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Metro: In despair, Casey Affleck affirms his talent in Manchester by the Sea

screen-shot-2016-11-24-at-7-31-24-amBy Richard Crouse – Metro Canada

As a man thrown into the depths of despair in Manchester by the Sea Casey Affleck had to mine some deep emotional territory. He describes the process of playing a person who confronts his tragic past to working out.

“This is a bad analogy,” he laughs, “but it is sort of like you go to the gym. You warm up into it before you do your heavy lifting. So you start at the beginning of the movie and you’re getting into it. You spend an hour sweating and working out then you slowly come out of it.”

Affleck is the core of the film. He’s in virtually every frame and while understated he bristles with feeling. It is a tremendous performance that never fails into morbidity as he skilfully keeps he character alive, both physically and metaphysically. Every day is a struggle for him and he deals with his trauma the only way he knows how, with blistering honesty and by drinking and fighting to feel something. There is emotional truth in every mumbled line and letting that go at the end of the day was difficult.

“That is the experience I think most actors would describe having,” he says. “I don’t think it’s unique or particularly committed or brave of me. It’s what you have to do. You have to go there, show up on set and be prepared to play the scene with the right feelings, the way it is supposed to be. I’m just not good enough to show up in a great mood, say good morning to everybody, check in with the kids and read the paper and then walk into the scene and be believably gutted in the way he is supposed to be. He carries around all this guilt, he’s devastated and filled with self loathing so I have to start way back in preproduction and try to slip into these bad feelings and stay there for as long as I can.

“If you just showed up and tried to walk through it or do anything but give 100 percent you’d really look like a jackass. I didn’t want to do that no matter what. It was a hard movie to make but that is what I like about making movies. If you are just showing up and chit chatting and having fun, that is not what is satisfying about making movies. It feels really good to be somebody else and live in some character’s life even if their life is tragic. Then you come out of it.”

Manchester by the Sea isn’t just an exercise in Sturm und Drang. It deals with very real, very difficult human situations but does so with honesty and a great deal of unexpected humour and wisdom so not everyday on set was filled with angst.

“Some of the what you think would be harder scenes to do,” Affleck says, “we just started and finished. Did them really quickly.

“I would say the longest scene was when I come home to find her in the bedroom. It was one of the lightest, most pleasant scenes to do. Take my clothes off and straddle Michelle [Williams]. ‘One more please! Can we try something different here?’ That scene took a long time.”

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