Director and Oscar-winning writer Kenneth Lonergan's relationship with Manchester-by-the-sea
Location, location, location
Manchester by the Sea writer and director Kenneth Lonergan picks up the Academy Award for best original screenplay. He shares why the Cape Ann town was the ideal location for the Oscar contender
"The movie's about people who take care of each other in the face of terrible adversity," said Kenneth Lonergan as he picked up the Oscar for best original screenplay for Manchester by the Sea. It was almost as though the producers of the 89th Academy Awards knew the New Yorker would win. Lonergan shared the stage with presenters Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, who were more than just Hollywood BFFs — Affleck's brother Casey (also a big winner of the night for best actor) filled in the film's lead role, while Damon served as producer. "The whole thing started with you, Matt Damon," thanked Lonergan in his acceptance speech.
Set in the North Shore of Massachusetts, the six-time Oscar nominated film tells the story of a janitor, Lee, who returns to his hometown after the death of his brother — only to learn that he's named guardian of his nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges). This prompts Lee to face his delicate past, and, simultaneously, his estranged wife Randi (Michelle Williams). The stories of the past and present intertwine, as the relationship between Patrick and Lee is developed. Apart from the Oscars, Manchester by the Sea has picked up two BAFTAs and a Golden Globe.
1. Inspiration by the water It was the atmosphere of Cape Ann which inspired Lonergan in the process of making his third feature film. For four months, Lonergan and the crew immersed themselves in Manchester-by-the-sea's offerings. Growing up in the Bronx, the area differs in its tranquility. Known for its scenic landscapes and limitless natural beauty, Manchester-by-the-sea - the small town that served as both the set and namesake of the film — has been an artistic motivator for many filmmakers, all of whom have credited it as a source of creative awakening. Remember the Alaskan cedar shingle and stone mansion that belonged to Ryan Reynolds' character in The Proposal? It was shot in Manchester-by-the-sea, with the mountains, green pines and lighthouse faked by the film's set designer.
"It was very cold at first, but very beautiful. In Cape Ann you are never far from water," Lonergan said. "I loved being by the ocean and inlets all the time; I loved shooting on the boat, and in the marinas, dockyards and houses in Manchester, Gloucester and Beverly."
2. Home of lobster rolls
In Manchester by the Sea's production notes, Lonergan spoke fondly of the lobster rolls he sampled during filming. The ones from The Clam Box in Ipswich were a hit. "The best lobster rolls I've ever had," wrote Lonergan of the roadside stop that was founded in 1935. "The Clam Box lobster rolls were literally twice as good as the next best lobster roll I've ever had, and I have had a lot of first-rate lobster rolls. I have no idea how this can be true, but it is."
3. Bird-watching opportunities
During filming, Lonergan stayed in a house in Annisquam, which overlooked a little cover off the Essex River. Describing the house as a good spot for bird-sighting and planet-watching, the writer-director gushed about watching a swan around the cove in early spring.
See the major winners at the Oscars below.
BEST PICTURE Moonlight
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE Emma Stone, La La Land ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
DIRECTING Damien Chazelle, La La Land
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE Mahershala Ali, Moonlight