“Every once in a while I have a straggler that I’ll just pluck out. But Chris said, ‘Don’t do that. Let’s just let it go crazy.’”
Photo: Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures
Benny Safdie is an acclaimed director in his own right, but over the past couple of years he’s been recognized for terrific supporting turns in films like Licorice Pizza, Stars at Noon, and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Now, he gives one of the most memorable performances in Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer as the controversial Hungarian American physicist Edward Teller, who joined the Manhattan Project under J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy) and eventually became known as the father of the hydrogen bomb — a nuclear hawk, in opposition to the more conflicted Oppenheimer. Somewhat amazingly, Safdie himself had considered becoming a physicist in high school before deciding to go into film. That fascination with the wonders and paradoxes of science appears to have informed his interpretation of Teller. We spoke last month, before the SAG-AFTRA strike, about his journey with Nolan’s movie and his thoughts about this character.