HQ SCANS & Translation by Laura
The New Yorkers make their first steps in competition with ‘Good Time’
The three brothers (‘Les trois frères’ word game as a French movie has the same name)
Interview with Josh and Benny Safdie.
The Safdie brothers are almost cinematically born in Cannes. In 2008, ‘The pleasure of being robbed’, first movie by Josh, was presented as the closing movie for ‘Quinzaine des réalisateurs’ with a short movie by Benny shown before. The next year, the ‘Quinzaine’ show their movie ‘Daddy Long Legs’. They are now in competition with ‘Good Time’ written and edited with their forever accomplice Ronald Bronstein, story of two brothers, a night of cavalcade, the oldest one played by Robert Pattinson and the youngest one, handicapped, by Benny. We did not see ‘Good Time’ yet, but here is an open discussion, a month before the official presentation.
We are a month away from the festival: Is the movie finished?
Josh: Almost. Oneohtrix Point Never is making the music, and for the end there is this song in complete interaction with the movie. We asked Iggy POP, and he sings an incredible song Johnny Cash style. We are still working with the designer Tom Kan who made the credits soundtrack for the movie ‘Enter the void’. Do you know how I learned we were in competition? Six month ago, I was at Robert Pattinson’s house in Los Angeles. He has those Japanese toilets which blow warm air. I have had never experienced anything like that before… I loved it so much Robert told me: if we go in competition I’ll buy you the same. Then we got invited out of competition. Six hours before the press conference we had a meeting to be sure we were included in out of the competition selection because at the same time we could have been as opening movie for the ‘Quinzaine’ and Rob was trying to get a hold of me, again and again, and then he sent me a text with a photo of those toilets! Thierry Frémaux just told him. I was extremely surprised! It was incredible.
Was the movie difficult to produce even with a movie star as Robert Pattinson?
Josh: yes, really hard. It is an indie movie, but we did not want typical actors from these kind of movies, we wanted people in particular, so it could be linked to reality. This movie is the movie we spent the more time on. Ten month of editing process. We had to reshoot scenes, we added a complete sequence with Jennifer Jason Leigh. It was our biggest budget, though we did not have enough money.
Benny: And the filming process was difficult. At first it should have lasted only 26 days but in the end we filmed 33 or 34 days. We had long days in the cold, it is a nocturnal movie as the hero is a runaway criminal. After all, we just remember the best moments, but they are hidden under so much effort, work, difficulties! And to add to that my son has just been born, we were working 16 hours a day and when I would go back home I would change his diapers… I almost had no sleep whatsoever. It was a real intense time for me and I think we can feel it on the screen.
What is the difference from your previous movies?
Benny: In ‘Lenny Cook’ our documentary about the NBA player and in ‘Heaven knows what’ we had to stick to reality as we filmed committed people so we had to be faithful to these peoples story and their feelings. Nevertheless in ‘Good Time’ everything is pure fiction even if it has been inspired by things and ideas from life itself, we cannot invent everything or change everything. It’s what is best in the movie making, it’s like playing, when we can become someone else. We went everywhere in Queens, Brooklyn and we had to mix up everything, connect the places, as if we captured New York reality in a net.
Josh: It all happens in one night. We wanted to know where every single character was at every single instant. It is a movie like a dream, like a nightmare. In ‘Heaven Knows What’ there is the same obsession to live in the present but it’s not the same story and it’s more the tragedy of their lives. For this movie I was obsessed with books like ‘The executioners song’ by Norman Mailer about Gary Gilmore, and ‘Le ventre de bête’ by Jack Henry Abbott. This mans obsession for freedom. The movies title is from an American phrase: if you behave in jail, you can be freed early and it is said ‘being released on your good time’.
It’s the first time you made a movie star play on your movie.
Josh: Pattinson is British, and the actors around him come from the movie industry. He spent five months to work on his character. He has no experience in this kind of life. I wrote him a biography about his character from the day he was born to the first minutes of the movie. We wanted to film on the streets though everywhere we want people wanted to take a picture with him. Then we developed the characters look so nobody would recognize him. But he is so professional! He never complains. It’s him who contacted us. He saw an image from ‘Heaven knows what’ on the internet and asked to see the movie, he saw it and told us: whatever you want me to do, I will do it.
This is the story of two brothers. Is it a movie about brotherhood? Were you an inspiration for Robert Pattinson?
Benny: It has became a brotherhood movie, we realized that editing it. It has come naturally because we are brothers, and because Ronnie is like a third brother. It is the story of a man who tries to save his brother and who would do everything in his power to do so, even coming back on his principles. It an universal story, that we try to treat with feelings and heart. If the audience succeeds in feeling the puissance of the link between the two brothers then we won the bet.
Benny, in ‘Good Time’ you are directing as well as acting.
Benny: As we developed the ‘Good Rime’ story, we tried to find someone who could play Nick, the handicapped brother. But it was very complicated to find a handicapped actor, and we felt like it was unfair to make someone act without understanding what it was to act, we would feel like using him. Years before, after ‘Daddy long legs’ we had a project with Ronnie in which I should have played a similar role. It never happened though I learned to talk with a different elocution. For another project, which never happens too, I was going to play a boxer and I trained a lot, took some weight and became buff. Meaning I could play someone knowing his strength and the danger he could represent. It’s a character who does not accept people stopping him to get what he wants. He feels things he cannot express. As an actor, it was the hardest to do, make people realize we feel something without expressing it, and without expressing it for the character. Because I know much more than he does. If something sad happens, me, the actor, I will be affected as the character is, maybe not, aware of it. He is a character not caring about what happens around him. It’s what his brother loves about him, this king of freedom. It is really interesting because my bienveillance towards Robert Pattinson, which is a normal bienveillance between a director and an actor, was questioned the moment we acted together which influenced the acting a lot. And I was staying in my role as an handicapped man! The first day of filming, people on set did not know I was playing in the movie and wondered if I really was the co-director.
It is not the first time you go to Cannes. What kind of memories do you have of it?
Benny: I remember everything. The smell of soap at the Palais Stephanie, it’s like a Proust madeleine. It was nine years ago, and in between my son was born, he is now he is one and two months. 2008 was amazing st the ‘Quinzaine’, ‘Ce cher Mois D’Aout, Tony Manero… It was my very first festival, I have never seen movies like that before, and we could exchange with movie makers. Nevertheless, I have never found a ticket for a movie at the Theatre Lumière!
Josh: Cannes, it’s like the Champs Elysées, the place where gods live. Look at Martin Scorsese, he went to the ‘Quinzaine’ with ‘Mean Streets’ and two years later I hit the Palme d’or for ‘Taxi Driver’ maybe our all time favorite movie. It is surreal. I remember kissing Miguel Gomes after ‘Ce cher mois d’août’. And then in 2009 I jumped on Benny’s shoulders to present ‘Daddy Long legs’. In the end, I saw Vincent Gallo applause in the theatre, I told myself all was well! But for now I don’t have a suit… And to be honest I am heading to the suit store right now. But it is amazing to wonder what I should wear. This means a lot on the movie respect. It’s glorious. I am very afraid of the Lumière Théâtre!