Image Credit: Focus Features Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe star in Boy Erased.
Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe and Lucas Hedges from Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and Lady Bird star in Joel Edgerton’s conversion therapy movie Boy Erased.
Based on the 2016 memoir by Garrard Conley, the story follows Conley’s experience growing up in a strict Baptist family from a small town in Arkansas and being forced into conversion therapy by his parents.
When he was 19 and studying at college, Conley was outed to his parents, played by Kidman and Crowe, and was told to choose between attending the Love in Action conversion therapy facility or being disowned. At the time, his father was on the verge of being ordained as a Baptist minister.
Edgerton adapted the story for the screen as well as directing and starring in the film. He told Entertainment Weekly that he tried to approach the characters with the same empathy Conley displays towards his parents and other people in the book. “He has a deep compassion for other people’s point of views,” Edgerton told Entertainment Weekly.
"My approach and treatment of this story was that there were no villains, that everyone thought they were doing the right thing," Edgerton said.
Kidman and Crowe met with Conley's real-life parents when preparing for the film. "The way in which she and her husband feel about putting (Garrard) into conversion therapy, I wanted that to come from a place of a mother thinking it’s the right thing to do," Kidman told Entertainment Weekly about playing Garrard’s mother.
"Nothing that she did was vindictive, which is probably why they have such a strong relationship now."
Conley is campaigning to have conversion therapy banned and hopes his story will help expose the horror of ex-gay groups and conversion therapy programs. He told The Guardian that he receives weekly letters from people who have found strength in the book.
“This kid sent me this beautiful letter about how he found my book in his local library and couldn’t bring it home because his parents would see it, so he would read it in small increments until he finished it,” he said.
“It was one of the most beautifully written letters I’ve read. He said, ‘I think I’m going to get through this, but it’s just really hard and I don’t know how to.’ It made me sob, so I sent it to my publicist, and she sent it to my editor and they decided to send him all these books, with a note to say it had been won in a sweepstake. Every book had a gay character in it, but it wasn’t obvious – you couldn’t tell from the blurbs.”
The movie also stars Aussie pop star Troye Sivan and Canadian actor Xavier Dolan and is due to be released on November 2.