In a Contenders’ Amazon Studios panel today, Moore and production designer Ruth De Jong spoke about the genesis of Manchester by the Sea, which has already earned Ben’s younger brother some Oscar buzz. The Sundance fest breakout, written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan, was picked up by Amazon Studios for $10 million, bringing the streaming service into the awards conversation.
In Manchester, Affleck plays Lee Chandler, a solemn, soft-spoken Boston janitor who must look after his nephew Patrick following the untimely death of the boy’s father, Lee’s brother. Placed in a situation he never asked for, Chandler finds in Patrick an unlikely comedic foil and partner in grief. The drama places Casey Affleck as a major force to be reckoned with in the Best Actor race, nearly a decade after his nominated supporting work in 2007’s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.
Initially conceived of by producers Matt Damon and John Krasinski, as Moore relayed, Lonergan was initially brought on to write the screenplay with the idea that Damon would direct or possibly star. When schedules changed, Affleck stepped in to take on the demanding role after Damon said he would surrender the role only for his old friend. “We’ve been big believers in Casey since Good Will Hunting,” Moore said. “He’s very, very talented, and the casting is all Kenny.”
“I think Kenny really is one of the greatest writers today about interpersonal relationships,” the producer said of Lonergan’s ability to capture life’s cruelties. “He’s just the master of it. A lot of people don’t actually have Hollywood endings – tragedy hits you, and sometimes you don’t come all the way out.”
Also during the panel discussion, moderated by Deadline’s Dominic Patten, De Jong spoke affectionately about developing relationships with fishermen and other locals who showed her the ropes, giving the film an air of realism.”I think the biggest thing we were constantly striving to do was create authenticity for Casey to exist, his character. How do you create those spaces to be real and not contrived?” Manchester by the Sea opens November 18.