Manchester By The Sea, the gripping drama with an indie film sensibility, has captured Hollywood’s attention in expected ways, and its “it” couple — Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams — made an appearance together at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival to remind Academy Award voters why.
The two actors, who are both nominated for Oscars in the film, were honored by the festival with its Vanguard Award.
During the program — a lengthy on-stage interview punctuated by film clips from their careers — they charmed the audience packed into Santa Barbara’s historic Arlington Theater.
A child actor who got her first big break as a regular on the iconic teen TV show Dawson’s Creek, Williams reminisced how she then made the transition to indie film with her role in Station Agent.
Asked if she knew during its production that both she and the film would receive critical acclaim, she said: “You never know. After 20 years I still ask myself after shooting a scene, ‘Was that ok?’ It’s not until you see a film with an audience that it becomes clear the film or performance has resonated.”
Affleck recalled how he was instrumental in bringing to the screen Good Will Hunting, the film that scored breakthrough performances for brother Ben Affleck and childhood friend Matt Damon.
After having made his first feature film with Gus Van Sant, Gerry (2002), which he both starred in and co-wrote with Van Sant, Affleck was asked by the director whether he knew anything about a film project that had crossed his desk, written by a Ben Affleck. “Oh, yeah. He’s my brother,” he recalled.
“So, I put the whole project together and all they gave me was this tiny part,” he joked.