The first time writer-director Kenneth Lonergan collaborated with Matt Damon, it resulted in Margaret – a lengthy dramatic film that languished in an editing battle for almost five years. Eventually surfacing in 2011, it had an extremely limited, though critically successful run. Now, Lonergan is readying his return with a new project, titled Manchester-By-The-Sea, and it seems Matt Damon was keen to climb aboard for the lead role.
The story will see Damon as a Boston plumber whose brother sadly dies. In the aftermath, he finds himself having to care for his 16 year old nephew, although a tragic secret from his past threatens to get in the way. Wider casting has yet to be announced, though it should be noted that Lonergan’s previous two directorial efforts – 2000’s You Can Count On Me and 2011’s Margaret – both featured Mark Ruffalo and Matthew Broderick, so it is not beyond the realms of possibility that they might appear here, too.
Perhaps the most curious aspect of this story is the fact that pre-production is apparently set to begin on Monday, although technically, Oddlot Entertainment (Drive, The Way Way Back, Rosewater) have yet to officially sign on the dotted line to produce and finance the picture. One imagines that a big part of the negotiations surrounds the final cut of the movie, which was the significant bone of contention between Lonergan and Fox Searchlight Pictures with regard to Margaret.
Allegedly, Lonergan was contracted to produce a 150 minute cut of the film, but rather opted for a three hour version. The ensuing legal entanglements saw lawsuits and counter-lawsuits filed, in addition to the experienced eyes of Martin Scorsese, Thelma Schoonmaker, Scott Rudin and Sydney Pollack being drafted in to finish the cut at various points.
Any suggestion of nervousness on the part of collaborators will hopefully prove unfounded, however, as Lonergan is certainly a filmmaker to watch. His 2000 directorial debut You Can Count On Me featured an Academy Award nominated performance by Laura Linney and, though massively delayed and somewhat divisive, his film Margaret ultimately landed on numerous ‘Films Of the Year’ lists for 2011. Indeed, once Oddlot commits to backing this team, Manchester-By-The-Sea will become a fascinating prospect indeed.