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Kenneth Lonergan

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Kenneth Lonergan
Lonergan at the Vienna International Film Festival in 2016.
Lonergan at the Vienna International Film Festival in 2016.
Born (1962-10-16) October 16, 1962 (age 61)
The Bronx, New York, U.S.
OccupationFilm director, playwright, screenwriter
EducationWesleyan University
New York University (BFA)
Notable worksYou Can Count on Me
Manchester by the Sea
Notable awardsAcademy Award (2016)
BAFTA Award (2016)
NBR Award (2016)
NSFC Award (2000, 2016)
NYFCC Award (2000, 2016)
Satellite Award (2016)
(m. 2000)

Kenneth Lonergan (born October 16, 1962) is an American film director, playwright, and screenwriter. He is the co-writer of the film Gangs of New York (2002), and wrote and directed You Can Count on Me (2000), Margaret (2011), and Manchester by the Sea (2016). Lonergan is also known for his work as a playwright. His most noted plays include This Is Our Youth, Lobby Hero and The Waverly Gallery. Each also had a successful revival engagement on Broadway, which resulted in each play receiving a nomination for the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play.

Lonergan won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for Manchester by the Sea, for which he was also nominated for Best Director; he also earned Academy Award nominations for his screenplays for You Can Count on Me and Gangs of New York. He also won the BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay for Manchester by the Sea at the 70th British Academy Film Awards.

Early life and education[edit]

Lonergan was born in The Bronx, New York City to a psychiatrist mother and physician father. His mother is Jewish, and his father was of Irish descent.[1][2][3][4]

Lonergan began writing in high school at the Walden School, a now defunct, highly progressive private school in Manhattan with a strong drama program.[5]

His first play, The Rennings Children, was chosen for the Stephen Sondheim-founded Young Playwrights, Inc. Young Playwright's Festival in 1982 while he was still an undergraduate. Lonergan matriculated to Wesleyan University, where he trained as a playwright and director.[6] He graduated from the NYU Playwriting Program. He is an alumnus of HB Studio[7] in New York City. Lonergan is a founding member of Naked Angels.[8]

Government and commercial work

After graduating from NYU, Lonergan worked as a speechwriter for the Environmental Protection Agency. He also wrote industrial shows (long-play commercials) for clients such as Weight Watchers.[9]



Lonergan's first theatrical success came with the play This Is Our Youth (1996); it was followed by The Waverly Gallery (1999), based on his grandmother's Greenwich Village gallery, and later Lobby Hero (2002). His play The Starry Messenger premiered Off-Broadway in 2009 and starred his wife J. Smith-Cameron and Matthew Broderick.[10]

In August 2014, This Is Our Youth was revived on Broadway starring Michael Cera, Kieran Culkin, and Tavi Gevinson at the Cort Theatre. The play received a nomination for the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play.

In March 2018, Lobby Hero was revived on Broadway starring Chris Evans, Michael Cera, Brian Tyree Henry, and Bel Powley at the Helen Hayes Theatre. The play received a nomination for the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play. Cera and Tyree Henry were also nominated for their performances.

In September 2018, The Waverly Gallery was revived on Broadway starring Elaine May, Lucas Hedges, Joan Allen, David Cromer, and Michael Cera at the John Golden Theatre. The show received a nomination for the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play. Elaine May won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play.


Lonergan's film career began with his screenplay for the gangland comedy Analyze This (1999). He was subsequently offered a job writing The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle (2000).

Lonergan directed his own screenplay for You Can Count on Me (2000); the film, which was executive produced by Martin Scorsese, went on to receive and be nominated for numerous writing awards.[11] He contributed to the screenplay for Gangs of New York (2002). In 2005, filming took place for his second film as writer/director, Margaret, starring Anna Paquin, Matt Damon, Matthew Broderick, and J. Smith-Cameron. The film spent over five years in post-production, with Lonergan, the producers and various editors unable to agree on its final cut, resulting in multiple legal disputes. It was finally released in 2011.[1] Margaret ranked 31st in a 2016 BBC poll of the 21st century's greatest films.[12]

Lonergan wrote and directed Manchester by the Sea, which was released in 2016 to critical acclaim.[13] He also had a small part in the film, as a pedestrian. David Fear of Rolling Stone said the film proves that Lonergan is "practically peerless in portraying loss as a living, breathing thing without resorting to the vocabulary of griefporn."[14] He won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for the film.

