The John Lennon sage axiom “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” aptly applies to Josh and Benjamin Safdie in their ten-year long march developing jewelry crime thriller Uncut Gems.
But as they started and stopped, other projects kept sprouting up and progressing, such as their previous Robert Pattinson noir thriller which debuted at Cannes two years ago, Good Time. They even attempted to get to their current Uncut Gems star Adam Sandler a few years ago, and fell short. But they definitely got his attention the second-time around. Now he’s reaping rave reviews for his turn as lovable, but ballsy, 47th Street NYC jeweler Howard Ratner who in the wake of receiving a large rock of uncut African gems, walks a tightrope in his trade, love life and sports gambling. At one point Sacha Baron Cohen circled the project. Along the way, the Safdies took their former Daddy Longlegs actor Ronald Bronstein, who’s joined on today’s podcast, along for the Uncut Gems ride; Bronstein having been a longtime collaborator to the Queens-Manhattan raised brothers doubling as their editor and co-writer in their canon including Good Time, Heaven Knows What, and even Daddy Longlegs and Uncut Gems.
We speak with the Safdies about being discovered separately by the Cannes Film Festival in the same year, their inspirations for Uncut Gems (a pulpy guy who dad worked for in Manhattan’s diamond district), why it was best to wait for Sandler, discovering the sublime Julia Fox (who plays Ratner’s sassy but sharp mistress), and the twists and turns Uncut Gems took in its hundreds of drafts.
To date, Uncut Gems has amassed four Critics Choice noms, including Sandler for Best Actor, the Safdies as Best Director and Best Picture and five Independent Spirit noms including best feature and Sandler best actor. The National Board of Review bestowed Sandler with its best actor award while the Safdies won for best screenplay. The pic is also one of NBR’s top 10 for the year. Over at the New York Film Critics Circle, Sandler won best director. This past weekend, A24 opened Uncut Gems to the second best opening theater average of the year with $107,4K behind Parasite‘s $131K.