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Buddy Duress, “Good Time” actor, dies at 38

The actor made his screen debut in the Safdie brothers' "Heaven Knows What."

Buddy Duress, an actor best known for his exhilarating supporting performance in 2017’s Good Time, has died. The actor was killed by “cardiac arrest from a drug cocktail” in November 2023, his brother told PEOPLE. He was 38.

Born Michael C. Stathis in Queens, N.Y., in May 1985, Duress made his screen debut in 2014’s Heaven Knows What. He landed the role after meeting filmmaker Josh Safdie through their mutual friend Arielle Holmes, who also starred in the movie, shortly after being released from Rikers Island for a drug-related conviction. When the film was shot, Duress was on the run from the authorities after he ditched a drug in-patient program, and he was incarcerated by the time it premiered at the Venice Film Festival in August 2014.

"I still look back at it. If I had went 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 honest truth. I wouldn’t," Duress told SSense.

<p>A24 /courtesy Everett Collection</p>

A24 /courtesy Everett Collection

The Safdie brothers cast Duress again in their 2017 breakout Good Time, which starred Robert Pattinson in the lead role. Duress played Ray, a criminal whom Pattinson’s Connie accidentally breaks out of a hospital and joins on a search for liquid LSD at an amusement park.

Josh Safdie said that Duress’ time in prison helped shape Good Time. “He wanted Ray to be like the most hardened version of him. He's been in and out of prisons or reform situations since he was 16, and really messed up situations too, where he sees the cold brutality of penal society. He's seen it and he knows what these characters are,” Safdie said in an interview with the Music Box Theatre. “His prison journals, which I had him keep, which had nothing to do with any project. It was just to help him pass time, but then they ended up becoming very informative of how Connie came to be.”

<p>Ray Tamarra/GC Images)</p>

Ray Tamarra/GC Images)

Duress appeared in several other projects during his brief career, including Person to Person, The Mountain, The Great Darkened Days, Beware of Dog, PVT Chat, Flinch, and Funny Pages. He also will appear in the film Mass State Lottery from director Jay Karales.

“Buddy Duress was a once in a lifetime charismatic actor and a genuinely humble man that left an impression on everyone he met. I was extremely fortunate to be able to direct him and get to know him off-set during our time shooting Mass State Lottery," Karales told PEOPLE. "What happened is a tragic and frustrating loss of visceral talent. He lived like a cowboy and carrying the weight of that kind of life informed his skills and performances in a way that made him irreplaceable as an actor. He has unfortunately become the John Cazale of our generation."

Duress is survived by his mother Jo-Anne and younger brother Christopher.

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