Kenneth Lonergan’s family drama “Manchester by the Sea” premiered almost 10 months ago at the Sundance Film Festival and is still plowing full steam ahead into awards season. On November 17, the director was joined by the film’s stars, Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams, at a New York Times “TimesTalks” event, where the trio discussed Lonergan’s career, as well as the film’s development.
Contrary to the more traditional practice of casting extras or locals for smaller speaking roles, Lonergan instead cast trained actors – some even Tony winners – for those parts. Both Williams and Affleck relayed this seemingly minute detail to Lonergan’s appreciation for actors and their craft.
“At the time, I wasn’t even thinking about this, but now looking back, it’s a really, very beautiful expression of faith in actors and what they can do and what they’re capable of,” said Affleck. “Even for the tiniest role, he really invests a lot, and he casts real actors to come and play them.”
When asked about the influence of psychology on his work, Lonergan remarked that he’s more drawn to how different individuals’ psychologies relate to the bigger story, and finds the study reductive and limiting. He stated that he’s still interested in personalities and psychology, but doesn’t want to edit out the smaller moments of friction we encounter in everyday life.
“I’m interested in trying to recreate life, in some way, and I think there are a lot of ways to do it. The way I’ve been interested in for many years is through details and specificity and verisimilitude of psychology and behavior,” explained Lonergan. “The details of life that are often skipped over in films create tremendous drama in real life, and that’s my way in sometimes.”
Check out the full TimesTalk below.
“Manchester by the Sea” rolls into select theaters November 18, with a wide release currently slated for mid-December.