The Solo Act of Benny Safdie: The Safdie Brothers Split

Benjamin Safdie, formally known by his stage name, Benny Safdie, came forth to Variety Magazine earlier this year, confirming what…

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Posted: June 26, 2024

Benjamin Safdie, formally known by his stage name, Benny Safdie, came forth to Variety Magazine earlier this year, confirming what no cinephile would’ve ever expected– a break in the decade bond of him and his brother, Josh, from making any more feature films in the foreseeable future. The Safdie Brothers, renowned for their intensive, neo-noir, surrealist independent films featuring the production rights of A24, have directed 5 feature-length films over the last decade, spanning back to their John Cassavettes-inspired and Award-winning feature co-written with Ronald Bronstein (Frownland)– Daddy Long Legs (’09). The pair were always defined by their close-up angles, kinetic camera movement and cinematography, and brilliant casting from locals off the streets of Queens, NY.

Following the break, both filmmakers have respectably done and continue to produce their own personal projects and roles. However, Benny seems to be the most successful and productive of him and his brother– a sibling rivalry in cinema.

The Solo Act of Benny Safdie

Benny Safdie at the Gotham Awards in 2023

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – NOVEMBER 27: Benny Safdie attends the 33rd Annual Gotham Awards at Cipriani Wall Street on November 27, 2023, in New York City. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/WireImage)

Remember scientist Edward Teller in Christopher Nolan‘s Oppenheimer (’23) last year? What about Herb from Are You There God? It’s Me. Margaret? Both roles cast the independent filmmaking guru, Benny Safdie. From Benny’s limited experience in his own films with his brother, he simultaneously opened himself up to other acting roles. The most defining of the limited roles comes from Good Time (’17), where he plays Connie’s (Robert Pattinson) brother, Nick Nikas, a mentally challenged man.

These roles seem overwhelming to most due to their demand to work in front and behind the camera. That hasn’t stopped Benny, in his fifth collaboration with A24 in his limited serial TV dramedy alongside Nathan Fielder, The Curse (’23). With Nathan Fielder taking the directing reigns– Benny is one of the co-writers, also cast as Dougie Schecter, the reluctant alcoholic TV show producer.  In all its absurdity and drama, the show is a perfect blend for Safdie’s raw, unapologetic dramatic stories and characters alongside Fielder’s witty, uncomfortable comedy genius. Still, nonetheless, it couldn’t have been tied together if it weren’t for Benny’s experience in direction, writing, sound mixing, and acting. For most of these acting roles, Benny plays mostly supporting characters who effortlessly round out each arc, giving them life.

Benny’s Next Projects

Although Benny has co-directed most of the films he’s worked on, he has yet to make his directorial debut. That is until earlier this year, in January, when an IMDb page was erected for a boxing film titled The Smashing Machine. The film cast Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, with the head honcho writing and directing credit belonging to Benny Safdie. The film will follow the real life and stories of former wrestler and MMA enthusiast Mark Kerr. Kerr is a consultant on the film’s screenplay.

The title is still under the status of “filming” on the IMDb page, as Benny posts occasional photos of him on and off-set, researching for the film. MMA legend Bas Rutten had a photo of him, and Benny posted via Benny’s Instagram, where they had just finished a tiresome training session in the octagon. As for stills of the film, there is only one, but it gives much perspective into the film’s production. It shows Mark Kerr (Dwyane Johnson) sitting in his mid-fight corner as his girlfriend, Dawn Staples (Emily Blunt), outside the ring, with the legs of what seems to be a ring girl.

There haven’t been any real setbacks to production noted. That was until June 11th, when Johnson posted a video of him showing off his elbow injury after a day of shooting. Despite the general notion of many entitled Hollywood stars demanding their own special treatment, the 52-year-old former WWE wrestler put it simply: “The pain feels pretty good.” The film doesn’t have a set release date broader than sometime in 2025, initially intended to be released in December 2024.

The Safdie Split: Beneficial or Harmful?

The initial idea of the Safdie Brothers splitting away from their high-octane A24 films seemed fairly distressing when announced. Still, it also allowed both brothers to grow upon their individual skill sets. With Benny having a hearty amount of credits to his name ever since Uncut Gems (’19) with Adam Sandler, co-directing with his brother Josh, he’s been able to open himself up to more solo-direction jobs and roles.

It’s a possibility that Benny and Josh could reunite, especially in the face of their highly anticipated and heavily teased follow-up to Uncut Gems with Adam Sandler and Megan Thee Stallion. However, this split may not be bad for both brothers since they can generate more opportunities for work and success within the film industry. The Curse is 94% on Rotten Tomatoes, which could hint at another collaboration with Nathan Fielder on another film/TV show. Regardless, 2025 will be the telltale year if the Safdie Brothers continue to run their solo course or potentially reunite, using their same independent style but on a larger budget with higher pay.

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