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How the real-life Arkansas mom from 'Boy Erased' lobbied for Nicole Kidman to play her (and got it)

·Senior Correspondent, Yahoo Entertainment
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Martha Conley surely never saw her family’s story being turned into a major motion picture, but she was ready with a casting suggestion when actor-turned-director Joel Edgerton (The Gift) showed up at her home in Arkansas with star Lucas Hedges and designs to adapt her son Garrard Conley’s memoir Boy Erased, about the time he spent a gay conversion therapy center in Memphis, Tennessee.

“I said, ‘Do you think you could get Nicole Kidman to play me? Because she’s my favorite actress,” Conley told Yahoo Entertainment at the film’s Los Angeles press day, where she was joined by the woman who ended up playing her: Nicole Kidman (watch above). “And he said, ‘I can try.'”

Kidman is now earning Oscar buzz for her role as Nancy Eamons, the mother whose quiet skepticism over the decision of her pastor husband Marshall (Russell Crowe) to place their 19-year-old son Jared (Hedges) in the secretive church-supported program LIA (Love in Action) eventually boils into distrust.

The Academy Award-winning Aussie insists she wasn’t aware, though, that Conley wanted her for her fantasy casting.

“Joel is Australian, and us Australians stick together,” Kidman said, only half-joking; other costars from Down Under include Crowe and social media/pop star Troye Sivian. “It’s interesting because I’d never worked with Joel. Our paths had rarely crossed… we have mutual friends. But Russell Crowe I’ve known since [I was] a teenager. And we’ve been really, really good friends our whole lives. And I think that comes across in the film.”

It all worked out for Conley.

“When [Joel] first told me, I thought it was a joke. And I said, ‘You know, that’s not even nice to tease me about that because she’s been my favorite for so long,'” she remembered. “And he said, ‘No, I mean she signed on the dotted line.’ So I went crazy.”

Boy Erased opens in limited release Friday and nationwide on Nov. 9. Watch the trailer:

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