To say Lucas Hedges has been busy would be a serious understatement. The fast-rising star — who nabbed a best supporting actor Oscar nomination for 2016’s “Manchester by the Sea” — is currently starring in three new films.
He plays a brutal bully in “Mid90s,” a gay teen whose parents send him to a conversion therapy camp in “Boy Erased” (a role that just earned him his first best actor Golden Globe nomination), and he plays the title role of a recovering drug addict fending off serious demons in “Ben Is Back.” That searing drama, which takes Ben on a wildly unpredictable and dangerous Christmas Eve odyssey with his mom (Julia Roberts), was written and directed by his father, Peter Hedges (“About a Boy”), and just opened.
If all that isn’t enough, Hedges, 21, is also co-starring on Broadway with Elaine May in “The Waverly Gallery,” a family drama by Kenneth Lonergan. He recently spoke by phone with Newsday contributor Joseph V. Amodio.
I’ve seen stories written about you and this anecdote that you wanted to steer clear of acting in your dad’s films. Why?
I don’t want to make it seem like I didn’t want to work on his movies. It’s something we always laughed about. But I never anticipated that he’d write the perfect part for me. And I feel like he did with this movie. And I thought, wait, actually, my dad gave me my love of film. I grew up visiting his film sets, and it was my favorite thing in the world to do. So I realized . . . there’s no one I’d rather share this with. It really felt like it was supposed to happen.
I gather you’ve known people — peers — who’ve struggled with addiction. Did you talk to them about it?
I spoke to people who lived it out in their own extreme ways. A lot of [my coming to understand this disease] was through observation, listening. I went to a lot of AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and NA (Narcotics Anonymous) meetings. Just trying to understand the cycle, the vicious cycle of what addiction looks like.
Julia Roberts told your dad she was really impressed by your work in “Manchester by the Sea” and really thought he should cast you as her son.
That was endearing. And definitely made it pique my interest even more.
What surprised you about her? Something you didn’t expect.
I think just how much she’s rooted her life in her family. She really doesn’t seem like a movie star — she just seems like a mother. I forgot, throughout our time together, who she was — she was just Julia. I found out she’s only left home to make a movie like twice (in the 14 years) since her kids have been born. She’s done everything else, I think, [by shooting films close to] home. Our film was only the second time she’d gone away, and . . . I thought that was really admirable. Somebody who can very easily get jobs anywhere in the world just wants to be a mother. Yeah.
After playing all these intense roles, your “Waverly” character must be a refreshing change of pace. He’s pretty together, a tender caregiver to his grandmother, who’s got dementia.
Yeah, I’m not carrying some insane trauma. In all honesty, the main reason I love to do [that play] is I just get to support Elaine May every night.
She’s an icon — a comedian, writer, director. And amazing to watch, repeating herself over and over again, hemming and hawing. She was so real I almost thought she had Alzheimer’s.
I have no idea how she does it. I think that has to do with all the time she spent doing improv. She’s almost incapable of doing the same thing twice. I don’t understand where that comes from.
“Waverly” will keep you inside this winter. I gather you and Julia Roberts were freezing while shooting “Ben” last winter in Westchester. It was mighty cold.
I’d watched a documentary on this guy named Wim Hof, who’s known as “The Iceman.” He climbed to Mount Kilimanjaro in his shorts using this breathing technique he developed. (Hof, a Dutch extreme athlete with an uncanny ability to withstand cold temperatures, has also climbed Mount Everest in shorts — and sandals.) I’d recently done some ice plunges —
Yeah. So part of me was really wanting to take on the cold, as some sort of way to come face to face with nature. I was all for it. I think Julia, coming from California, felt differently.
I imagine she might. Especially given all those outdoor scenes.
And in the middle of the night, too — it got very cold then. But I was hyped up on it, to be honest.