Lucas Hedges is just 24 years of age but he’s already had the chance to work under directors including Wes Anderson, Jason Reitman, Terry Gilliam, Kenneth Lonergan, Greta Gerwig, Martin McDonagh and Steven Soderbergh. I recently spoke to him about his career to date and his latest performance in Azazel Jacobs’ French Exit…
Matt: Over the weekend, people were reminiscing on social media about the most bizarre moment in Oscars history when Moonlight won best picture and La La Land was read out incorrectly. You were there that night as a nominee for Manchester by the Sea sitting just a few rows back from the front. What’s your memory of how it all played out that crazy night?
Lucas: It’s so funny I was there and it was such a bizarre moment. I remember that everything was going to plan with La La Land winning and then I heard somebody gasp and I saw people running back and forth across the stage. It looked like something bad had happened but I didn’t know what. Then I heard one of the producers say “we lost by the way”.
The night itself up until that point felt artificial. There’s a lot of formality like not trying to step on each other and not getting make-up on each other’s shoulders. The Oscars look much cooler on person than they are in person if I’m being honest. However, that moment just blew a ton of fresh air into the room. Suddenly, every single person was part of a real experience and it was like we were all going through a traumatic incident together.
Matt: They often say that someone is only one great role away from making it in Hollywood and that felt like the case with your superb performance in Manchester by the Sea. Did it open doors as easily as you thought it might?
Lucas: It did but I didn’t appreciate how much of a “golden ticket” it would be. After Manchester by the Sea premiered at Sundance, I thought I’d be going back to drama school and keep studying but the world definitely had different plans for me. I started working a ton and I haven’t really stopped until the past year.
Matt: There are actors like yourself and Timothee Chalamet and Zendaya and Florence Pugh who breakout and go from relative obscurity to people who are Googled a thousand times a second by a knowledge-hungry public. We see it with professional athletes too. Is it easy to still be your natural self or is there pressure to put up some kind of “brand” of what people expect Lucas Hedges to be?
Lucas: I keep getting asked to play these very dramatic roles which is something I’d like to change but I think I’ve done a good job doing projects that haven’t pigeon-holed me too much. It’s a little weird the extent to which people around the world have a relationship with me before I have a relationship with them but that’s also part of the gift of being an actor. It’s nice being known.
People like Timothee and Zendaya feel like superstar-level pop stars at this point whereas my life is more quiet and reserved. That said, I haven’t been in public without a mask on for a whole year. I’ve almost forgotten what it’s like to be recognized which was happening regularly before COVID-19.
Matt: Leading roles are what many dream of but you’ve had the chance to play supporting to the likes of Casey Affleck, Saoirse Ronan, Frances McDormand, Meryl Streep and now Michelle Pfeiffer. What do you see as the secret to creating a great supporting performance?
Lucas: Wanting to be there. I’ve got to love the story I’m in and want to be a part of the movie. I don’t think it’s possible to be good in a movie you don’t want to be in.
Matt: I remember the late Peter O’Toole speaking at the Oscars about how he would draw energy from working with young actors. Without making you sound too egotistical, do you ever get that feeling yourself – that these experienced, iconic actors love working with you as much as you love working with them?
Lucas: I’ve gotten a sense from some of them that I’m fun to work with. Others are more self-sufficient and self-contained and I haven’t felt like I was a huge disruption or inspiration to their acting process. But yeah, I’ve also been good to the extent that I’m in awe of them and that makes it more fun from their perspective to be around me.
Matt: Here in French Exit you’re playing Malcolm Price – a young man sticking by his self-destructive mother who is burning through money and doesn’t seem to have any plan. It’s a very unusual relationship between parent and child and I’ve love to know how you’d describe the connection these two characters share?
Lucas: I think they have a very codependent relationship. Malcolm was sent to boarding school and wasn’t raised by his parents until he was 13. I don’t think he thought of himself as a “real” person and he had no one to validate his existence. His mum then comes into his life and is like a shooting star across the sky.
Despite how bizarre and self-destructive Frances is, she becomes the basis of his life. The two are inseparable to the point when she runs out of money and moves to Paris, he chooses to go with her instead of his fiancé because she feels more real to him than his life independent of her. I think it’s a story of codependence and awe and falling in love with a way of being that reflects a child’s dependence on his mother.
Matt: Your role is one that doesn’t require a lot of dialogue. It’s as much about reacting to Michelle Pfeiffer and her character’s eccentric way of doing things. How do you approach that as an actor? How do you how you to react and carry yourself in those scenes?
Lucas: I did and I didn’t know. I loved the writing so that’s what showed me the way but there were still question marks about the character that I didn’t fully understand. I was willing to accept that because I loved the story so much. To answer your question, what guided me most was the moment-to-moment storytelling laid out so beautifully by writer Patrick deWitt and then the thoughts of our deeply sensitive director Azazel Jacobs.
Matt: And I’ve got to ask – you’re working with one of the best here in Michelle Pfeiffer who picked up a Golden Globe nomination for her performance. Do you have a favourite memory or a favourite learning from the experience?
Lucas: The thing that stands out most about Michelle is how much work she puts in and how these days were built on her back. She carried us every single day without complaining once. It was as if she was as quiet as an extra and it was amazing how little space she took up. She knew what she had to do and she just did it.
Matt: We know COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the film industry and movie theatres. How has it been from your perspective as an actor?
Lucas: I live a pretty isolated, hermit-like lifestyle anyway and so it hasn’t changed my life that much. I’ve missed going to movie theatres. I can’t speak to how it’s changed my life as an actor because I haven’t found a project I wanted to do and I haven’t worked during COVID-19. I do hope to be on a set soon and to find a project that feels right.
Matt: The Golden Globes are today, the Oscars are coming up next month. What have you liked over the past 12 months that you’ve love to see honored?
Lucas: I loved The Dig with Ralph Fiennes and Carey Mulligan. It’s incredible. I really liked Malcolm & Marie and I thought Zendaya and John David Washington were great. Those two stand out to me.