‘Boy Erased’: Joel Edgerton and Garrard Conley on Having Empathy for Despicable Characters

     November 4, 2018

With Boy Erased, writer/director Joel Edgerton has crafted something essential. Based on Garrard Conley‘s harrowing memoir of the same name, the film follows Jared Eamons (Lucas Hedges), a 19-year-old forced to attend a conversion therapy camp after coming out to his Baptist preacher father (Russell Crowe) and religiously doting mother (Nicole Kidman). It’s a quietly devastating film led by a subtle, internal performance from Hedges, who makes the absolute most of his first leading role after earning a Best Supporting Oscar nomination for Manchester By the Sea. The film also stars Troye Sivan as a sympathetic fellow attendee of the camp and Edgerton himself as the program’s harsh, authoritarian leader.


Image via Focus Features

Before Boy Erased‘s premiere, I sat down with Edgerton and Conley to discuss the film. During the interview, we discussed the film having empathy for even its worst characters, keeping the camera still on horrific scenes, whether watching the film get made felt like reliving those experiences a second time for Conley, and much more.

Check out what they had to say above, and below is exactly what we talked about:

Joel Edgerton and Garrard Conley:

  • The moment Edgerton realized that Conley’s memoir was the story to get him back behind the camera.
  • Why it was important the film has empathy for all its characters, not just Jared.
  • Why Edgerton kept the camera still and unflinching during the film’s most harrowing scenes.
  • The key to highlighting Lucas Hedge’s quiet, internal performance.
  • Whether watching the film get made felt like reliving old experiences for Conley.

Here’s the official synopsis for Boy Erased:

“Boy Erased” tells the story of Jared (Hedges), the son of a Baptist pastor in a small American town, who is outed to his parents (Kidman and Crowe) at age 19. Jared is faced with an ultimatum: attend a conversion therapy program – or be permanently exiled and shunned by his family, friends, and faith. Boy Erased is the true story of one young man’s struggle to find himself while being forced to question every aspect of his identity.

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