Casey Affleck on Finding a Character: “It’s such an internal and complicated and still mysterious process”

Actor Casey Affleck

“The fun part for me is endlessly talking about why does he do this, or why does he do that, or why doesn’t he? I really get into that.” – Casey Affleck on Rehearsing

The Hollywood Reporter recently did one of the magazine’s regular roundtables featuring actors who have been named in awards press. One of the featured actors is Casey Affleck, star of Manchester By the Sea. Manchester By the Sea appears to be the “little movie that could” this year. The low-budget, heartbreaking story of an uncle who becomes the guardian of his teenage nephew after his brother’s death isn’t as flashy as other Oscar contenders, but it is carried by the outstanding performance of Affleck.

Though Affleck turns in the performance of his career in the film, the role was originally intended for his friend, Matt Damon, who was also planning to direct Manchester By the Sea. Though Damon was originally supposed to play the role, Affleck confesses that he didn’t speak with Damon about how to approach the character. He says, “Matt was going to direct that movie and then he decided not to. That happened long before we started the movie. And I can’t really talk — I don’t know how you guys feel, but talking to other people about a part is not helpful for me. It’s such an internal and complicated and still mysterious process. It’s almost all inside. And it was hard [emotionally]. Three times a week I’d show up and have to stand over someone who’s your dead relative and try to be authentically in that place. It broke me into a place where it became much easier to do all of it.”

Affleck also said that he doesn’t do much rehearsing, though he did on Manchester By the Sea and found the process more helpful since it was a low-budget movie. He explains, “On this movie — because Kenny [Lonergan, the writer-director] came out of a theater background — he wanted to rehearse a lot and talk about it. The fun part for me is endlessly talking about why does he do this, or why does he do that, or why doesn’t he? I really get into that. [But] on movies that are small like that, with a low budget, you don’t feel like you have enough time. So sometimes we would only have time to shoot half the scene, or the whole scene just played on one person. So you spend a week working on that scene and [are told], ‘We’re not going to shoot that half of it.’ That’s OK. It still holds together, which is a testament to Kenny knowing which sacrifices to make and which not to make, and knowing which limbs to cut off and the thing could still live.”

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