Benny and Josh Safdie are the co-directors behind Daddy Longlegs (2009) and Heaven Knows What (2014). Their latest film, Good Time, is the story of two felon brothers, Connie and Nick Nikas – played by Robert Pattinson and Benny Safdie – trying to survive on the streets of Queens across one extreme night.
ASFF: How did Good Time get underway?
JS: When we were writing the screenplay, two guys [Richard Matt and David Sweat] broke out of a maximum security prison in upstate New York and these guys were terrible people. They killed cops. But everyone was rooting for them! I believe he – David Sweat – was the mastermind. I tried to buy one of his paintings. I get like that. I want to be friends with these people. I wanted to do something on Charles Manson, and I ended up weirdly becoming close to his fiancé and his friend. I want to get to the primary source, always. There’s also a movie called Life of Crime, by John Alpert, and that was a major inspiration for this movie.
ASFF: How did you end up casting Robert Pattinson?
BS: He reached out to us. He said: “I want to make anything.” He saw a still of Heaven Knows What.
JS: He immediately made it clear that he was willing to do whatever it takes. A lot of people say that. And he really did. He gave us a lot of time of prep. While he was shooting The Lost City of Z, we were talking non-stop. I was sending him the biography as it was evolving. He had an annoying amount of questions.
BS: We did a lot of rehearsal with Rob. I was in character and he was in character, just to build a bunch of memories that would exist between the two of them, like the letter exchange. Josh said to Rob, “E-mail as a letter from jail, Nick. Tell him the plans you have.” That was used as source material for them [Josh Safdie and co-writer Ronald Bronstein] to go back and write into certain scenes, how one character would act or react.
ASFF: One of the film’s great scenes involves Barkhad Abdi as the luckless security guard at the funfair who gets dosed up on LSD. How did that come about?
JS: When we were talking about that role and the race and origins of the character, we really wanted a black immigrant, potentially an African immigrant, and Barkhad Abdi is one of the great discoveries of cinema in the past ten years and he was incredible in Captain Phillips. We really had to push him and he said, “I’ll do it, just for the scene where I wake up on acid.” When we did the scene, I said, “Do it in Somali” and he said, “I can’t wait.” What he’s saying in Somali is so scary …
BS: He’s talking about cannibalism, he thinks they were taking him to school … he would totally confuse himself. It was just incredible. He also has the innate ability to say anything and have it feel real and coming from the heart.
Good Time opens on 17 November. For more details, visit: www.curzonartificialeye.com
1. Still from Good Time. Courtesy of Curzon Artificial Eye.