The new romantic drama Loving, based on the real-life couple whose 1967 Supreme Court trial Loving v. Virginia legalized interracial marriage, is a quintessential tale of American social justice. Yet neither of film’s leads, Joel Edgerton and Ruth — who deliver two of the most highly acclaimed performances of the year — is a U.S. citizen.
“I kept thinking he cast me ’cause he’s just lazy,” the Australian-born Edgerton joked to Yahoo Movies (watch above) about director and Arkansas native Jeff Nichols (Mud, Take Shelter), whom the actor had just worked with on the spring release Midnight Special.
Edgerton (Warrior, Black Mass) plays Richard Loving, a soft-spoken carpenter who wants nothing more than to live The Simple Life with his sweet-natured bride, Mildred Jeter (Negga). But, when they return to rural Virginia after getting married in Washington, D.C., the newlyweds are arrested by local police for violating miscegenation laws.
“He saw something in the shape of my head, and the nature of me,” Edgerton said of Nichols. “And in Ruth I think he found the right energetic sort of divinity that Mildred [had] as this rural, kind of princess-like person that she was.”
The Ethiopian-born, Irish-raised Negga (Warcraft, Preacher), who was the first actress to audition for the role, sees Loving as a story that’s relatable well beyond U.S. borders. “This is a couple who speaks for many people across the world, not just Americans,” she said. “As a humanity, there’s a collective acknowledgement of our similarities, and I think that’s what this film encourages.”
Loving is now in select theaters.