Joel Edgerton, Nicole Kidman and Troye Sivan at the Toronto International Film Festival. Picture: Ernesto Distefano/Getty Images for Westbank And Focus Features
Joel Edgerton, Nicole Kidman and Troye Sivan at the Toronto International Film Festival. Picture: Ernesto Distefano/Getty Images for Westbank And Focus Features

Edgerton on the problem working with Kidman

JOEL Edgerton has opened up about the awkward conversation he had with Nicole Kidman on the set of Boy Erased.

Edgerton wrote the screenplay, starred in and directed the movie which follows the son of Baptist parents who is forced to take part in a gay conversion therapy program.

Russell Crowe, Troye Sivan and Lucas Hedges also star in the film, and Edgerton told news.com.au why he initially found it hard to direct a Hollywood star like Nicole Kidman.

 

Nicole Kidman plays Jared’s mum, Nancy, in Boy Erased.
Nicole Kidman plays Jared’s mum, Nancy, in Boy Erased.

 

"On a work level, everything that Nicole does is worth putting in the movie," he said.

"I remember one day thinking, 'Nicole probably thinks I'm terrible because I don't say anything to her.' And so I said to her, 'I just want you to know that if I'm not saying anything to you in-between takes it's just because what you do always hits the centre of the dartboard. I don't want you to think that I don't have anything to say to you.' And she said, 'No, you should tell me things still, I want people to direct me.'

"It said a lot about demystifying Hollywood movie stars, like they've got it covered and you shouldn't direct them," Edgerton, 44, said.

"So then I found myself throwing Nicole these cryptic directions … and it would always just shift her performance in a little way and I just loved that relationship with her to be able to throw ideas in her head."

Edgerton praised not only Kidman's performance in the film but also her conduct on set.

"She's so warm, so easygoing," he told news.com.au.

"Nicole doesn't disappear to her trailer and waste time. She would just sit on the set on a sh*tty couch in a weird, backward hotel and wait for the next shot and would laugh at my jokes. Nicole made me feel like I was the funniest guy in the world.

"Maybe she does this with every director," he joked.

Boy Erased is based on Garrard Conley's 2016 memoir of the same name. Edgerton met up with Conley and saw photos of his parents and instantly felt that Kidman and Crowe were the right actors to portray them on the big screen.

 

Russell Crowe plays a Baptist pastor in Boy Erased.
Russell Crowe plays a Baptist pastor in Boy Erased.

 

"I had to go through proper channels because I don't have Russell or Nicole's phone number. Well, I do now," Edgerton laughed.

"I'd met them both a few times but it was just as nerve-racking I think as if I was going to reach out to George Clooney or anybody else that was a hard-hitter in Hollywood.

"It baffled me how quickly they read it and then how quickly they signed on to it. I remember distinctly a phone call with Russell where we were talking about it at length and at the end, because I've only directed one other movie and I don't know how these things go, I said, 'This is great talking to you. You go away and think about it but I just want you to know, I'd really like for this guy to be you.' And Russell on the other end of the phone goes, 'Well mate I wouldn't be talking to you if I didn't want to do it.'

"I hung up the phone and I'm thinking, 'Oh sh*t, now I think I've got my cast. Now I've got no excuse.'

"Then the terror sets in," Edgerton told.news.com.au. "Because Russell and Nicole, they're the two who held the machete and cut the path through the forest to Hollywood, two of the strongest ones. The idea of then having to direct them was a little bit nerve-racking but it didn't end up being so."

 

Joel Edgerton stars as Victor Sykes, the man who runs the gay conversion program.
Joel Edgerton stars as Victor Sykes, the man who runs the gay conversion program.

 

Edgerton quickly bonded with both stars on set, in particular Crowe who became his drinking buddy on a few occasions.

"I definitely got stuck into it with Russell a few times," Edgerton said. "He's definitely got a better constitution than I do. I remember one night Russell going, 'I think you've had enough mate.'

"On the last day we shot a scene at a basketball stadium and Russell finished early and said, 'When you're done come back to my trailer.' Me and Lucas and my producer … and a couple of other people sat in his trailer for four hours just telling stories, listening to music and drinking tequila."

Boy Erased has been getting rave reviews with TheWrap writing, "Boy Erased is a good movie and also an important one, one that might save lives if enough young people find their way to it".

Edgerton is hoping the film will shine a light on gay conversion therapy, with a recent report claiming there are 10 organisations in Australia currently that offer the service.

"They hide under these euphemistic banners and I suspect it's because they think they're right, but they know that the rest of the world maybe has an opinion that it's shameful," Edgerton said.

"They're sort of hiding. They're not taking out ads in newspapers, it's really just a guy like my character in the film who will go around to all the churches in a state and the neighbouring states and go, 'Listen, we know this comes up time and time again, children saying that they're gay. Bring them to me and I'll fix them.'"

He's hoping the film will be a wake-up call to any parents around the world who are considering sending their kids to one of the programs.

"On one hand it's an identifier for young people to go, 'I'm not alone; here's a story I can identify with.'

"The other side of it is for parents, to educate parents about what someone else went through and the decisions they've made and how in the aftermath of that they realised that maybe they'd made a mistake and they're both evolving in their own way.

"It's a great conversation starter," he said.

 

Boy Erased is in cinemas November 8



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