Lucas Hedges Talks Working With Julia Roberts on 'Ben is Back'

Lucas Hedges is arguably one of the busiest actors in Hollywood, starring in multiple blockbuster films since he was nominated for an Oscar in 2017 for Manchester by the Sea. His most recent film, Ben is Back, has already garnered award buzz.

Hedges plays Ben, a recovering drug addict who breaks out of sober living to reconnect with his family for Christmas. The only problem is that Ben has ruined every Christmas since he became addicted. Hedges shares the screen in Ben is Back with Julia Roberts, who plays his mother, Holly.

Ben attempts to regain his family's trust and make amends for the damage he's caused. Holly joins him on the journey, which exposes Ben's painful secrets and forces Holly to face the truth about her son.

Can you tell me what it was like to play a character like Ben?

In some respects, he's different than me. We're meeting him at a point in his life where he's made it hard for people to trust him through the actions he's taken in the past. When I'm surrounded by people who don't trust me, there's a part of me that starts trusting myself even less. It's harder to survive in a world like that. I think in many respects I'm a lot like him, but I'm surrounded by a much friendlier environment. It is an environment that I helped cultivate, but if you threw me into his world it would be much harder for me to survive.

Why do you think he left sober living in the first place?

I'm not sure if there's one main reason, but I think one can be that he gets so excited about his own recovery, his own sobriety. He gets this idea in his head… he starts to see the feast before his eyes, the cake, in the sense that he wants to show his family [he's better], he wants to be forgiven, he wants to show them how great he's doing. So he goes home early because he's so excited about where he's at.

How did you prepare for the role? Did you go to any Narcotics Anonymous meetings?

Yeah. I went to a lot of NA meetings and talked to a lot of people who lived similar lives as Ben. I wanted to understand the mind of recovery as well as the mind of relapse and addiction. It's just as much of a story about recovery as it is about addiction.

Lucas Hedges Julia Roberts Ben is Back
Julia Roberts and US actor Lucas Hedges attend the 'Ben Is Back' New York premiere at AMC Loews Lincoln Square on December 3, 2018 in New York City. Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images

Ben tries to come clean to Holly about something unforgivable he's done, but she doesn't want to hear it. Do you think that makes things harder for Ben? His mother won't listen to him.

Where most of my self-sabotage comes from is shame and I think that Ben feeling that he's done something unforgivable really feeds into the idea that there's something wrong with him and that makes him unforgiveable—either as a human being or through his actions. I think that that headspace and mindset is completely isolating. It takes him out of a place to be healthy and be heard. I'm not sure if it's that the world around him is making it harder. It has more to do with his relationship with himself than it does with Holly.

What was it like for you to work with Julia Roberts?

It was great. We got along very well and she let me stay at her house for several days just to get to know her, her family and her kids. I spent Thanksgiving with her. I felt she was very generous. I experienced her as a mother and the thing I keep coming back to is, what makes her such a great actress, is how rooted she is in her role as a mother in her own life. It gives her something to really fight for and it gives her a power greater than herself, a sense of something bigger than her. I came into contact with that in this movie.

What was the most memorable moment on set?

There's this moment in the church where I'm listening to my sister sing. I felt like it's such a stressful movie and I had just come from doing Boy Erased and I felt so much responsibility on my shoulders. In that moment, I felt like I just got to listen to her and let go of all expectations of myself, like I was going to be OK. It was an interesting parallel to the character's journey in that I think he feels the same way. That moment was really special to me.

Ben goes on quite a journey. Would you say it's a journey of redemption for himself and his family?

Definitely. Whether it's to redeem himself or to not be exiled by his family, it's all about some kind of redemption of his own status in the family. I think he really feels genuinely bad. He's an empathetic person. Possibly so much so that it's hard to be around people. But he really wants to do right by his family and I think that's true.

Do you have any advice for people who are in recovery?

One of the interesting things that I'm learning about recovery is that unsolicited advice can be very triggering in that I wouldn't just offer advice to an addict, but I have complete faith in the 12-step program. I would say go to a meeting and work the steps and find a sponsor. If you stay true to that you'll be good. It's a really great program.

Lucas Hedges Talks Working With Julia Roberts on 'Ben is Back' | Culture