August 24th, 2017 / 0 comments


Robert Pattinson helps to develop Connie Nikas character for Good Time

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The Safdie Bros talked to Vanyaland about Robert’s involvement in the formation of Connie’s character, to their research methods and more.  Here’s the extract relating to Robert, but click on the link to read the full interview:

So how exactly did this come about?

Josh Safdie: It came about from Rob Pattinson basically seeing a still of Heaven Knows What on Indiewire, and [when I was checking] my email at South-By-Southwest, and receiving a super-cryptic kind of weirdly obsessive email from this guy named Rob Pattinson, who I — I never saw Twilight, but I’d seen The Rover and Cosmopolis at that point, and I knew he was involved with this musician whose work I really dug, and I realized that this guy was interested in cool things. His drive is not a commercial one. So I was like, “Okay, what does this guy want?” And basically, he wasn’t right for the project that we were looking to make, and I said to him, “Hey, I’ve got this deep well of interest and inspiration, and I want to make a thriller with you.” A crime thriller. So that’s where it started, with him. And Buddy Duress, too, to some degree.

Oh yeah, he’s fucking awesome in it.

Josh Safdie: Yeah, he’s amazing.

So you started with this spark, and then you went into the writing. Was he involved much in the initial writing process?

Josh Safdie: So, in order to write the genre elements of this thrilling narrative stuff, because this was by far the most plotty narrative movie that we’ve ever done, and we were excited about that, but we really needed to know who Connie was. So I wrote a very extensive character background that started when his character was born and ended when he enters the movie. And he was involved with that, not necessarily writing or bringing specific things [to the background], but he’d question these landmarks in his life in a very particular way that would force me to go even deeper into that digression, and then weirdly, it’d become really helpful when we’d get to the fork in the road of the movie and we’d need to know exactly what this guy would do or say because we’d developed exactly who he was. So he was very involved within the development aspect. When he was on Lost City of Z, we’d talk a lot, and I would send him script pages occasionally and then I sent him a first draft, and then I was like “hold on, I’m going to send you a new draft,” and basically change the entire movie, and then I’d send him another draft three weeks later. So, he was involved way more than he is in other stuff, because most of the time people just treat him like a name to get some cash. Not speaking [badly] of all the movies [he’s been in], but he was surprised to see how involved he was.

Benny Safdie: But also he gave us the time to develop his character [independently]. He came to New York and we did camera tests and character history-building, between him and I for the brother. We wrote letters — Josh had him write a letter to me from jail, and then I would respond in kind as Nick. And so, just having this ability to build this character kind of from the ground up really allowed it just to be real. You feel all that texture in everything, in the sense that when he enters the movie, he’s not entering as Rob Pattinson, he’s entering as Connie Nikas. And that’s something special.

What kind of research did Pattinson do here? Did you help at all?

Josh Safdie: Well, I guided the research. I completely guided the research. I sent him Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer, I sent him In the Belly of the Beast, I sent him a bunch of documentaries by John Alpert, one of which we’re doing a Q&A for tonight called One Year in a Life of Crime. I sent him an insane amount of Cops episodes, where I pinpointed certain things, and then he came to New York, and I introduced him to our casting department who helped us find — I mean that’s the amazing thing about our casting department is that they not only were casting the film, but they would, through their casting tentacles, they would be like “Hey, we met this guy and he seems really interesting, like a Connie character, you should meet with him.” So then I’d meet with him and be like “Oh, this guy’s great, let’s have Rob meet with him.”

So we brought Rob to this place called the Fortune Society, and the three of us met for hours with a guy who taught us what it was like to do time at a medium and a maximum security prison. And we brought him to —

Benny Safdie: We played pool with this other guy.

Josh Safdie: Yeah, we were just hanging out with who we thought Connie would hang out with. Maybe not to emulate, but just to suggest to him, “Hey, this would be your friend. This guy would be one of your friends.”

 

Josh Safdie: So we would… I mean, we did something once. Benny and Rob were in character working a gas station, working a car wash, and we filmed that. I brought Rob and Benny up, and Benny stayed in character the whole time, which kind of forced Rob into being a prototype version of Connie as well, just at a friend’s car shop in Yonkers. And then we met this guy who said “actually, Connie’s very similar to my brother who died last year, tragically,” and then he told us this crazy story, and [we loved it]. And he said, “Why don’t you come out to Rocky Point and I can show you where all this stuff happened.” So we got this walking tour of this very local, regional story, but it was this awesome crime story too.

Benny Safdie: And he’d be like “And there’s the house,” and we’d be like “that’s the house?” It had such a huge attachment in his head, but here it was just like a little house in this neighborhood, but this guy had such a big attachment to it, and in the way he told it in the story, it made you go “huh.” So then this idea of these little regional landmarks meaning so much to these people, like it would for the people in the movie…

Josh Safdie: Furthermore, we brought Rob, when we were developing the look of Connie, to an active jail. I had become friends with the warden, this woman Raylene, who is actually in the movie as the voice of the operator at Elmhurst. And I befriended through this interesting character who I knew, the commissioner of jails. So we had this unfettered access, and I was constantly doing research by going and getting these insane, completely unauthorized tours of jails, where while I’m walking through, I’d always walk through with my hands behind my back in case I saw somebody I knew, who’d be like “Oh, he’s with the warden!” And I’d see this guy who’d be like, “Aww, man, this fucking sucks.” And I’d be like “I’m good.” The warden would ask “Do you know that person?” and I’d say yeah, and we’d keep walking through the jails.

So when I bring Rob there, you know, he didn’t say a word because his accent wasn’t down yet, but he’d be able to walk around and see what a real jail looks and feels like and what it’s like to be going through the system. The guy who plays the psychiatrist at the beginning, Peter Verby, he’s actually a low-end criminal lawyer, and used to be a public defender, and he’s represented a lot of people like Connie in the past. So he can sit and talk about his experiences with people like that. What kind of questions would Connie have [for a public defender]? I mean, we did this, and it went far and deep. You know, he had people who he’d heard their accents from Queens sit down with him and read the script and he’d record it so he could just listen to it when he was going to sleep at night. So it was very, very extensive research on his behalf. But we were going and guiding him through it because it was also helpful for us to see him learn and craft [with it]. …

 

 

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