Manchester by the Sea: Lucas Hedges Should Get Supporting Actor Nomination

November 20, 2016:

Manchester by the Sea, a highlight of the 2016 Sundance Film Fest, has just opened theatrically to rave reviews and good box-office (in limited run right now).

While the entire cast, headed by lead man Casey Affleck and secondary character Michelle Williams, is excellent, the most striking performance in this tragic portrayal of loss is rendered by Lucas Hedges.

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Lucas Hedges as Teenager Patrick

Casey Affleck’s performance as the grieving father-brother is matched by Lucas Hedges, who plays Patrick, his teenage nephew.

Even though he has lost his father and had been abandoned by his mother, Patrick is in many ways a typical teenager. At 15, he has a good life that he just wants to hold onto.

“He’s in a band, he’s on the hockey team, he’s got everything he loves in Manchester, including two girlfriends,” says producer Matt Damon. “Joe was his primary caretaker. He was a great dad, but he’s gone and the kid still needs a father as he tries to figure out the future.”

With a resilience forged by the difficult circumstances of his upbringing, Patrick is as eager to get on with life as his uncle is to avoid it. “He’s a teenager who is hurting and he’s got his guard up,” says Walsh. “He doesn’t quite comprehend that anybody’s life matters outside of his own. That’s the gist of the arguments between Lee and Patrick. They are unable to meet halfway.”

Lonergan saw many young actors for the part before casting Hedges, who has already appeared in a handful of prestigious films including Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel. “Lucas is just super talented,” says Lonergan. “He’s incredibly sensitive and really nice to be around. It’s a tricky role and he brings tremendous emotional life to the part. Patrick has been through a lot in his life, but it hasn’t broken his spirit. He has a certain buoyancy that Lucas embodies naturally. He’s also a smart ass. He’s tough, he’s totally relentless and really funny — all qualities it was thrilling to watch Lucas discover in himself and bring to life. It’s not just a talented kid acting natural for the camera. It’s a beautiful, detailed character turn from a very young actor; something you don’t see every day.”

Hedges’ father, writer Peter Hedges, has known Lonergan for over 20 years from the New York theater world. “Apparently I met Kenny when I was 2 years old,” says the actor. “I was in a stroller. It’s the coolest thing that 16 years later, I’m in one of his movies.”

But Hedges didn’t have to resort to nepotism to get the part. “My agent sent me in just like everybody else,” he says. “Patrick was the last major role to be cast. I had four or five auditions before they asked me to come up to Boston and read with the entire cast. Kenny offered me the part on the train ride back to New York.”

Although Patrick is clearly in need of a father figure, it’s not clear that Lee is up for the challenge. “Patrick just wants love from Lee,” says Hedges. “He had a great relationship with his dad and he wants the same with Lee. He also wants to keep this life that he’s been living. He loves his home and friends. In many ways, his life is good.” But Lee is desperate to get back to Boston, disrupting Patrick’s education and social life. “When Lee arrives, he’s like a robot,” says Hedges. “He doesn’t have emotions any more. Patrick tries to bring him some humanity by joking and making fun of him. When Lee doesn’t give him what he wants, Patrick gets mad and fights back. It’s unfair to take him out of his home and bring him to Boston.”

Affleck is one of Hedges’ acting heroes, according to the young performer. “I respect him so much. He doesn’t care what people think. He’s here to work. I appreciate the way he talks to colleagues and the ownership he took of his role. He showed me that a movie is ultimately the director’s vision, but the actor can have his own influence.”

Hedges’ enthusiasm for working with Lonergan is just as profound. “I’ve worked with writer-directors before and they are usually better at one thing or the other,” says Hedges. “Kenny is the best of both. He is one of the few screenwriters and playwrights working today who writes the way people talk. The dialogue sometimes overlaps, which I had never seen before. Not everyone speaks in monologues. Kenny captures the messiness of real life.  “And as a director, he spent so much time with me working out why I say something or how a scene should be played,” he continues. “He wanted go behind the scenes with me to explore Patrick’s past, his memories and insecurities, why he does what he does.”

Hedges says he realizes he may never get another role as full and rich as Patrick Chandler. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for someone my age to play a character so well developed and well written,” he says. “There’s no way to know if it will ever happen again, so I’m grateful to have this chance. Joe Chandler, the man who sets the film’s action in motion, is a salt-of-the-earth family man who has raised his son on his own, knowing that he has a heart condition that will likely put him in an early grave. With his last act, he tries to bring together the people who mean the most to him, in an effort to save them both. “He has tried for years to help Lee,” says Walsh. “By putting Patrick in his care, he is forcing his little brother to come out of his shell inch by inch. It’s a very loving way to try and help Lee get over his depression and his loss.”