The town was called Manchester until 1989, when resident Edward Corley led a highly controversial campaign to formally change its name to Manchester-by-the-Sea. The action was passed by the state legislature that year.
According to an interview with Kenneth Lonergan on DP/30, the idea for the film didn't originate with him - the main core of a character going back home to take care of a family member after a death was pitched to Lonergan by Matt Damon and John Krasinski as a script that Lonergan would write and for Damon to direct; but, due to scheduling conflicts with The Martian (2015), Damon couldn't direct the film or star in it. (He was considered for the role of Lee that Casey Affleck was cast in.) Lonergan was then given free rein as a writer-director for the project, with Damon as producer.
Matt Damon was initially set to direct and star in the film. Back in 2011, Damon, concerned about Kenneth Lonergan's 'horrible limbo', wanted to do something nice for his friend. So he sat in Lonergan's Manhattan apartment and pitched him an idea for a script about a New England handyman who ends up with custody of his dead brother's teen son - a story Damon thought would be right up Lonergan's dark alley. The idea for Manchester by the Sea actually was hatched by John Krasinski. Krasinski shared his nascent pitch with Damon over dinner in 2011 during the filming of The Adjustment Bureau (2011) (in which Damon co-starred with Krasinski's wife, Emily Blunt). They actually grew up a few bus stops from each other in Massachusetts - Damon in Cambridge, Krasinski in Newton. Damon liked Krasinski's idea so much, he considered not only starring in the film but also making it his directorial debut. They wasted no time heading to New York to pitch Lonergan. Embroiled in his Margaret (2011) troubles (the film was being held up from release by a lawsuit filed by producer Gary Gilbert, who was demanding a shortened re-edit that Lonergan was refusing to make) and committed to other stage projects, it took Lonergan a couple of years to get a first draft written. By then, Damon's schedule had filled up and he'd had second thoughts about directing the project, although he still wanted to star in it. Lonergan, meanwhile, finally had seen movement on Margaret (the film had a limited release in 2011; the court case was settled in 2014) and was starting to think about stepping behind a camera again. "He came back with this 150-page draft. It was too long, but it had everything that was in the movie." Damon urged Lonergan to make Manchester by the Sea (2016) his next directing job. Even with Damon still attached to star and produce, financing was hard to come by. And then, another blow: Damon had to drop out as the lead because of a slew of other commitments that would have delayed production for years. He recruited childhood friend Casey Affleck to take his place.
Matt Damon and Casey Affleck continuously discussed how deeply connected Lee remains to Joe, even though he isolates himself from the rest of the world. His brother's last act is an attempt to have Lee reengage with the world.
A few scenes from Casey Affleck's character involving the aftermath of the tragedy were cut from the film. The scenes not shown involve Affleck being talked to by his brother in the hospital and being put on a suicide watch.
Kenneth Lonergan was going to cut the confession scene, but after Casey Affleck explained the importance of why his character chose to not drive the car and that he put a log on the fire because didn't want Randy's sinuses to dry out, Lonergan kept it in the film.
Kenneth Lonergan includes one of his past parenting experiences with his own daughter in the script. He lost his temper with his daughter who had lost something and a passerby across the street said, "great parenting" to him and Lonergan yelled back. In this film, Lonergan has a cameo as the man who heckles Lee for his bad parenting.
Not burying the departed until spring is true in some cases and mostly depends on the cemetery. In most cemeteries you can get by this with a steam shovel, however in older cemeteries those aren't permitted and it's required to wait for warmer temperatures.
With the support of Casey Affleck, the scene where meat falls out of the freezer was filmed past 1 A.M. and cast and crew went into triple overtime to capture the sensitive and emotionally gripping scene with Lucas.
While reading the script for the first time Affleck had an emotional experience saying, "It's unusual for me to be so moved by a first read. When I finished, I walked around wondering why I was crying. I read it again and I cried again. I met with Kenny the next day and we talked for an hour. I walked out thinking, gosh, I hope I get this."
Due to budgetary constraints on the shoot, there would often only be enough time to shoot one particular angle of a 2-shot for example, thus ruling out any reverse angles for the sequence. Director Kenneth Lonergan would therefore have to decide which angle would be the most important one to shoot.
Kenneth Lonergan stated that he got bored with the original draft quite quickly. After six to eight months he threw out everything and restarted the movie with Casey Affleck shoveling snow. However, after seeing and loving the footage of Casey going out to sea on the boat it was edited to the beginning of the film.
