Australian actor Joel Edgerton has been starring in movies for 20 years, from homegrown hits like Erskineville Kings (1999) to playing Luke Skywalker's uncle in the Star Wars prequel trilogy to acclaimed films like Animal Kingdom, Zero Dark Thirty and The Great Gatsby. Now at 41, he has moved into writing and directing with The Gift, a twist on the classic horror-thriller genre.

Joel Edgerton in 'The Gift'Joel Edgerton takes the thriller genre to a new level in 'The Gift'

"I really loved Fatal Attraction, Cape Fear, even Pacific Heights," he notes, going on to say that his primary inspiration was from Austrian award-winner Michael Haneke. "Funny Games really rattled me, in terms of a movie where you have a couple who are besieged by somebody else. And when I watched Cache it was really interesting, because if you are halfway intelligent you are constantly guessing what is going on. You are put right in the same mindset as the central characters, as they try to piece together the truth."

Watch the trailer for 'The Gift' here:

So Edgerton set out to combine the American and European sensibilities. "When I came to write this movie," he says, "I wanted to use the first-act ramp of movies like Fatal Attraction and Cape Fear, but then do something very different in the middle of the movie that allowed us to feel like it was loaded up with more mystery than daggers on the stairs and blood spilled on the carpet."

He says it would have been easy to turn The Gift into a straightforward thriller, but he worked to keep it character-based. "My promise to everyone was to make a movie that had one foot in the genre world, but there's another foot in something else," he says. "I wanted it to be suspenseful and scary, but I wanted the monster to be something that could be in any one of our lives."

More: Read our review of 'The Gift'

Edgerton says that his years working with directors like Ridley Scott, Gavin O'Connor and Baz Luhrmann have been like attending film school. "I'm in a privileged seat as an actor to learn so much about directing," he says of his time on various sets. "My only concern was was would I be good at it? Could I really love it? If so, then I'd do it again. Well, I did love it for sure."