Brooklyn kid now a star in supporting roles & lead
Lucas Hedges excels, first in squash & baseball, now on Broadway & in Hollywood
If you’ve seen a fair number of films in the past few years, and have been paying attention, you’ve noticed the presence of Lucas Hedges. Starting with “Dan in Real Life” (directed by his father, Peter Hedges), the 20-year-old Hedges followed that debut with roles in two Wes Anderson movies — “Moonrise Kingdom” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” — then moved on to his Best Supporting Actor Oscar-nominated, break-out performance in Kenneth Lonergan’s “Manchester by the Sea” (where he more than held his own opposite seasoned pros like Casey Affleck, Kyle Chandler and Michelle Williams). In 2017, he made his stage debut as the lead in the off-Broadway production of “Yen,” by playwright Anna Jordan. As with his film performances, Hedges received rave reviews and won the Theatre World Award for Outstanding Off-Broadway Debut performance.
He’s currently in theaters with two new films: Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut “Lady Bird,” where he plays a sweet, musical comedy-loving geek with a secret; and Martin McDonagh’s dark comedy “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” where he plays Francis McDormand’s supportive, but rattled, son. With 10 feature films behind him and two in post-production (including Jonah Hill’s directorial debut “Mid-90s”), Hedges is slowly but surely earning in his spot in the line-up of famous Brooklyn-born movie stars.
Hedges’ has solid very Brooklyn roots: He grew up in Brooklyn Heights, excelling at squash on the courts at Heights Casino and playing baseball at Van Voorhees Park in on the Cobble Hill border, where every time he hit a home run the ball would land on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. Graduating from St. Ann’s School, he has taken a break from studying theater at the North Carolina School of the Arts to focus on his film career.
In addition, Hedges’ Brooklyn Heights roots go deep: His maternal grandmother Narcissa Titman, who Hedges acknowledges as a major influence on his life, is one of the Heights’ foremost cultural mavens.
Recently I spoke by telephone with the engaging Mr. Hedges, who was on location in California for his newest film “Boy, Interrupted.” The following are edited excerpts from our conversation:
Editor’s Note— This Q&A contains Lady Bird spoilers.
Brooklyn Eagle: What do you look for in a screenplay? What makes you want to take a role?
Lucas Hedges: First and foremost, I look for something that moves me. And that challenges me. The kind of character who stays with me after reading the screenplay. Who I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about.
Eagle: [SPOILER ALERT] About midway through “Lady Bird,” your character Danny has a surprising, and moving, revelation scene with [Saoirse Ronan, the Irish actress who plays Lady Bird]. The delivery, the timing and the pauses are all so beautifully calibrated. Did Greta give you a lot of direction for that scene?
LH: During rehearsal with Saoirse and then during the actual shooting of the scene, there was quite a bit of discovery for me about my character. The great pleasure of working with Greta is being with someone so eager to get your input, to listen to your ideas. That was liberating — and empowering.
Eagle: Do you think that’s because Greta herself is an actress?
LH: Yes, absolutely! I think she wanted to create the sort of atmosphere on set that she likes working with herself when she’s an actress. An open, collaborative environment that encouraged all of us — within, of course the parameters of the script — to take chances, to be fearless. We knew Greta had our backs.
Eagle: After you’ve finished shooting, how long does a character stay with you, hang around, linger in your consciousness?
LH: (Laughing) …I’ll paraphrase John Patrick Shanley, a writer whose work I admire. He’s said that where he goes as a writer, when he’s writing a play or a screenplay, is the same as what he goes through as a human being. There’s no disconnect. I feel the same way about acting. I’ve played some conflicted, complicated characters, but life itself is full of conflicts and complications. So my persona as an actor, no matter what character I’m playing, is drawn from my real-life experiences. There’s not that major of an adjustment — “coming out” of a role and going back to “real life.” Often, the demarcation line is fairly seamless.
Eagle: I’m told you were a very accomplished squash player. Do you still play? Any other sports that you play?
LH: (Laughing) I grew up playing squash at the [Heights] Casino. I love the game and I still play it regularly. In fact, it’s the only sport I do still play on a regular basis.
Eagle: No more home runs that land on the BQE?
LH: (Laughing) Unfortunately, no. But I do miss those games!
Lucas Hedges can currently be seen in A24’s “Lady Bird” and Fox Searchlight’s “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
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