In the midst of a pivotal career moment, Troye Sivan is trying to get at the truth. A supporting player in Boy Erased—Joel Edgerton’s adaptation of a memoir by Garrard Conley—the Australian singer-songwriter earnestly admits to the learning curve involved with his first prominent onscreen role. “I just haven’t done as much [acting] as I have music. So, I was really, really nervous,” he tells Deadline. “I just wanted to make sure that we were telling the story in the right way.”
The artist’s anxiety makes sense. “The script was great, and it meant something,” Sivan says. Loosely adapted from Conley’s own story, Boy Erased follows Jared (Lucas Hedges), a closeted young man torn between his sexual identity and his faith, instilled in him by his southern family. Outed to his parents, Jared is forced to participate in gay conversion therapy along with other adolescents—suffering deeply, while connecting all the more with the person he truly is.
To Sivan, representing the memoir authentically wasn’t only about honoring Conley, and the experiences that changed his life. Telling a “truthful, accurate story,” he believes, is “the best way to make any real change,” arriving at a “real, tangible result.”
At a moment in time when gay conversion therapy is legal in 36 states, Sivan knows that making a film like Boy Erased is one way to facilitate progress, eliciting empathy and raising awareness where there is none. At the same time, there are many stories to be told, and as many ways to go about telling them. In “Revelation”—a song he wrote for the film with Jónsi (of Sigur Rós fame)— Sivan’s truth shines all the way through.
With Boy Erased, were you first approached as an actor or musician?
I wasn’t really approached. I auditioned for it, and thankfully, Joel really liked my self-tape. That was what got the conversation going, and got his attention.
What attracted you about the notion of working on this film in multiple capacities?
I wanted to be involved in the movie in any way that I possibly could. First of all, I was so happy that I got the part as an actor. That felt really exciting and fresh to me. Then, once it was confirmed that I was going to be in the film, I was like, “Any music that I’ve already written, you guys can have. If you want me to write new stuff, I’ll do it. I just want to be involved in as many ways as I possibly can, because I think this story is so important.” So, that kind of informed everything. I just threw myself at the project.
The cast for this film is remarkable eclectic, featuring prominent international filmmaker Xavier Dolan, your director and a young Oscar nominee. What was it like occupying a space amongst this group?
This cast is the craziest bunch of people in the whole world. It’s full of so much talent. We’ve got Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Nicole Kidman, and Joel, and Russell Crowe. To be surrounded by all of these people was obviously inspiring, work-wise. But I think the thing that was most inspiring to me was the way that everyone so wholeheartedly threw themselves at this project because of what it stands for, and what it has to say. That was really, really nice.
What kind of process did Edgerton take you through, early on?
There were a couple of weeks of pre-production where we all got together. People were going off and doing fittings, and getting their hair done, and stuff like that. But we were also just spending a lot of time together, talking and reading source material from the actual booklets that people would get when they arrived at one of these camps. We really immersed ourselves in the location and the wardrobe, and spent a lot of time working through that stuff to the point where, on set—going to the same place every single day, wearing the same outfit with the same people, hearing those same kinds of speeches—it started to have a very real weight and impact.
How did “Revelation” coalesce?
First, I really threw myself at anyone that I could—producers, Joel, the composers for the film, whoever. I just kept telling everyone, “I want to write a song for the movie.” I ended up going off and writing like five songs that I sent to Joel, and none of those felt quite write. Then, I heard that Jónsi was working on some of the music, so I went and met Jónsi for coffee. I heard that there was a scene in the movie where Jónsi had started this little piano thing, but didn’t know where to go melodically or lyrically, or anything like that. So, Joel sent me the scene—a rough cut with Jónsi’s piano—and I started writing lyrics. It was so helpful to have this place to begin, and the song just really flowed.
What was your initial reaction, watching that rough cut? Lyrically, what was the seed of your idea?
It was this really beautiful scene, one of the few moments of relief in this movie. There’s this really sweet, romantic, pure gesture. That was a starting point—lyrically, I was exploring the idea of, “Here, Jared is having this really intense experience, that feels really right—and God doesn’t strike him down. The sky doesn’t fall on him.” That moment being a revelation to him, and that person being a revelation to him. It really is. It’s kind of this liberation where you realize, “Maybe I’m not so wrong after all. Maybe these feelings aren’t so wrong after all.”
What do you hope people will take away from this film?
One of my favorite things about this movie is, it hosts a genuine conversation between the viewer and the film. No one is really vilified. I think it really does hold your hand and show you, these are parents who really, really love their kid—and because they really love their kid, they want to send their kid to conversion therapy. That’s where it starts, and then the whole thing plays out, and you realize how wrong of a move that is, but in a really gentle way. I’m hoping a parent can watch this and it’ll prevent them from putting their kid through something similar.
Looking back now on your experience with Boy Erased, what did it mean to you?
My big goal in life is to keep things interesting for myself, in the hope that that’ll mean it’ll be interesting for other people, as well. This felt like something that fit so perfectly with who I am as a person, what I’m trying to achieve, but also felt equally as surprising, as far as a project to take on. It just felt really exhilarating, and it was pushing me in all the right ways. And at the same time, it felt completely comfortable. That, I think, is sort of the stars aligning.
How do you imagine your career as you look forward?
I have no idea where I’m going to be or what I’m going to be doing in five years, 10 years, and that feels cool to me. But I want to keep going. I want to do more acting and make more music for film. It felt like a real pivotal moment when I got the part, and I’m hoping that it sets me on a new, interesting path for myself.
You’re currently touring with your latest album, Bloom. What has your experience on the road been like this time around?
It’s interesting to shift gears. Last night, I was on stage and then today, I’m here talking about the movie. That’s been a weird thing that I haven’t had to really do before. But I’ve just had the time of my life on tour. It’s been so much fun. The shows have felt really special. I think the thing as well is, it’s kind of the reason why I’m doing this movie, is so that I can see more of what I get to see at my shows every night. I look out into the crowd and I just see this group of happy, open, free people who have come to really love themselves, and love each other, and it just gives me such hope and such drive. I’m hoping that the movie is going to amplify that and spread that wider.
What does the album say about where you are in your life?
Oddly enough, in contrast to the film, I feel I’m at this place in my life where I’m most open with myself and with the people around me, and it’s led to me being just really, really happy. I’m in a really great place and feel very lucky and grateful to be where I am. I’d never really written happy music before and I wanted to see what that would sound like, and what this time of my life sounds like. That’s kind of what the album is.