Jonathan Benefiel first became a producer in order to make the short film, PROTECTING TONY, playing the eponymous character forced into a tragic choice. It’s the sort of short film that I was hoping might be turned into one that is feature length. Per Benefiel, though, if he revisits that project, it will be as a series and I’m hoping that works out, with Benefiel reprising his role.
We had been talking before getting down to my interview with him for Mayim Bialik’s feature film directorial debut, AS THEY MADE US, on which he served as an executive producer. When we did start, my first question was about how Bialik’s semi-autobiographical film about her troubled family life resonated with him and his, as he puts it, interesting childhood. He’s has had an interesting adulthood, too, working as an extra on Martin Scorsese’s GOODFELLAS, and co- executive producing THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO SEVEN. The childhood, though, prompted that first question I put to Benefiel, who is also an actor, writer, and director when we spoke via Zoom on April 22, 2022. His wonderfully thoughtful answer spoke to exactly why film can be so much more than mere entertainment.
We went on to talk about why he wanted to move behind the camera for his short film, PROTECTING TONY; the reasons behind his not meeting Dustin Hoffman while AS THEY MADE US was being filmed; and his devotion to stepfather, singer Frank Vestry, and how it influenced Benefiel’s own Mafia-comedy, THE MOB KID; and the energy of the Copacabana.
We finished up with how we walked away from the business for a few years; what it meant for him to co-produce THE TRIAL OF THE CHICGO SEVEN; why it’s healing to share the sorrows found in AS THEY MADE US; how his mother made him the man he is today; and the outlet acting offers that nothing else quite can.