Q&A: Robert Pattinson goes undercover in NYC for 'Good Time'
"Good Time" is a story about one bad night gone worse. Robert Pattinson plays a small time Queens crook named Connie Nikas whose botched robbery and escape attempt lands his mentally handicapped brother in jail. And that's just in the first few minutes. The film doesn't come up for a breather for the next 90. People have described "Good Time" as "'Mean Streets' on MDMA" and "'After Hours' on crack and meth" which might even be too tame to fully capture its kinetic pace. The filmmakers behind it, Josh and Benny Safdie, are two who the general public would be forgiven for not knowing. They are 30-something brothers whose last film, the punishing heroin drama "Heaven Knows What," played in only 14 theaters.
So how did they get one of the biggest movie stars in the world to lead their next film? Pattinson called them. The Associated Press sat down with Pattinson and the Safdies (Benny also plays Connie's brother Nick in the film) to talk about "Good Time" and how a movie star was able to stay hidden in plain sight in New York - even on the subway at rush hour. Remarks have been edited for clarity and brevity.
AP: It's a crazy story how Robert became aware of you as filmmakers. JOSH SAFDIE: It's not that crazy, is it? AP: He saw a promotional still from "Heaven Knows What" and decided he had to work with you?
JOSH SAFDIE: I guess it is kind of wild. Honestly I forget the stature of his stardom. To me it's like a guy saw a picture and he was inspired by it and he reached out. It's totally normal. But I guess when you look at it from afar it's kind of crazy.
PATTINSON: I don't know about the stature of my star, but I think the level of conviction was unusual for me at least. It was like I knew. And then we did the meeting and just agreed to do something. And then also for that to actually happen afterward is even more unusual. People say, "Oh let's do something together" all the time.
JOSH SAFDIE: I warned you, I said, "Be careful, we are the type of people who when we want to do something we'll just do it. We'll figure out a way to do it."
BENNY SAFDIE: The movie wouldn't be here had he not reached out to us.
AP: Was this a different experience for you?
PATTINSON: They run at a different level of energy to most people. It's nice, though. I was thinking how to describe the movie and it's like it's a car crash movie, but the car crash happens in the first five minutes and you're just skidding for the rest.
JOSH SAFDIE: We wanted to make a
thriller that actually thrilled you, like the stakes felt really real.
AP: Had you been to places like these before? A bail bonds office? A jail?
JOSH SAFDIE: We brought Rob to this one jail called the Manhattan Detention Center. We had become friendly with the warden there and she was like, "Come by!" She gave us unfettered access. It was insane. At the end I was like, "What's up with the female wing?" PATTINSON: And you can't even go there
as a guy.
JOSH SAFDIE: No you're not allowed and she's like, "You guys can come!" I look at Rob and he's like, "I don't want to go." And I'm like come on let's go. No one had recognized us.
PATTINSON: Even the people giving us the tour didn't realize we were doing it for a movie. Everyone was asking us to contact our lawyers outside. And then we went to the female wing and within seconds...
JOSH SAFDIE: One girl was like, "HIM!" (Pointing to Pattinson). He was immediately like, "I told you we shouldn't have gone in here." PATTINSON: The assistant warden then was like, "Who are you guys?" BENNY SAFDIE: We're like, "We've gotta go."
AP: Were you able to stay under the radar while shooting?
PATTINSON: Yeah, it was kind of a conscious decision. You find funny ways to stay hidden. And luckily we were in some places that were just so crowded, it's kind of easier. Some things I just don't understand like it's rush hour on the subway and we're stealing shots and we have a big camera and a crew and Josh is directing me via text message and people do not notice. AP: So was it kind of a guerrilla shoot?
JOSH SAFDIE: There was an illusion of guerrilla tactics. We wanted to tap into that feeling and bring that vibe to the movie. But we push it and push it. Like Rob watches me and Benny holding a four-lane street of traffic where everyone is laying on their horn and we're like, "Go Rob, go!" He's like sprinting for his dear life.
PATTINSON: We're trying to shoot this movie totally under the radar and literally causing such a commotion doing this thing and I'm literally hiding.
BENNY SAFDIE: I kept thinking, "No one's going to hit us!"
AP: Did anything surprise you about Robert? JOSH SAFDIE: I was really impressed and surprised that he didn't complain. Not once. Everyone on our movie complained. BENNY SAFDIE: Everybody. — AP
Co-director Ben Safdie, from left, actor Robert Pattinson, and co-director Joshua Safdie pose for a portrait to promote their film, "Good Time" at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles. — AP