“When Rob reached out to us, there was no movie. There was no ‘Good Time,'” begins Josh Safdie, sitting inside a conference room in Midtown New York next to his younger brother Ben Safdie. “I wrote it for Rob.”
He was referring to the star of their latest film, none other than Robert Pattinson. The Safdie brothers were working on making a different film when an e-mail from Pattinson showed up in their inbox. “It was almost spiritual,” Josh continues, mulling over the e-mail, which was provoked by the brothers’ 2014 drug-drama “Heaven Knows What.” “[Pattinson] didn’t even see the movie — he saw a still on the Internet. He’s like, ‘I saw this still on the Internet, and I’m not quite sure why, but I feel an innate connection to it, and now I feel like we have a connection.’ It was very Connie-like. And then when we met him, it was very interesting to see that he’s a different person than the public makes him out to be. Obviously.”
That qualifier — “obviously” — is perhaps not so obvious. Pattinson, who broke out into mass teen-centric fame with the “Twilight,” films has only recently built newfound film street cred through his latest projects, which have rendered him nearly unrecognizable from his tabloid-heavy days, quite literally in a physical sense. A supporting role in “The Lost City of Z” this spring saw him as a bespeckled, bearded 20th-century explorer floating down the Amazon, and the Safdie brothers’ “Good Time,” presents him as a rough-and-tough criminal —occasionally with wheat-blonde hair — in Queens, N.Y., named Connie. The film has racked up copious amounts of praise since it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May, followed by a wider release in August.
Certainly, having an A-list celebrity helps provide good momentum for an otherwise indie film.
“I was just reading a Robert Mitchum quote, he’s like, ‘The less I like a script the more they have to pay me,'” says Ben, who co-directed and costarred in the film as Connie’s mentally ill brother. “Just from a production standpoint, it meant a lot that he was so invested. He was the one person there who never complained. Every single day we shot really long hours, and it was just a really difficult shoot, and everyone else complained at some point, but not once [did Pattinson complain]. He said, ‘Why should I complain? This is what I asked for. This is what I wanted to do.'”
They filmed in all five boroughs of New York and many neighborhoods of the Safdie brothers’ native Queens, including Flushing, Rego Park, Far Rockaway, Forest Hills and Astoria. Despite shooting out in the open on the street, no one noticed Pattinson in-character during filming.
“People just walk by. It’s almost like a construction site, they just keep going, we’re just a part of the city,” Ben says. “Even though Rob was there in plain sight, nobody even took a picture. The closest we got was when we were on the train. He’s on the subway in rush hour, and he’s looking at the map and gets off — he’s pushing people aside, a true New Yorker. I hear as he’s walking away, ‘Is that Rob Pattinson? Nah.'”
“Good Time” required the Safdies to put another one of their film projects on hold, but the timing ended up working out. While they’re starting production on that film soon, “Uncut Gems” starring Jonah Hill and set in New York’s Garment District, the hiatus allowed them to approach the project with new wind — and likely greater support — following the success of “Good Time.”
“Now we’re finally ready to make that movie,” Ben says. “Even though we thought we were ready seven years ago, now we’re ready.”