Oscars: 'Manchester by the Sea' Star Lucas Hedges Talks Wanting to Find Love Onscreen and in Real Life

Manchester By the Sea Lucas Hedges Still - Publicity - H 2017
Claire Folger/Roadside Attractions

"I've never done a true love story which would be awesome. But then again I don't think I've had a true love story, even in my own life," says the breakout actor.

Hedges is making his Oscar debut for his role as Casey Affleck's nephew, Patrick, in Kenneth Lonergan's Manchester by the Sea, but there's already a past nominee in the family: His dad, screenwriter Peter Hedges, was nominated for adapting Nick Hornby's About a Boy in 2003.

At 20, Hedges is the youngest acting nominee this year. He's currently performing in the off-Broadway playYen, but took a quick break to speak with THR about carving his own path.

What were your first conversations with Lonergan about?

I came in with a very emotional interpretation of a few of his scenes the first time we met. Right off the bat, he was like, "Look, we have no idea how this kid's going to react to the loss of his father, so why don't you just try playing this scene like it hasn't affected you at all, like it's just any other day." A lot of the initial talks and directions he gave me were about just getting out of my head and literally playing the scene.

In what ways are you similar to Patrick?

I share a deep love with my father. My dad has been one of my greatest allies and closest friends, and that's true of Patrick. Patrick is somebody who has a million friends. In high school, I made friends with people in every social group. Or at least that's how I perceived it. I thought they liked me. Maybe they didn't! (Laughs.)

What was one of the tougher scenes for you to shoot?

The hardest scene actually ended up being the easiest. For two straight days I was terrified of it and anticipating that I would fail if it didn't go right. It was the freezer scene where my character has the nervous breakdown. In the stage directions, it's written that he has a panic attack. I called a friend and asked for advice, and my friend said, "Why don't you just not talk to someone for an entire day and see what that does to your emotional inner life?" The scene just ended up taking care of itself because I was so torn up inside for not having spoken to anybody for a whole day. It ended up just flowing really easily and got better and better with every take. 

What was your favorite scene to shoot?

I loved the scene where I’m having dinner with my girlfriend Sandy, my blond-haired girlfriend, and we’re eating pasta and then Patrick compliments the mom on how amazing the pasta is. For whatever reason that scene was just so much fun to film. It’s just a really genuine side of Patrick to be really complimentary, but he’s also just kissing her ass.

As an actor how important do you think it is to work in theater and in film?

As much as I love doing film there’s only so much you can learn from a film shoot whereas doing a piece theater every day before you start a play and after you completed a run there’s so much you can take technique-wise, craft-wise, spiritually as well. I feel like it's like my training and I hope to return to it consistently throughout my career. I feel like it’s the best way to get better and to grow. But obviously I love film so much and doing film. In an ideal world it would be a balance of both.

Do you have any advice to people who want to get into acting?

I definitely believe if you love to act than you will be, if not already are, great at it. If you don’t love it and have ulterior motives it just might not be the right thing for you. I encourage anybody who loves acting to just keep acting and keep working. I would say there’s no difference between training and putting in the hours to get better in acting and learning to love yourself. The more you learn to love yourself, the better actor you will be. That’s always going to be my training. Every part is, how can I learn to love myself more?

When your dad was nominated for an Oscar for best adapted screenplay for About a Boy, did you get to go to the show?

I remember taking a trip to California with my mom, my dad and my brother. But we were staying at my dad’s close friends house while they went to the ceremony. I fell asleep early that night so I didn’t watch. I was in the second or third grade. I remember thinking of it as the greatest thing that could have ever happened to my dad. I grew up in a film-loving family. We watched the Oscars every year. My favorite thing in the whole world was film. The Oscars obviously was the holy grail. I’ve also grown up my whole life getting Academy screeners. You get all the movies from the year to watch. Currently I’m living at home, but if I stay here much longer then we’re going to get two sets of Oscars screeners coming every year! (Laughs.) That’s one of my favorite things about this whole thing, I’m going to have a whole stash of movies.

Who are you looking forward to meeting the most on Oscars night?

I would love to meet Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Michael Fassbender, I’m assuming Alicia Vikander is going to be presenting for best supporting actor. I would love to meet her. I think she’s amazing. I still haven’t met Damien Chazelle. And Ryan Gosling, he’d be a cool one to meet too. That’s my shortlist right now.

If you could set the seating chart who would you sit next to?

Oh my God, that's so cool! This is so cool. In a dream world I’d get to sit next to, but he might not even be there, Eddie Redmayne. I’d love to sit next to Eddie Redmayne, I think he’s awesome. Or Andrew Garfield or Dev Patel. I just named three young English actors. (Laughs.) But still, I love them all.

Have you received advice from anyone about what to expect on Oscars night?

I think it’s just one of those nights, where it’s a world you’re going to have to experience yourself. I think I’m just going to experience it. I look forward to collecting stories of my own and memories that I’ll pass down to my children of whatever awkward encounters I have with Leonardo DiCaprio by the water fountain. (Laughs.)

Any advice for host Jimmy Kimmel?

He’s got maybe the greatest opportunity any comedian has ever had this year. Dave Chappelle for his opening monologue on Saturday Night Live I thought it was a brilliant mix of tragic humor. It would be awesome to see Jimmy go in that direction, really have some deep hitting jokes. When there’s an opportunity for that it’s the most meaningful kind of humor, especially at times like these.

Now the Oscars host always picks on the nominees.

Oh my God! That would be the greatest honor and privilege to be made fun at the Oscars. To have it cut to your face laughing. Are you kidding me? That’s like the coolest thing in the world. I hope that they make fun of me!

What type of project or role would you like to tackle next?

I’d love to do a love story. I’ve never done a true love story, which would be awesome. But then again I don’t think I’ve had a true love story, even in my own life. Maybe that’s something I want to explore in my own life first. (Laughs.) That or I always wanted to be in a sports movie. I grew up loving baseball and to be in a sports movie with an ensemble of really special young actors would be a dream.

Who would be in that cast and on that baseball team with you?

Good one!

You can pick the baseball coach and a few people on your team.

I love this other young actor named Timothee Chalamet, whom I just did a movie with [Lady Bird.] He just had a movie blow up at Sundance [Call Me by Your Name] I think he’s just a brilliant actor. As well as this kid whom I’m doing the play with right now, Justice Smith. I know that he hates sports so he’ll never do a sports movie. Joel Edgerton would be an awesome coach. That’d be cool. 

A version of this story first appeared in a February standalone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.