Kenneth Lonergan (born October 16, 1962) is an American film director, playwright, and screenwriter. He is best known for co-writing Gangs of New York (2002), and for writing and directing You Can Count On Me (2000), Margaret (2011), and Manchester by the Sea (2016). Lonergan earned an Academy Award for Best Director nomination for Manchester by the Sea, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for You Can Count On Me, Gangs of New York, and Manchester by the Sea, winning for the latter at the 89th Academy Awards. He also won the BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay for Manchester by the Sea at the 70th British Academy Film Awards.
Lonergan was born in The Bronx, New York City, New York, to a psychiatrist mother and physician father. His mother is Jewish, and his father was of Irish descent. Lonergan began writing in high school at the Walden School (a now defunct, highly progressive private school in Manhattan with a strong drama program).
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; he would go on to graduate at the NYU Playwriting Program.
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 and Fujifilm.
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.
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. 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. Margaret ranked 31st in a 2016 BBC poll of the 21st century's greatest films.
Lonergan wrote and directed Manchester by the Sea, which was released in 2016 to critical acclaim. 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."
Lonergan will also write the upcoming BBC/Starz miniseries Howards End.
Lonergan is married to actress J. Smith-Cameron. They have one daughter, Nellie.