Joel Edgerton might not be the first person you’d expect to make a movie based on Boy Erased
, Garrard Conley’s memoir of his experience in gay conversion therapy. The writer/director has steadily staked a claim as a reliably terrific actor in action- and suspense-oriented fare; see Warrior
, Zero Dark Thirty
, Midnight Special
, and It Comes at Night
for proof. (Edgerton was also the sole redeeming factor of Netflix’s orc-cop buddy flick Bright
, in which he, nearly unrecognizable under pounds of makeup, turned in a terrific, emotive performance about 1,000 times better than the movie deserved.) While Edgerton gives himself a juicy role in Boy Erased
as the slightly deranged leader of a conversion therapy program, he’s otherwise content to give center stage to the film’s timely and important story. It stars Lucas Hedges as Conley’s stand-in, Jared Eamons, and Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman as his well-meaning but conservative parents who send him away in a misguided attempt to turn him straight. The film is subtle and heartfelt in showing how good intentions—when they’re based on rancid, bigoted philosophies—can affect even the families that truly love each other. Edgerton spoke with the Mercury
about the making of Boy Erased
MERCURY: Your previous screenplays—including those for your brother Nash’s film, The Square, and your own directorial debut, The Gift—could be considered thrillers. Did taking on a true story about a social issue feel like a left turn for you?
JOEL EDGERTON: In many ways, yeah, it’s definitely a bit of a departure. Some of my tastes and interests in being an actor is about jumping all over the spectrum and not feeling like I can be pinned down to a certain brand. Some of the filmmakers that I’ve really admired do a similar thing—knowing that every time the Coen Brothers pushed a new film out into the world, it seemed like they were exercising their right to tell all sorts of stories, and Stanley Kubrick the same. My feeling is that I wouldn’t want to just keep making the same movie. I’ve always had an interest to do stuff that’s suspense- or genre-based, but even while The Gift was one-half a genre experience, it was also a drama. Boy Erased shares some elements—conversion therapy and some of the aspects of Garrard’s real-life story lend themselves to a real sense of fear.
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