Duress’ deep-set pale blue eyes, which we first encountered in 2014 as a Safdie brothers discovery in their harrowing heroin-addiction drama, Heaven Knows What, further remind me of another chambered stare, that of Timothy Carey: the eccentric, rowdy actor best known for playing characters pushed to rabid extremes. His minor roles, like Morgan Morgan in John Cassavetes’ 1971 Minnie and Moskowitz, are bizarrely tonic, scene-stealing, and charismatically coarse.
It’s a muggy July evening, and I’ve just mentioned the Timothy Carey comparison to Duress. Maybe that was a mistake. […] Grimacing at a picture of Carey on my phone, the 32-year old Duress exclaims, “I’m better looking than him!”
It’s true. I apologize—not because I think I’m wrong, but because I’m not properly articulating what I mean. Eventually I land on a photo of Carey that elicits a nod from Duress. “Yeah, he’s handsome there. I see it. I see it,” he says. “My ocular bones really stick out. People say I look like a raccoon at night.” What I try and fail to convey to Duress is how it’s more than merely his looks. The connection feels part of some deeper cinematic heredity.
Some faces—like Carey’s, like Duress’, with its big avian features—are meant to be photographed. As the journalist Grover Lewis once wrote, “Perhaps only the camera truly loved these kinds of mavericks and marginals…the work of certain low-billed jesters, sidekicks, and tough guys runs through movie history like the veins in a granite cliff.”
Buddy Duress, photo by Jody Rogac