Movies

It's all about the process for Casey Affleck

Casey Affleck, award-winning star of Manchester By The Sea, says accolades are not as important as the experience

Working with Kenneth Lonergan more than a decade ago was one of the defining moments in Casey Affleck's career.

He had hoped to get the opportunity to collaborate with the acclaimed US film-maker again.

When the screenplay for Manchester By The Sea - a drama Lonergan wrote and directed - arrived, Affleck had his long-overdue reunion.

"I read through it and I did not know what was coming," said Affleck, 41.

"And I stopped reading it, thinking, 'Is this something I want to do? Is this any good?' And then I read it again because I wanted to know what happened. And that was the power of it."

Affleck admitted he was not initially entirely sold on the project, but the memory of a couple of roles changed his mind.

"One of them was doing Kenny's play, This Is Our Youth, when I was in my early 20s. And that was just awesome," he said, adding that they became good friends who stayed in touch.

"And the other was doing (the 2007 film) The Assassination Of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. That was an experience where the material was complicated in the way I like it to be."

Many days I would come to the set and it would be hard scenes and a heavy subject matter, and I would spend most of the day feeling sad, and then I would come back and do it again. casey Affleck on filming Manchester By The Sea

And now, as Lee Chandler, a man who cuts himself off from life after suffering a family tragedy he feels responsible for, Affleck is a Best Actor Oscar front runner, after already bagging the Golden Globe and Bafta.

Manchester By The Sea - which opens here tomorrow - is regarded as one of 2016's best films.

EXPERIENCE

For Affleck, the most attractive part of the process is not the accolades, but the experience of making it.

He said: "I try not to watch the movies I have done because it changes the way I remember the experience, and I do not want that to happen.

"If you spend your life being an actor going from one set to the next, your life is a series of these experiences, and they cannot be suddenly tainted by, 'Oh that movie did not work out', so now it is a bad experience.

"I have been on movies that did not work out, but the experience was great. I learnt a lot, I made great friendships and I grew a lot. So that is the most important thing.

"The experience is the thing that counts, and whether the movie is good or bad or if people like it has to be secondary, otherwise you are subjecting yourself to a nightmare rollercoaster ride that is out of control and depends entirely on other people's opinions."

The original idea for Manchester By The Sea came from US actor-producer Matt Damon, who approached Lonergan to write the screenplay, and later direct the movie. It is Lonergan's first feature film since the critically acclaimed Margaret in 2011.

Manchester By The Sea is a heartbreaking study of loss and a family desperately trying to deal with their grief.

But there are moments of humour too, especially when Lee is trying to cope with being a surrogate father for his teenage nephew, Patrick (Lucas Hedges).

"Many days I would come to the set and it would be hard scenes and a heavy subject matter, and I would spend most of the day feeling sad, and then I would come back and do it again," said Affleck.

"And then there were moments when, mostly with Lucas, and a few with Michelle (Williams, who plays his ex-wife), where it was really funny - the writing is great and sharp. It does not feel jokey - it is my kind of comedy.

"You do not have to have a big and broad silly thing to make me laugh. I like this kind of humour more, when it is situational and it feels like real people."

Affleck is now directing Light Of My Life, which he also stars in and wrote.

He described the way he learns from directors he has worked with as "osmosis", saying: "It is not the kind of learning that happens in a classroom.

"Good directors are constantly pushing and stretching you, and making you uncomfortable and do new things, and you are not even sure you learned anything, but you come out a bigger actor."

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