Buddy Duress ‘Good Time’ actor dies at 38

The independent film scene suffered a heavy loss with the untimely demise of gifted actor Buddy Duress, recognized for his raw performances in critically acclaimed films such as Good Time and Heaven Knows What. In late November 2023, Buddy Duress succumbed to cardiac arrest triggered by a toxic combination of drugs, leaving an undeniable void in the world of cinema. His brother, Christopher Stathis, confirmed the heartbreaking news on Tuesday, as the film industry and fans mourn the death of the 38-year-old actor.

Buddy’s journey into the arts was unconventional, rising to indie stardom through a twist of fate that landed him in the Safdie Brothers’ sphere. His acting career was launched with Benny and Josh Safdie’s gritty 2014 hit, Heaven Knows What, which mirrored the often harsh realities of individuals living on the edge. The role wasn’t just handed to him; it was a product of his reality. In a pivotal 2017 SSense interview, Duress disclosed a chance encounter with Josh Safdie in 2013 that changed his life. Fresh out of Rikers Island in New York City where he served time for narcotics charges, Duress was a man on the run, having failed to complete a drug in-patient program. It was during this turbulent time that a mutual friend introduced him to Josh. Although Duress landed the role in Heaven Knows What, the law caught up with him, leading to another stint in Rikers. However, this did not hinder the film’s success, which later premiered at the esteemed New York Film Festival in 2014.

Reflecting on the serendipity of his casting, Duress once confessed, “If I had gone to that program, I wouldn’t have been in Heaven Knows What, and I probably wouldn’t be an actor right now. That’s the truth. I wouldn’t.” His life, though immersed in challenges, became a canvas for his art. The directors seized the opportunity to have Duress document his incarceratory experiences in a journal, which was brilliantly transformed into the screenplay for the 2017 film Good Time. This project elevated Duress’s status in the indie scene, where he starred alongside renowned actor Robert Pattinson, showcasing the undeniable talent that lay within his tumultuous life.

Following the success of Good Time, Buddy Duress continued his ascent in the acting community, featuring in various feature and short films including 86’d, The Mountain, and The Great Darkened Days. Yet, as the lights of the silver screen shone on him, darkness loomed in his personal life. In 2019, Duress’s legal troubles resurfaced when he was apprehended for third-degree grand theft and underwent yet another period of incarceration at Rikers Island, as per the New York Post.

During the filming of the movie Flinch, another incident occurred when Duress was accused of threatening to burn down his mother Jo-Anne’s house, leading to his arrest once more on counts of menacing and criminal possession of both brass knuckles and a banned substance. Despite these setbacks, those who worked with him, like Flinch director Cameron Van Hoy, fondly remembered his innate ability to captivate audiences. Van Hoy stated, “Buddy was pure electricity on screen. Working with him was one of the great adventures of my life.” He commended Duress’s kindness and love for filmmaking, highlighting that he could set aside his life’s turmoil when it was time to perform. Van Hoy shared his grief, as did many, over the tragic end of a life full of potential.

Buddy Duress’s story stands as a poignant reminder of the relentless battle many face behind the glitz and glamour of the movie industry. His rise and fall embody the narrative of a person who, against all odds, found a platform for his unique voice and left an indelible mark on the art of cinema. As the film community copes with the loss of such an electrifying talent, Buddy Duress’s performances remain enshrined in the annals of independent film history—a testament to the enduring spirit of a man whose on-screen legacy outshines the shadows that often followed him off-screen.

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