Until this year, Matthew Delamater was taking his acting career one day at a time.

One day, after all, was the amount of time he spent on most TV and film sets. He’s worked steadily for about a decade, but often in small roles. He was credited as “bearded prison guard” in a 2018 episode of the Stephen King-inspired Hulu series “Castle Rock” and “gun salesman” in the 2017 comedy film “Daddy’s Home 2.”

Then, in February, he began two solid months on the set of the much-anticipated drama “The Tender Bar,” working side-by-side with Oscar winners George Clooney, the film’s director, and Ben Affleck, its star. The film is about a boy essentially raised by his bartender uncle (Affleck) and the bar’s patrons. Delamater plays one of those regulars, Joey D.

“The Tender Bar” opens in some major cities Friday and at theaters nationwide Dec. 22. It will be available for streaming on Prime Video Jan. 7.

“I couldn’t believe I was getting to work with these people everyday and play a real character,” said Delamater, 40, who lives in Bridgton. “It was great being able to immerse myself in that world and be on set the whole time, instead of being a day player. I was pinching myself, being able to throw ideas back and forth with Ben Affleck.”

Maine actor Matthew Delamater, at his home in Bridgton, has a key role in “The Tender Bar.” The film opens at theaters in December. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Whether “The Tender Bar” leads to more major roles for Delamater is yet to be seen, but having a key role in a high-profile film alongside Oscar winners can only bring more attention from producers and directors, said Sean Mewshaw, a Portland director and producer who has worked with Delamater.

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Mewshaw said he thinks that Delamater benefits from the fact that he came to acting relatively late, around the age of 24. He never tried it while in high school or college and first pursued a career in banking and finance.

“He brings all this other experience to bear, and he realizes what a gamble acting is. That makes him appreciate the work all the more,” said Mewshaw, who directed Delamater in the 2015 romantic comedy “Tumbledown,” starring Jason Sudeikis. That film was set in Maine but filmed in Massachusetts, because of the lucrative tax incentives given to film companies there.

Maine actor Matthew Delamater, left, with Michael Braun in a scene from “The Tender Bar.” Photo by Claire Folger/Amazon Content Services

For now, Delamater has no plans to move to Hollywood. He is still working his day job, as director of finance at Oxbow Brewing Co., and relishing the experience of being involved with a major film from beginning to end. While pursuing acting, he’s chosen to stay in Maine and raise a family here. He and his wife, photographer Emily Delamater, have two children, Rowan, 5, and Leo, 2.

But he hasn’t had to go far to keep working in film and TV. Boston has become a film hub over the past two decades, thanks to the film incentives offered by that state, so Delamater only has to travel for a few hours for many of his roles, including in “The Tender Bar.” The movie is set mostly on Long Island, New York, in the 1970s and ’80s, but it was filmed in Massachusetts. Locations included Boston’s South End, Cambridge, Lowell, Lynn and Watertown, as well as sites on the North Shore and in and around Worcester.

 

“The Tender Bar” is based on a 2005 memoir by J.R. Moehringer, a novelist and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for newspaper feature writing. In early reviews of the film, Variety said that Affleck created “one of the year’s most memorable characters.” The Hollywood Reporter called it “the warmest movie” Clooney has made as director.

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LATE TO THE SET

Delamater grew up in the western Maine town of Oxford. At Oxford Hills High School, he played several sports but was not involved with acting or theater. He studied finance and English at Saint Joseph’s College in Standish and didn’t start acting until he was in his mid-20s, when he tried out for an Oxford-area production of “The Music Man.” He says the process of putting on a show got him “hooked,” and he’s never looked back.

He’s performed on stages around New England and in TV and film. One if his first roles in a major TV show came in 2015 when he played a political activist in episodes of the NBC drama “American Odyssey.” Since filming “The Tender Bar,” Delamater has also appeared in an episode of NBC’s “Chicago P.D.”

Since Delamater works regularly with a Boston agent, he heard about auditions for “The Tender Bar” and decided to try his luck. But he knew this was different than other roles he’d gotten, because he’d be working with some of the biggest names in Hollywood throughout the shooting of the film.

Delamater had worked with major stars before, but only for short periods. In the comedy “Daddy’s Home 2,” his scene is with all the film’s stars – Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Mel Gibson and John Lithgow. The famous foursome played the wacky members of an extended family, out shopping for a gun with Delamater as their clerk.

Matthew Delamater, right, in the softball game scene from “The Tender Bar.” Claire Folger/ Amazon Content Services LLC

The audition for “The Tender Bar” was unusual for another reason: It was during a pandemic and held virtually. Delameter practiced his lines with Mewshaw and then recorded the audition in his son’s bedroom, working around the boy’s nap schedule.

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Delamater was excited for the chance not only to work with two Oscar winners but, as he says, with “two Batmans.” Both Clooney and Affleck have played the Caped Crusader in films. Affleck won Oscars for best screenplay for “Good Will Hunting” (1998) and for best picture for “Argo” (2012), which he directed. Clooney shared the best picture Oscar for “Argo,” as a producer, and won a best supporting actor Oscar for “Syriana” in 2005.

Delamater said he was impressed with Affleck and the other Hollywood veteran actors on the set, especially with how focused and prepared they were. He said Affleck was incredibly good at listening to other actors.

He said that Clooney had a contagious energy and enthusiasm that he likened to a baseball coach psyching up his team, keeping them loose and trying to get the best out of them.

One of the scenes included members of the bar’s softball team at a game. Clooney, a high school baseball star, brought his own glove and played with the actors even when they weren’t shooting scenes.

“I left that day and called my dad and said, ‘They can cut me out of the film, I got to play baseball with George Clooney,’ ” Delamater said.

Many of Delamater’s scenes are in the bar, where he’s often seen with two other regulars, played by Max Casella and Michael Braun. Casella is a veteran Hollywood actor known for roles in “Doogie Howser, M.D.,” “The Sopranos” and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” Braun has been in several TV shows and films, including the Showtime drama “The Affair.” The boy in the film is played by Tye Sheridan and Daniel Ranieri at various ages.

Delamater said being involved with this kind of movie and being able to develop a character in depth was like “a dream.”

“I love the work, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I hope it gets me more work like this,” said Delamater. “I hope everyone loves this film, and I hope I get to play someone like Joey D. again.”


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