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Joel Edgerton to Direct and Star in Gay Conversion Therapy Drama ‘Boy Erased’

Recent Oscar-nominated breakout Lucas Hedges will lead the movie as author Garrard Conley.
By  · Published on June 13th, 2017

Recent Oscar-nominated breakout Lucas Hedges will lead the movie as author Garrard Conley.

Distributors are currently fighting over the movie adaptation of Garrard Conley’s memoir “Boy Erased,” according to Deadline. The script was penned by Joel Edgerton, who is also producing and is set to direct and star alongside Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea).

The book is about Conley’s time at the camp Love in Action, which aims to “cure” LGBTQ youth. He grew up in a small town in Arkansas and was outed as gay at the age of 19 to his parents, one of whom is a Baptist pastor. You can imagine what ensued: Conley was sent awat for conversion-therapy. However, the experience did the opposite of its intention, inspiring Conley to embrace his identity instead of repressing it and trying to pass as heterosexual.

The movie, then, deals with the coming-of-age of a young gay man (Hedges) in a conservative town and the difficulties that come with being coaxed by everyone to suppress that identity. It’s an important story to be told.

There’s talk of Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman playing the parents, while Edgerton has cast himself as the head of the camp. Edgerton’s last directorial effort was 2015’s The Gift, which he also wrote, produced, and starred in, and which ended up finding gradual success and acclaim. 

At first, the idea of making a movie adaptation of “Boy Erased,” which was just published last year, seemed insensitive. It felt like Hollywood was wasting no time to make a profit off of a person’s — and collective community’s — struggles. Upon further reflection, though, the timing makes sense.

This week was the anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting, a tragedy to the world and the LGBTQ community specifically. It has not been an easy year. For that reason, it’s a positive thing that Edgerton is wasting no time in getting the movie into production. After a stinging reminder that homophobia is still rampant, there needs to be a positive, inspiring story to be told to give this community something to hold onto.

Additionally, the hopeful casting of big stars and Academy darlings like Crowe and Kidman, along with an up-and-coming star like Hedges, who was Oscar-nominated this year, will likely bring both popular and critical attention to the adaptation. The movie promises a public discussion of the events depicted, hopefully igniting a series of important conversations that then lead to action and progress. There needs to be something to inspire a turnaround, and this movie may be it.

Movies have a profound impact on our culture, especially when they reach popular and critical acclaim. Films that have told important stories, such as Milk and last year’s Moonlight, have sparked public discourse and provided important cultural representation for marginalized groups. Boy Erased may add to that narrative and inspire filmmakers to tell more of these kinds of stories.

Among the potential distributors bidding for the movie are Annapurna Pictures, Focus Features, and the streaming outlets Netflix and Amazon (which put out Manchester by the Sea). Surprisingly no STX Entertainment, which handled The Gift. Wherever it lands, Boy Erased is scheduled to begin production in the fall.

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