It looks like this is being a busy awards season for Casey Affleck.
Ben Affleck’s younger brother has already won a Golden Globe for his performance in Manchester by the Sea, and is a hot favourite to win the Best Actor Academy Award.
In Manchester by the Sea, Affleck plays Lee, a man shocked to find out that he is the sole guardian of his late brother’s son, Patrick. Bonded by the man who held their family together, Lee and Patrick struggle to adjust to a world without him.
Casey spoke to loaded about this role, which Matt Damon was originally going to play and direct.
loaded: So firstly Casey, what attracted you to the role?
Affleck: I guess the idea of doing something with Kenneth Lonergan was very exciting, I like how he directs because he’s such a good director. He’s really good at notes and just very helpful with actors, and the part was incredibly complicated and I loved how there was so much emotion in the character but he didn’t come right out and talk about it, in a way.
loaded: We often hear that when actors take on a character, even if it’s a villainous character, they feel they can’t judge that character and have to love it. Did you love Lee? Did you get immersed in that?
Affleck: I always understood him and I feel like I don’t think of him as a villain in any way, definitely not. He seemed to me to be someone who is actually a wonderful caretaker and a very responsible person.
It’s all about other people. I thought he was someone who was disabled emotionally. The wound was so great that he couldn’t even begin to address it so he just kept it there and, you know, he couldn’t talk about it, he couldn’t work on it. All he could do was focus on the tasks right in front of him…I’ll fix this person’s toilet, I’ll fix this woman’s light bulb, I’ll go through my day, you know.
loaded: Because of the intense scenes, was it hard to leave the character at the end of the day? Would you sometimes go home with that weight on you?
Affleck: I mean, not in one of those sort of pretentious ‘call me by my character’s name’ kind of a thing. [laughs] I don’t do that but I feel like I’m also not quite good enough, I’ve seen other actors who turn it on and turn it off – I’m this guy and then I’m myself. I’m not quite that good so I have to more or less just sort of become, as much as I can, be the right personality most of the time. If you are spending 15 hours a day doing that anyway, you kind of fall into being that person. If I just pretend for a short while to be like somebody at a party, you know, you sort of end up feeling that way anyway. So it’s a certain amount, you just sort of absorb it.
So my going home was just go home exhausted and try and eat something and then fall asleep and wake up and go back. I sort of think back to the time and there were a lot of very hard scenes and it was sort of like in a fog of depression and sadness for a few months, you know, but it was also really satisfying. I love working that hard and I don’t usually have fun doing movies anyway. I’m there because I love it but it’s hard work and you’re sort of tortured half the time and then it’s over and then you feel good about it. [laughs]
loaded: Kenneth said you were really worried about the fire scene and you didn’t know if you would get there and cry?
Affleck: No, it was sort of the opposite, it’s that he wanted to have sort of a no reaction. The idea of the fire scene was that he shows up with these groceries and it’s sort of surreal vision of his house burning down and losing everything. The only thing that he can think to do is sort of hold on.
People behave in all kinds of ways so it seemed also very natural that someone might just stand there in shock. I would say other scenes were really hard, like when I showed up and there was Kyle Chandler on the slab dead, not that I cared that much about Kyle Chandler [laughs], no I do, I love him, but I knew that he was alive. Kyle’s okay. He ate lunch, everything is alright. [laughs] I just started crying when I walked in the room, because you sort of build yourself up to thinking about how you will do the scene and what would it be like in your own life and all that. And then I walked in and it was really emotional.
Also, the script is so good that I would start the day by just reading as much of the script as I could, not just the scenes I was doing, but just sitting there drinking coffee and just read through it all. And it would really be moving every time I read it. So it was helpful. So when I went to do that scene in the morgue I just started… I hugged Kyle, I leaned over and kissed him and I was crying and I wasn’t sure, I don’t think that’s what Kenny wanted, I think he wanted to have more of a kind of shock moment but I couldn’t help myself.
loaded: You scenes with Lucas Hedges are so great. He’s relatively new to this – but did you learn anything from him?
Affleck: I’m sure I did. A lot. Well, first of all I learned how far behind I am. If I had been that mature and self-possessed at his age…. he was really together, his mum was on set, but he was like a super pro. And he would take anything you gave him and roll with it. And I sure wasn’t like that. So I learned that about myself. [laughs]
loaded: You and Michelle Williams have such great chemistry and really do feel like a married couple. Did you two know each other beforehand?
Affleck: That’s nice. [laughs] She’s so extremely talented. I’m not really sure I even know Michelle Williams, I really just know this person. I’ve seen her at a few Q&As and stuff like this and I thought, “Who’s this? What kind of act is she putting on for the crowd? What is this nonsense?” And then I realised like, “Oh that’s the real Michelle.” The other one was Randi [her character] or whatever. She had that attitude. She was brash and kind of tough and she did a beautiful performance and she totally convinced me of it.
Thanks, Casey, for speaking to loaded. Manchester by the Sea is out in cinemas now.
Credit: Lucy Allen / HOT Features