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Wild stories from the anarchic, criminal set of Good Time

“During the filming, I was arrested... long, stupid story where the cops thought I was dealing drugs out of a super-shady car”

Good Time follows Robert Pattinson’s Connie as he enlists his brother Nick – played by the film’s co-director Benny Safdie – for an ill-fated bank robbery. Soon, the pair are thrust into an acid-laced crime spree through the backstreets of New York. With nods to classic Scorsese and Lumet thrillers, the Palme d'Or-nominated noir is remarkable for its darkly humourous street-level realism.

Here, the film’s fellow maker Josh Safdie shares production stills and accompanying (read: brace-yourself-insane) anecdotes from the set of their riveting new film. 

“One of the last deleted scenes from the film was a small one. A solemn moment where Connie dyes his hair in Crystals’ bathroom. It dragged the film down... so it was cut. But there was something great going on in it. This grown man trying to bleach his hair in an attempt to blend in. In the scene, Crystal knocks on the door and he pauses. That was reason we ditched it. We didn’t like their first interaction to be awkward in that way.”

“As part of the film, we needed proper mug shots for Connie to show on the screen when he’s chilling with Crystal. A major pet peeve of mine is that when films show mug shots of characters they always miss the bureaucratic touch. They’re always too well done. We enlisted a photographer friend Kenneth Cappello to mimic as best he can the type of photography done by an NYPD officer late at night in a precinct. Then I went to town transferring and degrading the image.”

“During the filming, I was arrested... (it is a) long, stupid story where the cops thought I was dealing drugs out of a super-shady car (the car was shady as fuck)… It resulted in me getting sick in a cold cell and shooting on little sleep the next day. But Peter Verby represented me later after we wrapped. Peter is the actor who played the therapist in the film. He’s also a criminal defense lawyer. He gave me my ‘mug shot’ as he thought I’d find it funny. What I found funny was how bureaucracy faded and twisted the image. It had already gone through so many photocopies and scanners that it degraded my image to pixels and emotion. Haha.”

“There was this news story floating around when we started to write the bank robbery scene, which actually started as inspired by a note in Buddy Durress’s prison journal. He knew a guy who had robbed banks, changing his ethnicity each time. Then this story about Conrad Zdzierak popped. It was insane. He had robbed a bunch of banks in Ohio using the very masks we used in the film. The company that makes them SPFX has been asked to stop production on them, so many people are robbing banks with them. There were plenty of instances of black men using their white mold, but the systemic racism implied and milked with Conrad’s choice was all the more inspiring and deep and fucked up.”

“We didn’t really watch any movies to prepare for the film. Maybe One Year In a Life of Crime by Jon Alpert, but that was for Rob to study the type of low-level criminal he was gonna play while he was shooting Lost City of Z. I had Rob read Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer and In the Belly of the Beast by Jack Henry Abbot… both books that were wildly inspiring to the origins of Good Time. We screened the filmed version of the book directed by Larry Schiller starring a great Tommy Lee Jones and Rosanna Arquette a week before production as a movie night. Larry lent us his 35mm print and it probably had never screened on 35mm in America, ever. It was a TV movie. Tommy Lee makes some amazing choices with the romanticism of Gary Gilmore. Also, his psychotic mood swings. I made this poster as a wink to the family.”

“Tim Barber took this on day one. Rob was so nervous. It was the ONLY day our financier/producer was on set. The power had gone out on all of Staten Island basically… except for this one mysterious outlet in this psych hospital we were filming in. We powered the ENTIRE scene with that one outlet. The shirt I’m wearing was a gift from the former commissioner of the Connecticut prisons. It’s a DOC of CT shirt. Got me into some heat where I live, but I love the shirt.”

“Metrograph asked me to make a poster for this series of films that fit into the world of GT that we programmed ahead of the US release. These are two designs we submitted. They chose the arrest slip.”

“Taliah Webster was such a pro. She grounded the production every time we shot. Namely, because we had limited hours with her, we had to move EXTRA fast. But she brought a seriousness and also a casualness that we all needed. Nothing intimated her. Thank the heavens she showed up at that open casting call. (She was 1 of 600 girls!).”

“LOL, this was my story-board/plan for the helicopter photography. I kept pulling it out while up in the chopper. The Pilot and the Areal DP laughed at me throughout the 3 hours we were up there. I was obsessed with getting “3B” which demanded the helicopter get very low in order to pull out and reveal the amusement park. Bill Richards did it. We just worked with him on an insane music video.”

Read our conversation with the Safdie brothers from the autumn/winter issue of Dazed.