Actor and filmmaker Joel Edgerton is no stranger to outliers, cults, and secretsin fact, they fascinate him. In an interview with EW this week, he discussed his new film, Boy Erased, which he co-wrote, directed, and starred in, and why religious fanaticism piqued his interest.
“The film satisfies the dramatic and salacious stuff that interested me, but it also had an emotional resonance to it that I felt didn’t just make it a dark and nihilistic story,” Edgerton explains. “Garrard’s story is so full of redemption.”The “story” in question is that of Garrard Conley, whose 2016 memoir of the same title inspired Joel to adapt the film.
Conley’s memoir describes his time at Love in Action, a Christian “ex-gay” program in California. His Baptist parents sent him there after he was outed during his freshman year of college. In the adaptation, Edgerton takes the role of Victor Sykes, the head of the program, inspired by Love in Action’s real former director, John Smid.
Lucas Hedges, the Oscar-nominated Manchester By The Sea actor, also of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri fame, has been tapped for the lead role of Jared. Out gay pop star Troye Sivan will also have a role in the film as one of the other boys in the conversion program, with Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe as the lead character’s parents.
Above all, the Red Sparrow actor wants to portray each character honestly and imbue them with compassion, just as Conley did. “[Conley] has a deep compassion for other people’s point of views,”he says. “My approach and treatment of this story was that there were no villains, that everyone thought they were doing the right thing.”
Kidman, too, is approaching the role from a point of understanding, hoping to find humanity and love in a parent who would put their child through such a harrowing and traumatic religious program. “The way in which she and her husband feel about putting [Jared] into conversion therapy, I wanted that to come from a place of a mother thinking it’s the right thing to do,” she reveals. “Nothing that she did was vindictive, which is probably why they have such a strong relationship now.”
Boy Erased hits theaters September 28.