Benny Safdie

Performance is fleeting. I like acting, and part of what I love about directing is that I love performance. There’s something incredible about being in the moment— being able to create an emotion that’s not real.”

–Benny Safdie, episode 354 of Talk Easy with Sam Fragoso

Throughout his fifteen-year moviemaking career, director and actor Benny Safdie has been drawn to naturalism and first-time performers. Fittingly, his recent collaboration with comedian Nathan Fielder (“Nathan for You”) was a perfect match.

Benny joins us today to discuss their satirical black comedy series The Curse (9:10), the timely premise that inspired the show (13:35), and Safdie’s history of capturing real-life personalities on film (15:58). Then, he describes his early connection to the 1979 movie Kramer v Kramer (19:00), a New York encounter with photographer Robert Frank (23:18), and how directors Robert Bresson and Frederick Wiseman opened his eyes to the possibilities of street casting (26:05).

On the back-half, we dive into Benny’s co-directing work alongside his brother, Josh Safdie (29:55), a heartbreaking scene from their debut feature Daddy Longlegs (34:30), and the projects that followed: Good Time (40:00), Lenny Cooke (42:45), and Uncut Gems (55:00). To close, Safdie talks about why he worked as a boom operator while directing (48:15), his recent pivot to acting (52:35), and his full circle moment of playing an astrophysicist in Oppenheimer (1:00:40).

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