Golden Globe-winning actor Casey Affleck, 41, stars in Manchester at the Sea, a story about a brooding loner whose life takes an unexpected turn when he’s named guardian of his nephew after the sudden death of his brother. An unlikely candidate to parent a teenager, this socially awkward handyman is grieving over the loss of his children, all of whom died tragically.
In real life Affleck is the younger brother of his high profile sibling, Ben, and has appeared in numerous films including To Die For (1995), Good Will Hunting (1997), Ocean’s Eleven trilogy, and The Assassination of Jesse James (2007) Gone Baby Gone (2007) and Aint Them Bodies Saints (2013).
This was an amazing performance, probably the performance of your career. Can you talk about the journey?
Well, it was so well written that I immediately connected with it. And I shared the script and anyone who read it felt the same way and understood what these people were going through. And the other acting around me was elevating me. People like Michelle (Williams) make me better and so I felt very supported by all the other elements, and then what I had to do was make myself find some genuine misery and self-loathing and stay there so that I could either lay down in it or try not to touch it as much as possible.
It was very realistic. Was it hard to go home at night and shake it off?
Yeah. You sort of stay in it mostly the whole time. It’s like going out into the ocean and sometimes you are totally underwater and you are overwhelmed by it and sometimes you are just standing there and sort of splashing water around on your ankles. But you are in it the whole time. And what a luxury it is to be able to do that because you are allowed to show up on set and be in a terrible mood and really be that way. Sometimes that means you are just cranky and uncomfortable but everyone understands.
In this movie your relationship with your nephew is at the centre of the story. In real life your brother Ben has three kids. How do you view your role as an uncle?
Well you don’t have to be a parent exactly, but you are still an important model in that person’s life for many things because they see their parents love you and their parents pay attention to you and kids usually do as their parents and so they look up to you too, so you have to be a role model. But you don’t have to be a disciplinarian and you don’t have to be sending them to bed and all of that stuff. You kind of get to be just adored and never have to be the bad guy. And the relationship isn’t so fraught with a sense of responsibility and so sometimes I get in trouble as an uncle (laughs) but all in all it’s your job.
How is your relationship with Ben? Is it different now that you’re both fathers and in your 40s?
Well, I mean having kids changes everything. So both of us being parents, it’s like someone just turned the lights on in life and it’s like you become more sensitive to everything and you see everything differently and you just feel differently about everything. But he and I have just been always very close. Sometimes you have gigantic fights and sometimes your sibling is the only person that you want to talk to and so both having kids, it’s nice to be able to relate to that important person about being a parent. And you can compare those things. And it’s nice that he is also in the same business. I know people who are close to their siblings but their sibling runs some company overseas and they never see them. But he and I tend to run into each other and we understand what the other person is doing. When he says, ‘I am at a press junket,’ or, ‘I am on set,’ you know what is going on with them.
Playing a handyman, I was wondering how handy are you around the house?
(laughs) Well, I am not available to fix anything if that’s what you’re asking. I wouldn’t be the best handyman but if I had to figure it out I would probably. Some days are easier and it would be more fun to be fixing someone’s plumbing than acting in a scene.
How are you at small talk? Your character needs some lessons.
He is not good at small talk. Yeah, that is a nice observation (laughs). He is task oriented, like, ‘What do I have to do to get through this moment?’ But am I good at small talk? Killer. No one makes small talk like I do. (laughs) Just all day, inconsequential nothingness. (laughs) If I have to I guess, I find it easier to make small talk to avoid having to talk about certain things. So that is just the way that I am.