Joel Edgerton hopes his new movie Boy Erased becomes 'redundant'

Joel Edgerton is hoping his new Hollywood film – his second as writer, director and star – will quickly become irrelevant.

The drama Boy Erased centres on a gay American teenager forced to go through so-called conversion therapy, the traumatic practice of trying to "cure" or "fix" homosexuality.

While it seems a throwback to a more narrow-minded past, a new report by La Trobe University and the Human Rights Law Centre reveals the practice continues to be promoted in the messages and teachings of many churches, mosques and synagogues in Australia.

And in the US, only 14 of 50 states have legislation protecting young gays and lesbians from largely faith-based attempts to change their sexual orientation.

Edgerton hopes conversion therapy will soon seem as outdated as the lobotomy in one of his favourite movies, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

"You always hope your films will live forever," he said before the Australian premiere in Sydney on Monday night. "But I kind of hope Boy Erased is a redundant movie.

"It would be great if it was redundant now or in a year, or in five years time that there's no point even watching this movie. That it's a museum piece."

"You definitely need laws to protect people": Joel Edgerton who is writer, director and star of Boy Erased.

“You definitely need laws to protect people”: Joel Edgerton who is writer, director and star of Boy Erased. Credit:James Brickwood

Edgerton, who has acted in such high-profile movies as Midnight Special, Loving and Red Sparrow since directing the 2015 thriller The Gift, adapted a memoir by Garrard Conley for Boy Erased.

It tells the story of how, as a 19-year-old college student with deeply religious parents, he went through conversion therapy in 2004.

"It was this incredible family story based on confusion and opposing beliefs," Edgerton said. "A boy who was born a certain way, who was never going to change, butting up against his father's belief that you couldn't be born that way and that there was a way of changing you."

Edgerton endorses the recommendations of the La Trobe University report that include new state laws banning conversion therapy against minors and preventing health practitioners, social workers and teachers from engaging in the practice.

Based on a memoir about the trauma of gay conversion therapy: Boy Erased.

Based on a memoir about the trauma of gay conversion therapy: Boy Erased.

"You definitely need laws to protect people," he said. "Beyond that, legislation doesn't shift personal opinion … There are laws that say you can protect the rights of LGBTQ people yet people still infringe upon that so I think it's about awareness and understanding.

"All change happens slowly but walking back freedom laws under the banner of religion sends out the wrong message."

Edgerton plays the counsellor running the program, with Lucas Hedges as the gay student and Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe as his parents in a movie that opens on November 8.

It shows that Edgerton and his brother Nash, who directed the movie Gringo and the TV series Mr Inbetween and is executive producer of Boy Erased, are continuing to become forces behind the camera.

"I have this ideal plan in my head that I'd do a movie every three or four years behind the camera then have the rest of the time working for other people and pinching good ideas from the directors I work with along the way," he said.

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