A Note From Director Joel Edgerton
I first met Garrard Conley at a Brooklyn cafe on a cold afternoon in February
2017. Since that first day, the goal of this film has always been to bring raise
awareness about the harmful effects of conversion therapy and to give Garrard's
personal story its true justice on screen.
As a child, my greatest fears and foundations for my early nightmares was any
situation that took away my freedom: War, prison, cults, alien abduction or
being separated from my parents. These prospects also became the foundation for
my simple prayers as a young boy introduced to Catholicism.
As a film watcher and maker, these stories still strike their chord in me.
That fear of loss of freedom was the thing that drew me to Boy Erased when my
producer Kerry Kohansky-Roberts suggested I read it. And sure enough, it was all
there - but there was something more. That something more made me want to take
on Garrard's story and bring it to the screen.
His story of injustice, this memoir that laid out the catalogued his loss of
freedom, the judgments he faced, and his struggle for acceptance was infused
with so much love, the pain that came from deep love, and a great confusion. The
very real life drama that exists when people's agendas are completely opposed
and confused. And, yet, among it all an incredible predicament lay at its
center... no-one who opposed Garrard was trying to be a bad person. Everyone
believed they were doing the right thing.
So, driven to visualize Garrard's story I tasked myself with honoring it
truthfully. I was determined to take into consideration every characters
position and beliefs. No painting people as villains where they were not. It
felt too easy and dishonest. No doubt, given the events framed in Boy Erased
certain days were going to be difficult and emotional for cast and crew but it
was important for us to stay in the space of honesty and its truth. The journey
would be worth it because, ultimately, Garrard's real life story landed in a
place of hope. Foremost was his own evolution and drive to forge his own
identity and future, despite opposition... and as a result, those around him were
forced to face an evolution in a positive direction. He in his own right has
As part of my early interior world as mentioned above, it made sense that One
Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest became one of my favorite films. Interesting to note
that while the film was made in '75, the book was written in 62, five years
before the banning of lobotomies in the United States. That novel, like
Garrard's memoir was shining a light on questionable practices. We have made the
film at a time when the unsanctioned practice of conversion therapy still exists
across the country.
If we do our job with this movie, we have the chance to create a bigger
discussion about something that needs awareness. Conversion therapy, in general,
takes many different forms. It's in hundreds of different countries. There are
many different iterations of it. Some of them are religious-based, some secular.
Some of them combine psychotherapy. The one constant in all of this is that
conversion therapy is incredibly harmful.
But like all prison stories and institution films, at its core, it is about
the desire to be free. For freedom itself in all forms is about acceptance. It's
not just for those that have been exposed to conversion therapy in their life
but also their families. I hope that this message really resonates with parents
who are dealing with their own problems of acceptance towards their children.
Sexuality is not a choice or something that can be fixed or learned, fortunately
acceptance is something that can.
This process has taught me so much about loving others and in turn about
myself. It brought me in contact with the most incredible amount of passionate,
open-minded and loving people. It has opened my eyes and heart to different
worlds that I didn't know existed. It made me reevaluate my sense of faith and
reinforced my commitment to acceptance. As audiences watch Boy Erased, I hope
they can physically feel how much passion went into this project. That even
though we may be different from one another, the one intrinsic human emotion we
share is love. Love will always prevail, love will always win and that is what
this film is all about.
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