Lucas Hedges likes to take Gaga dance classes. Not as in Lady Gaga, he quickly clarifies, but the movement language created by an Israeli choreographer.

"You get into the room, and you can't stop moving," Hedges explains. "That's the rule."

It's one the actor finds easy to follow, given he's barely taken a break over the past couple of years. He says he hasn't figured out how. Since his Oscar-nominated breakthrough performance as orphaned teenager Patrick in Kenneth Lonergan's 2016 film Manchester by the Sea, Hedges has made a habit of playing intense, often restrained characters.

He did so in a pair of Best Picture nominees last year - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and Lady Bird - and again in the upcoming Mid90s, Boy Erased and Ben Is Back.


Today, Hedges is talking about his career and approach to fame. He comes across as mature yet youthful, which makes sense for a young actor who grew up visiting his father, director and screenwriter Peter Hedges, on film sets, starred in school plays and landed a small role in Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom before hitting his mid-teens and earning his first Academy Award nomination barely a month after his 20th birthday.

"My favourite movies of all time are the worlds I'd like to escape into," Hedges explains. "That's one thing. But at the end of the day, it's really just about if it ignites something in me, if I connect on an intuitive level. I find that my gut and my body always know whether or not I should be telling this story."

Aside from the star-studded, mildly mocked NBC miniseries The Slap, about a man who slaps someone else's misbehaving child and which Hedges refers to as "great practice" for being on-camera, the bulk of those stories have been indie features, starring acting heavyweights.

Julia Roberts and Lucas Hedges star in Ben is Back
Julia Roberts and Lucas Hedges star in Ben is Back

Since acting opposite Casey Affleck in Manchester by the Sea, Hedges has played the sons of Frances McDormand (Three Billboards), Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman (Boy Erased) and now Julia Roberts (Ben Is Back). He's now one of the most in-demand young actors in the movie business.

Despite rubbing shoulders with A-listers, Hedges is much less likely to show up in the tabloids. He manages to keep a low profile - which these days often denotes a lack of public social media - and admits that he genuinely doesn't consider himself to be a very famous person.

"Whenever people do stop me on the street, I can't really experience them as being a part of the same world as the people who I know in my life," he says. "It confuses my sense of reality. Part of why I like doing all these independent films is that I get to remain in my life. I get to remain within the worlds that I want to be a part of."

Those fictional worlds, however, aren't so easy to inhabit. Most of Hedges' characters share a traumatic background, but portraying each of them required an incredibly different head space.

Lucas Hedges stars in Ben is Back
Lucas Hedges stars in Ben is Back

But it was Hedges' preparation for Ben is Back that required a different sort of inspiration. Star Julia Roberts personally wanted him to play the title character Ben, a recovering heroin addict who comes home from rehab for the holidays. The younger actor hesitated at first, as the film was written and directed by his father, with whom he hadn't worked since a tiny part in 2007′s Dan in Real Life. Then, he read the script.


"You know, my dad's my hero," Hedges says. "He's the one who introduced me to film and showed me what great movies were and took me on set and fanned the flames of my passion for this art form. I just fell in love with the script. The idea of making a movie with him, when I wasn't uncomfortable with it, felt like a dream come true. And it really was."

Hedges spent a month going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings with a man he described as having "played a pretty significant role in my life".

Both he and his father have said that the story is personal to their family and Hedges recently revealed that his grandmother was an alcoholic.

When asked whom he'd like to work with in the future, he gushes, "I think a Pixar movie - Brad Bird, I love him so much. Magical and cool."

He also says Paul Thomas Anderson (Phantom Thread) might be at the top of the list, closely followed by director Hiro Murai, who works on the TV show Atlanta. Oh, and Jordan Peele (Get Out).

So he's looking to do a comedy, then?

"The dream is to do that immediately," he says. "It's a short answer: Yes."

Who: Lucas Hedges
What: Stars in Julia Roberts' drug-addled drama Ben is Back
When: In cinemas next Thursday