Child­hood night­mares drew Edger­ton to Boy Erased

More to Gar­rard Con­ley’s story than mis­guided re­li­gious zeal gone awry

StarMetro Toronto - - DAILY LIFE - Bruce Demara EN­TER­TAIN­MENT RE­PORTER OPIN­ION

As a boy, Joel Edger­ton’s worst night­mares in­volved be­ing im­pris­oned and los­ing his par­ents.

It’s what drew him to mak­ing Boy Erased, based on a novel about a young man forced into gay con­ver­sion ther­apy by his Chris­tian fun­da­men­tal­ist par­ents.

“The ba­sis of all my night­mares as a child was al­ways about be­ing in­sti­tu­tion­al­ized or ab­ducted or put in board­ing school and be­ing taken away from my par­ents. So I love movies about break­ing out of pris­ons,” said the Aus­tralian ac­tor mak­ing his sec­ond film, in which he also plays Vic­tor, the head of the pro­gram.

But the book by Gar­rard Con­ley, based on his own ex­pe­ri­ence, is more than a story about mis­guided re­li­gious zeal gone awry.

“There was this fam­ily story that I thought was so rich and tex­tured and com­pli­cated and had such a reser­voir of pos­si­bil­ity for hope and re­demp­tion that I just felt ev­ery­day more and more com­pelled to do some­thing about it. And so here I am,” Edger­ton said.

Part of the re­search for Edger­ton meant go­ing “deep into Arkansas,” meet­ing the real-life Con­leys and lis­ten­ing to the Bap­tist ser­mons which holds that ev­ery word in the Bible — con­dem­na­tion of ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity in Leviti­cus, for ex­am­ple — is the lit­eral word of God.

It’s some­thing real-life father Her­shel Con­ley is still strug­gling with.

“The father is still not all the way there. He’s still stuck be­tween his son and his congregation,” Edger­ton noted.

It was ac­tor Rus­sell Crowe’s re­sem­blance to Her­shel, in fam­ily pho­tos and then in per­son, that led him to seek out his fel­low Aussie ac­tor.

Nicole Kid­man, who plays mom Nancy (Martha in real Direc­tor Joel Edger­ton vis­ited the par­ents of Gar­rard Con­ley to get a feel for the tex­tured and com­pli­cated story.

life) was al­ready on board af­ter read­ing the script and Crowe, ea­ger to work with Kid­man, soon fol­lowed.

Edger­ton was thrilled to cast Lucas Hedges, nom­i­nated for best sup­port­ing ac­tor for his role in the 2016 film Manch­ester by the Sea, as Jared be­cause he cap­tured the sense of

a “kid on the cusp of man­hood.”

“I just felt Lucas had the right abil­ity to have a still­ness and to be present within a scene. I’m ask­ing a big thing of an ac­tor to be talked at … and swayed on the winds of ev­ery­body else’s agenda and to ab­sorb those shocks with a cer­tain

naivete,” Edger­ton said.

Edger­ton said he also tried to por­tray Vic­tor as less of a vil­lain than some­one who is well-in­ten­tioned but mis­guided. “No­body’s painted with an evil brush, God isn’t thrown un­der a bus,” Edger­ton said.

EMMA MCIN­TYRE/GETTY IM­AGES

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