May 14th, 2017 / 5 Comments

Josh and Benny Safdie talk Good Time & Robert Pattinson with Cahiers du Cinema


Cahier du Cinema also includes an interview with Josh and Benny Safdie as part of their Cannes special issue and it’s so full of information. I can’t wait to see Josh, Benny and Rob do the press junket for Cannes, I bet Josh gets asked about that toilet way too many times:

The three brothers interview with Josh & Benny Safdie by Stéphane Delorme (Maria: Mad Love in New York is the French title for Heaven Knows What)

LCDC: We are one month away from the festival: is the film complete?

Josh: Almost: Oneohtrix Point Never made the music, and for the end they wanted a song en interaction with the film. We asked Iggy Pop, and he sings an incredible song in the style of Johnny Cash. Do you know how I learned we were in competition? Six months ago I was in Los Angeles at Robert Pattinson’s house. He has Japanese toilet that blows hot air. I had never experienced such a thing … I loved it so much that Robert said to me: if we go in competition, I buy you the same. And we were invited out of competition. Six hours before the press conference, we had a meeting to find out if we were really out of competition, because at the same time we were invited to the Quinzaine, and Rob was trying to contact me over and over again, but I was at this meeting, and suddenly he sent me a text message with a photo of the toilet! Thierry Frémaux had just announced him we were in competition. I was extremely surprised! It was extraordinary.

LCDC: Is the film hard to finance, even with a star like Robert Pattinson?

Josh: Yes, very hard. It is a genre film, but we didn’t want typical actors of genre films, we wanted people in particular, we wanted them to be related to real life. This is the film on which we spent the most time. Ten months for editing. We had to re-shoot some scenes, we added an entire section with Jennifer Jason Leigh. It was our biggest budget, but we didn’t have enough money.

Benny: And the shooting was difficult! At first it was a 26 days shoot, in the end we shot 33 or 34 days. We spent long days in the cold, it’s a nocturnal movie since the hero is a fugitive criminal. Afterwards, we remember the best moments, but they are buried under so much effort, work and difficulties! In addition, my son is born two weeks before the beginning, we shot 16 hours a day, and when I went home I changed nappies … I hardly slept. It was a very intense period and I think you can feel it on the screen.

LCDC: What’s the difference with your previous movies?

Benny: In Lenny Cooke, our documentary about the basketball player, and in Mad Love in New York, we had to stick to reality because we were filming people who were really involved, we had to be faithful to the story of these people and their feelings. While in pure fiction like Good Time, even if it’s inspired by things and ideas of life, we could invent everything, change everything. It’s the best thing about cinema, it’s like playing, when you can become someone else. We went all over Queens, Brooklyn, and we had to mix up all of these, connect the places, as if we were catching the reality of New York in a net.

Josh: It takes place in only one night. We wanted to make it clear where each character was at each moment. It’s a film like a dream, like a nightmare. In Mad Love in New York, there is the same obsession with living in the present, but they don’t have a story and that is the tragedy of their lives. For this film I was obsessed with books like The Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer on Gary Gilmore and In the Belly of the Beast by Jack Henry Abbott. This man obsession for freedom. The title of the film comes from an American expression: if you behave well in prison, you can be released on your good time.

LCDC: This is the first time you work with a star.

Josh: Pattinson is English, and the actors around him come from the world of the film. He spent five months working on his character. He doesn’t have the experience of this life. I wrote him a biography from the day he was born to the first minutes of the film. We wanted to shoot into the streets, but wherever we went, people wanted to take a picture of him. We developed the appearance of his character so that nobody recognizes him. But he is so professional! He is never complaining. It’s him who contacted us. He had seen a picture of Mad Love in New York on the Internet, he asked to see the movie, he saw it, and told us: whatever you want me to do, I will do it.

LCDC: It’s a story about two brothers. Is this a film about fraternity? Were you an inspiration for Robert Pattinson?

Josh: Sometimes he asked me how I would play a scene. The character desperately wants to connect to his brother who is unable to connect, and he wants to do as if they were connected. So it’s very different from my relationship with my brother: we have a very strong connection!

Benny: It became a film about fraternity, we realized it while editing. It came naturally because we are brothers, and Ronnie is like a third brother. It is the story of a man who tries to save his brother, and who is willing to do everything, including denying his principles. It’s a universal story, and we try to work on it with emotion and heart. If the public manages to feel the power of this bond between the two brothers, the bet will be won.
Translation by Pattinson Art Work (slight amendments by me)
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Thanks PAW
  • Sue
    Posted on May 14, 2017

    Great little read. Love the toilet reference – thoughtful Rob, what a surprise *not*. You can sense they’re all excited about this movie – as are we. Counting the days …..

  • Mella
    Posted on May 14, 2017

    Does anybody know who Ronnie is in Bennys last answer?

  • Maria
    Posted on May 14, 2017

    Hi Mella – I think he might be referring to Ronald Bronstein who co-wrote Good Time and also Heaven Knows What with Josh Safdie

  • Mella
    Posted on May 14, 2017

    Thank you, Maria!

  • Carmel
    Posted on May 14, 2017

    What an enjoyable read. Like Sue says, the collaborative excitement is a joy.
    I love Rob has gone after these directors and his dreams.
    The toilet story is a gem.

  • Leave a Reply

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