LUCAS HEDGES COMES OF AGE, ONE FILM AT A TIME
From playing a newly parentless son, a gay teen in denial, an abusive older brother, and a drug addict in recovery, the actor bares it all
comic book world... I did not have any reason to feel like that would resonate with my sensibilities or my core principles. [But] he explained this badass, kickass warrior queen to me and I thought, sword and a crown? OK!”
With the pressure of the lead role on him for the first time, Lucas Hedges was hearing voices. Vivid movie-critic voices. “I would hear reviews in my head that were like: ‘It appears as if Hedges has nothing going on in his inner life. In what should be a very rich...’” says Hedges, writing the imaginary hatchet job in his head. “It was like: I’m never going to work again. The stakes felt very high.”
The reviews, like just about everything the 21-year-old actor has done, including his Oscar-nominated breakthrough role in Manchester by Sea (2016), have turned out quite the opposite for Hedges in his first starring role. The acclaimed gay conversion therapy drama Boy Erased, is the latest in a string of disarmingly natural performances by Hedges, even if during the film’s shoot, he felt like he was drowning.
Hedges ultimately found that the self-doubt could be beneficial. He could channel it into his performance as Garrard Conley, who chronicled his anguished insecurity as the gay son of Baptist parents (Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe) sent to a conversion camp in a 2016 memoir, the basis for Joel Edgerton’s film.
“There’s always a parallel journey going on in all of these projects,” Hedges said in a recent interview. In parts large and small, Hedges has over the past two years assembled a portrait gallery of young men in strained, anxious periods of transition. He has been a newly parentless son (Manchester by the Sea), a gay teen in denial (Lady Bird), an abusive older brother (Mid90s) and a drug addict in recovery (Ben Is Back). Their struggles have all in some way mirrored Hedges’ own; their coming of age has been his. “In the last few years, I’ve felt really restless and searching for the approval of the world,” says Hedges. “Moving forward, I can’t say I’ll be drawn to the same roles. But these parts have felt like nobrainers. There’s been a lot of transformation occurring within me.” Both Boy Erased and Ben Is Back, Hedges says, are for him about overcoming shame. “Shame has been a big part of my life and something I’ve really be able to come faceto-face with through these projects. I’ve gotten to look more directly at myself and heal those parts of me,” he says. “I try to approach every part in terms of: This part has come to me to heal something.”
Part of that process on Boy Erased was also coming to terms with his sexuality. In an interview last month with New York Magazine, Hedges said he’s “not totally straight, but also not gay and not necessarily bisexual.” Saying that publicly, he says, has been a relief. “I don’t feel like I’m only attracted to women. There are people in my life that I’m afraid to say that to, and I don’t like it,” says Hedges. It may have been a tumultuous period in Hedges’ life, one cathartically charted on screen. But it has brought him a hard-earned maturity.
“For the first time in my life,” Hedges says, “I’m more settled in myself.”
PART OF THAT PROCESS ON BOY ERASED WAS ALSO COMING TO TERMS WITH HIS SEXUALITY
Since breaking out with his Oscarnominated role in Manchester by the Sea, Lucas Hedges, 21, has maintained a breakneck pace with his movie choices
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