Deeply moving and at times triggering, “Boy Erased” details the heroic journey of a teenage boy surviving conversion therapy.
Originally a memoir written by Garrard Conley in 2016, this film brings attention to the dangerous and dehumanizing practice of trying to change an individual’s sexual orientation from homosexual or bisexual to heterosexual using psychological or spiritual interventions. Jared Eamons (Lucas Hedges), the son of a Baptist pastor of a small town is outed to his parents (Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman) at the age of 19. He is pressured into attending a gay conversion therapy program. Out of fear of being disowned by his family, friends, and church, Jared complies. It is there that conflicts arise between him and head therapist (Joel Edgerton). The Knockturnal was able to interview author, Garrard Conley, and actor, producer, and director of Boy Erased, Joel Edgerton. Check out our exclusive interview below!
The Knockturnal: Boy Erased was originally a memoir written by you Garrad, so Joel how did the collaboration with you two come about?
Joel Edgerton: Well I got kinda obsessed by the memoir and when I put it down I figured, as harrowing as the story is, there’s a hopefulness to it that I think was worth turning into a movie and I thought I need to do something about it and so I reached out and asked if I could meet with Garrard [Conley] because it’s one thing to read his memoir but I was kind of nervous and excited to meet the man behind it knowing also that some years have passed to kind of get another perspective on it and that relationship kept snowballing and here we are today. We are at the other end of making a film.
The Knockturnal: When did you feel comfortable accepting your sexuality and feeling confident enough to share your story with everyone?
Garrard Conley: Accepting my sexuality after conversion therapy came pretty quickly, not that there weren’t bumps along the road. I think when you’ve been through something like that you never get over it in some ways but I waited ten years before I even wrote a word of this story because I felt like something would be missing if I just told my experience. I wanted to understand why my parents did what they did and I wanted to understand even why the counselors did what they did. It required going back there in my head to that time period which is actually really difficult to reconstruct once you’ve gone out from the other side. I just felt like in order for it to be a real document of that time and that practice that I really needed to look at all sides.
The Knockturnal: I was actually just thinking, Lucas Hedges who essentially plays you, he does a phenomenal job but was it triggering to watch your story on the big screen?
Garrard Conley: I feel so bad because we have made a movie that I think is very triggering for a lot of people in the LGBTQ community, you know I’ve heard this a lot but I’m proud that it is something that feels very authentic. Survivors of conversion therapy have said to me that it’s hard to watch but thank you for getting it right. But yeah it’s not easy to watch it although Lucas’ [Hedges] performance is so mesmerizing that it makes it a little bit easier for me.
The Knockturnal: And Joel you’ve actually known Lucas [Hedges] since he was a young boy so how was it to actually work alongside him now?
Joel Edgerton: Well I met him just before he got his first acting job. His father had directed me in a movie, which I had a great experience on and Lucas would come and visit the set and we would play basketball and stuff and then he got his first acting job so he was around 12 or 13 at the time. So I was just sort of almost like a family friend, been watching him grow up on smaller and bigger roles on screen and it just so happened that me reading the book and starting to write the screenplay collided with me rewatching Manchester By the Sea and just I couldn’t get him out of my head and knowing him and having a history with him, it wasn’t so much easier getting him involved it just felt nice once we were working together to acknowledge we have a history together.
The film hits theaters this Friday.