you want to or not, just seeing them scream or cry makes you so emotional and that’s what makes it seem really real.”

Oxenbould has been working in the industry since he was 10 years old, and is the son of fellow actors Jamie Oxenbould and Di Adams. Wildlife follows a number of US roles for the actor, including Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day alongside Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner, and in M. Night Shyamalan’s The Visit. 

More recently, he has worked on Playmaker Media’s 10-part series Reckoning, shot in Sydney for Sony Pictures Television Networks.

Set in California, Reckoning follows two fathers, played by Aden Young and American Sam Trammell – one of whom is a serial killer. The show was created by David Hubbard who is co-showrunner with David Eick and is produced by Diane HaddonOxenbould plays the son of Trammell’s character, and he describes him as having a very dark past.

“It’s been a really great journey over the show. We have such great writers and directors like Shawn Seet, Peter Andrikidis and Jen Leacey. They’re just incredible, and they just help you so much in getting into character.”

Next up, Oxenbould will guest star in RevLover Films’ six-part series Diary of An Uber Driver, currently shooting in Sydney for the ABC. It follows an Uber driver, played by Sam Cotton, who is trying to come to grips with his life and impending fatherhood as he drives around his passengers.

As for his career going forward, Oxenbould hopes to continue to play unique and interesting roles.

“I feel like as I’m getting older, there are just so many more opportunities opening up. I want to take as many as I can and try new things; try radically different characters, try bizarre characters, do prosthetics. I want to try my hand at everything really.”

Meanwhile Oxenbould must also contend with the travails of teenage life: he just finished his year 11 exams and is about to start year 12.

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