THE NEW YORK FILM WORLD’S DAPPER GENTLEMEN
by Susan M. Kirschbaum // photography Helena Christensen
Reserved asks Andrew Saffir — founder of Cinema Society — who would play him and Daniel Benedict, his life partner, in the movie version of their lives. “Robert Downey Jr. for me and Alexander Skarsgard for Daniel. “RDJ is one of my all time favorite actors, whip smart and brilliant. So major wishful thinking on my part.” Says the curly haired bespectacled Saffir. Regarding Skarsgard: “So many people mistake Daniel for him; they think he’s Swedish, it seems like the perfect casting!”
For Saffir — a born and bred Upper East Sider — choosing his own thespian doppelgangers, is a daunting consideration. He pulls off (he estimates) seventy premieres a year, juggling appearances by myriad actors and directors in the Big Apple, a place still keener on cults of personalities then Hollywood studio schmaltz. His answer reflects the perfect hybrid of both, which might also be said of his relationship with Benedict, an executive specializing in luxury hotel branding.
Saffir, who had studied both acting and film in college — and who reaches the big 50 in October — met Benedict, 43, when they both worked at Ralph Lauren almost two decades ago. Benedict quips. “He had this female assistant who would follow him around with a clip board. She was very protective of him.” But not so much that the two didn’t set up a date. “When I came to New York in my twenties, I wanted a relationship with a solid person.”
Benedict says. “Andrew’s a very secure person.” Since Benedict found what he’d been seeking in their (then) budding relationship, he never ended up moving to LA, a consideration at that time. So, to reprise, given the film business still starts in LA before trickling to the East Coast, the question pops up again: New York or LA?
Ironically, Benedict, a Massachusetts native, hates the cold season here. Still, it’s not enough to switch coasts. “I’d get bored in LA I don’t think there’s enough for us to do. As for spending the winter there, come April, I’d be ready to roll.” “The longest we last in LA is three weeks.” Saffir says. “I miss New York too much. I’m Woody Allen. I love St. Ambroeus, any outdoor cafe. Shakespeare in the Park. Theatre. I don’t do premieres in LA What I do wouldn’t work there. LA really is a one industry town.”
Cinema Society marks its tenth anniversary this Fall with relatively intimate screenings and parties, curated by Saffir to reflect the diversity of NYC. They include not just actors and directors but musicians, socialites, artists, and executives from various genres. It all started with the movie Proof, when Saffir recalled Dior liked its star, Gwyneth Paltrow. So, he approached the label to sponsor an event in the Richard Meier building on Charles Street in the West Village. He assembled some
comfy couches and invited Beyonce, Jay Z, Iman, David Bowie, and Vogue editors Anna Wintour and Hamish Bowles.
Other brand matches have included Sarah Jessica Parker and Oscar de La Renta for the film the Family Stone; and more recently Audi cars for the movie Ant-Man starting Paul Rudd; and Yves St. Laurent for Paper Towns, starring Cara Delavingne, YSL spokes-model.
Saffir still ‘fans out’ about some of his favorite directors, Spielberg, Scorsese, and the quintessential neurotic Manhattanite, Allen. Like Allen in his narrator roles, Saffir plays `en scene’ psychologist when planning premieres. When he first worked with Allen for the film Whatever Works, starring Larry David, he wanted to do a party at the Standard’s ‘Boom Boom Room’ — where the towering 18th floor to ceiling windows overlook the Hudson River and the West Side Highway. But, he was told. “You won’t get Woody there. He’s afraid of heights!” So instead he opted for a screening downtown and ferries to take guests to the River Cafe in Brooklyn.
Saffir sighs audibly when recalling that magical night, which he shared with Benedict, who attends all the premieres. “The New Yorker in me loves sitting there, the view...”