BAFTAs backstage: Oscar frontrunners Casey Affleck and Kenneth Lonergan on ‘Manchester by the Sea’

Casey Affleck (“Manchester by the Sea”) won Best Actor at the BAFTAs Sunday but his main Oscar rival, Denzel Washington (“Fences”) was not in the running here. Without Washington in the race, Affleck was the overwhelming favorite and prevailed over, among others, the British actor Andrew Garfield (“Hacksaw Ridge”). And, as expected, his film’s director Kenneth Lonergan won the Original Screenplay award.

BAFTA Awards 2017: Full list of winners

Affleck, effortlessly cool and the definition of chilled, had fun with a question about Matt Damon dropping out of the film, thus allowing him to take on the role of Lee Chandler. “Matt who?” he said, allowing time for the room to laugh before continuing, “I feel very grateful to him for allowing this opportunity to happen but in truth, I mean, he drops out of a lot of movies – most movies. Kenny was the one who gave me the opportunity anyway.”

The actor was also asked about the atmosphere of the awards ceremony, where politics were brought up in many speeches, and whether that atmosphere (which has been present throughout this entire awards season) will continue into the Oscars: “I hope it does. There’s a big audience; these awards shows have a lot of people watching them and I have to say I’m very proud to be a part of the arts community and I don’t always say some of the things I want to say in those opportunities because I feel like there’s people like Meryl Streep who can say them better than I can. If they’re going to be said, they should be said well because they’re very important.”

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Affleck continued, “I saw Meryl Streep after this show – she was standing around taking pictures of people and I said to her – that was weird – I said, ‘Ms. Streep, are you taking a video of me?’ She said ‘yes!’ And I said ‘great!’ [at this point, the entire room was laughing along with Affleck at this anecdote] And I told her how much her speech at the Golden Globes meant to all of us and how grateful I was that she did it and kicked in the door a little bit and said ‘it’s okay to talk about these things. And she said ‘I think that there’s hope around the corner and this is going to lead to something great.”

Given that Affleck may well have to give another acceptance speech, I asked him he was preparing yet for the Academy Awards. “I’ll probably just talk about Kenny; he’ll be on standby. I won’t really prepare anything. We’ve been with this movie since January talking about it, over a year.”

Added Lonergan, “Am I now going to start composing Oscar speeches? I’m going to write Casey’s. But, you know, it’s very nerve-racking; you don’t know if you’re going to win anything and you don’t want to look like a fool if you do so it’s not lack of humility, it’s just you don’t want to be a nervous wreck so, yeah, you gotta prepare a little something.”

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