Lonergan also wrote the BBC/Starz miniseries Howards End.[15]


Justin Chang of Variety noted that Lonergan is "always a superb director of actresses," particularly in Manchester by the Sea where the director "gives the women in his ensemble their due."[16]

Personal life[edit]

Lonergan is married to actress J. Smith-Cameron. They have one daughter, Nellie.[17][18]

In January 2020, Lonergan was appointed Visiting Fellow and Artist in Residence at Kellogg College of the University of Oxford.[19]

Lonergan's stepfather was Freudian psychoanalyst Michael S. Porder.



Year Title Notes
1982 The Rennings Children One-act
1993 Betrayed by Everyone One-act; would become This is Our Youth
1996 This Is Our Youth
2000 The Waverly Gallery
2001 Lobby Hero
2004 True to You One-act premiered at TriBeCa Theater Festival
2009 The Starry Messenger
2012 Medieval Play
2016 Hold On to Me Darling


Year Title Director Writer
1999 Analyze This No Yes
2000 You Can Count on Me Yes Yes
The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle No Yes
2002 Gangs of New York No Yes
2011 Margaret Yes Yes
2016 Manchester by the Sea Yes Yes


Year Title Notes
1994 Doug Episode: "Doug Throws a Party"
2017 Howards End Miniseries

Acting credits[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
2000 You Can Count on Me Ron
2004 Marie and Bruce Herb
2011 Margaret Karl
2016 Manchester by the Sea Manchester Pedestrian
2022 White Noise Dr. Hookstraten
2024 Ripley Herbert Greenleaf 4 episodes

Awards and nominations[edit]


  1. ^ a b Brody, Richard (March 15, 2012). "Kenneth Lonergan". The New Yorker.
  2. ^ Mead, Rebecca (November 7, 2016). "The Cinematic Traumas of Kenneth Lonergan". The New Yorker. Retrieved January 16, 2019.
  3. ^ Kra-Oz, Tal (December 3, 2014). "'This Is Our Youth' Portrays the 'Pathetic Remnants of Upper West Side Jewish Liberalism'". Tablet Magazine. Retrieved January 16, 2019.
  4. ^ "'Manchester By The Sea' Director Probes The Drama And Humor Of Grief". NPR. November 30, 2016. Retrieved January 16, 2019.
  5. ^ "Walden School at 73 Files for Bankruptcy" The New York Times, June 23, 1987
  6. ^ James Fisher (June 1, 2011). Historical Dictionary of Contemporary American Theater, 1930–2010. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 9780810879508.
  7. ^ HB Studio Alumni
  8. ^ [1]
  9. ^ Stephen Farber, "A Playwright in Pottsylvania," The Los Angeles Times, July 2, 2000.
  10. ^ Hernandez, Ernio. Cameron, Culkin, Hadary and More Will Join Cast of Starry Messenger' "[permanent dead link] playbill.com , September 18, 2009
  11. ^ "Kenneth Lonergan Awards" The New York Times
  12. ^ "The 21st Century's 100 greatest films". BBC. August 23, 2016. Retrieved December 10, 2016.
  13. ^ Lewis, Andy (November 24, 2016). "How Matt Damon's Almost-Directorial Debut 'Manchester by the Sea' Became Another Helmer's Comeback". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 10, 2016.
  14. ^ Fear, David (February 1, 2016). "How 'Manchester by the Sea' Became a Sundance 2016 Hit". Rolling Stone. Retrieved November 12, 2016.
  15. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (February 15, 2017). "Starz Boards 'Howards End' BBC Limited Series; Hayley Atwell, Matthew Macfadyen & Tracey Ullman To Star". Deadline. Retrieved February 15, 2017.
  16. ^ Chang, Justin (January 24, 2016). "Sundance Film Review: 'Manchester by the Sea'". Archived from the original on October 15, 2017.
  17. ^ Vellela, Tony (October 5, 2001). "J. Smith-Cameron's role-changing, name-changing career". Christian Science Monitor. ISSN 0882-7729. Retrieved December 10, 2016.
  18. ^ "What's Up, J. Smith-Cameron? The Starry Star on Life, Art and Why She Loves Ben Brantley". Broadway.com. Retrieved December 10, 2016.
  19. ^ "Award winning writer and director becomes Kellogg's Artist in Residence". January 23, 2020.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]