“This is a story of human bravery…” hmv.com talks to Michelle Williams and Casey Affleck
Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, Gretchen Mol and Lucas Hedges star in this tough drama, which has been written and directed by Margaret's Kenneth Lonergan.
The movie follows Affleck’s Lee, who is forced to return to his sleepy hometown when his older brother dies and leaves him as the sole guardian of his nephew.
As hit drama Manchester By The Sea comes to DVD shelves, we sit down with stars Affleck and Williams to find out all about making this remarkable film...
Casey, you play a man who can’t seem to move past his grief whereas Michelle, your character manages to get on with her life after tragedy strikes…
Michelle Williams: “One of the things that struck me when I read the script is that the story is about human bravery, about people who chose to stay alive and how they stay alive. One shuts down and the other opens up. It’s interesting when they meet again at the end and try to talk to each other from very different places.”
Casey, how did you channel Lee Chandler, the character you play?
Casey Affleck: “Because the script was so well-written, you got the feeling of it right away. But it was a process that involved Kenny (director Lonergan) who helped flesh out why this character felt this way. For example, Lee Chandler does handiwork like plumbing because it’s a job he can start and finish without thinking about anything else. That kind of insight helped me to build the character. At the beginning of the film you see Lee at work and he’s busy doing various tasks. The minute he’s not busy, when he’s sitting at a bar alone with his thoughts, that’s when he starts a fight. Add to that thinking about the worst things that have happened in my own life – we all have tragedies – and it builds from there. You tuck those emotions in your pocket and pull them out when you go to play the scene. It’s not complicated or mysterious – you just try and feel sad and stay there as long as you can. Kind of the opposite of what you would do in ordinary life.”
One of the film’s most intense scenes happens when exes Lee and Randi Chandler (Affleck and Williams) accidentally meet up after many years. How was that?
Michelle Williams: “A lot of preparation went into that scene. A lot of anticipation as well as a lot of foreboding, I think, as perhaps Randi herself would feel. It’s likely the character of Randi imagined that scene happening time and time again what she would say and how she would say it. So maybe that comes across, I don’t know.”
Casey Affleck: “I think the character of Lee Chandler was dreading that meeting whether he knew it or not. His even being back in Manchester meant having to be in physical proximity to a place where painful things had happened. Randi is a reminder of all those emotions: guilt, sadness. There are other reminders, like the scene where he goes to get a job and people are obviously not going to hire him [because of his past deeds]. But when he comes face-to-face with the person he loved and had a family with – which he destroyed – I think it’s her kindness, Randi’s kindness – that’s the hardest thing to deal with. Randi forgives him but he cannot forgive himself.”
Did this film – with its incredible emotion - take on toll on either of you after the cameras stopped rolling?
Casey Affleck: “Not really. I’ve had other jobs where I didn’t do that much in a day and it didn’t feel that great at the end of the day. With this movie, some of those scenes felt like a full day of work. I did the thing I liked doing and I prepared myself for it and it was hard but I got through it. It certainly wasn’t a case of me spending a lot of timing waiting around. It felt pretty satisfying.”