Turning off Highway 128 and entering Manchester, one can pass by the church, cemetery, fire station, police station, and school, all of which are memorable past events in Lee's timeline. The drive encompasses why Lee can't bear to go home because it's associated with terrible or wonderful memories.
Traditionally, the previous year's Best Actress Oscar winner presents the current year's Best Actor Oscar (and vice versa: the previous year's Best Actor winner presents the present year's Best Actress Oscar). Since Brie Larson had won the Best Actress award at the 88th Academy Awards (for her performance in Room (2015)), Larson wound up presenting Casey Affleck with his Best Actor Oscar for Manchester by the Sea at the 89th. Many journalists covering the ceremony noticed that her reaction to his win was muted, and during his acceptance she stood with her hands by her sides while others applauded Affleck and some (though not all) of the audience gave him a standing ovation. Larson later confirmed to Vanity Fair magazine that her comportment was a deliberate statement of her displeasure at Affleck's win; Larson has been an advocate for victims of sexual assault, while Affleck was charged with various counts of sexual harassment, assault, and intimidation during the filming of his movie I'm Still Here. In the intervening year, there was a grassroots movement that petitioned the Academy to disallow Affleck from presenting the Best Actress Oscar at the 90th Academy Awards in March 2018. In January 2018, multiple news outlets reported that Affleck had withdrawn from his traditional presenting role; an Oscars spokeswoman confirmed that report and said, "We appreciate the decision to keep the focus on the show and on the great work of this year."
The role of Patrick was the last to be cast. Although Lucas had an advantage due to his relationship to Kenneth Lonergan, he had to audition four to five times before traveling to Boston for a final read with the entire cast. Lonergran offered Lucas the part on the train ride back to New York.
When Lee and Patrick drive up to the house after coming back from the hospital, it was intended to do a reverse shot, but the look Casey gives to the empty room tells more without giving away too much.
When Patrick opens the freezer in the kitchen, you can see Gardein products in the door. Gardein makes vegan meat substitutes. The film's lead, Casey Affleck, is a vegan and might have been involved in the placement of the products.
Lucas Hedges' father, writer Peter Hedges, has known Kenneth Lonergan for over 20 years from the New York theater world. Lucas Hedge says, "Apparently I met Kenny when I was 2 years old, I was in a stroller. It's the coolest thing that 16 years later, I'm in one of his movies."
The movie was to be set in Manchester by the Sea, but director/writer Kenneth Lonergan suggested Gloucester after being there several times in the past. Once the crew arrived and saw the setting it was unanimous that this is where the film would be shot.
The scene where Lee and Patrick talk to George about the boat maintenance was meant to be filmed outside, but it started snowing. The cast and crew moved inside the small space to film. The pressure on all three of actors is intense and the small space emphasized that profoundly.
The skating rink where Patrick's hockey practice takes place was so authentic that barely any changes were made to it. Dejong states, "It's a beautiful vintage rink with wooden bleachers. It has a lot of texture and beautiful natural light."
Kenneth Lonergan found it difficult knowing where to place the scene when Patrick is dropped off at school in the film, but also considers it his favorite because his daughter Nelly is in it wearing a blue hat.
At first, Casey Affleck disagreed with Kenneth Lonergan's vision for his character to have an accent, but after learning that the characters would not speak in the same way and that Chandler would have a small accent, Casey came to agree.
The scene of Michelle driving up in her car was very well prepared given the technical requirements of working with a fire. The cast and crew filmed as many takes as much house they had left to burn, but inevitably ended up using the first or second take for the movie.
Kenneth Lonergan found out details about the drive from Manchester High School to hockey practice in Gloucester by speaking to the vice principal. These details express why Lee is anxious to be the first one to tell his nephew about his dad.
Producer Kimberly Steward was inspired by her parents' success to become an entrepreneur herself. She launched her first business, an event and bridal planning service at the early age of 19. In 2013, she formed K Period Media.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
The scene where the paramedics try to roll the stretcher in the ambulance and fail was not scripted. The actors including Casey Affleck actually briefly struggled to get the stretcher in, but Kenneth Lonergan decided not to cut it.
In April 2017, a married couple, Heather and Ernest Franklin, from Upstate New York were charged with murdering their adopted disabled son and burning their house to the ground, in order to destroy any evidence against them. It was alleged by the prosecution that they were inspired to carry out the act, just hours after having seen 'Manchester by the Sea' in their local movie theatre.
The scene where Lee loses his brother and then learns he has custody over his nephew is the first scene shot. Judging by the performances, the director Kenneth Lonergan knew the rest of the film would be in good shape.