Following the FilmDistrict Studio panel in Hall H, that featured both Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (produced by Guillermo del Toro) and Drive, director Nicolas Refn sat down for a press roundtable to discuss the much-buzzed about film. Brutal and bloody, Drive is also being praised for its unique originality and the vision of its filmmaker, along with its score and the performances of a cast that includes Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Ron Perlman, Albert Brooks, Christina Hendricks and Bryan Cranston.
During the interview, Nicolas Refn talked about having his actors express their emotions through looks rather than talking, the love story between Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan’s characters, the importance of music in both his life and on set, and using violence as a tool. He also talked about his next project with Gosling, Only God Forgives, which goes into production in February, and the development of Logan’s Run, for which he says he is close to presenting how he would like to make it to the studio, and what he thinks needs to be done to bring it to the big screen again. Check out what he had to say after the jump:
Question: One thing that’s so satisfying about Drive is how much is not said and over-explained. Was it a struggle or fight to pare the script down, in that fashion?
NICOLAS REFN: Nope, it came out of me not liking talking. I feel that silence is the greatest word, ever. I just wanted them to look at each other because it’s the purity of love. It’s like seeing your first love. You just look at her. Because he (Ryan Gosling) is a man of silence, in the sense that he is a character that only speaks when he is spoken to or when he has something to say, and that automatically makes him mythological, in the sense that, when you don’t talk, people begin to read things into you or you become what they long for. When you don’t talk, you almost become the mirror image of the other person. When I did Valhalla Rising with Mads Mikkelsen, he was mute all the way through. I was very interesting in that kind of storytelling, working with protagonists that don’t speak.
Do you find that actors have a more difficult time dealing with that?
REFN: It’s the hardest thing for an actor not to speak because you take away their main tool. So for an actor, it’s very frustrating and very challenging, and very few people can pull it off. But, Ryan [Gosling] is one of those few actors that can say a thousand words with just a look, and it’s a unique gift. Very few people have ever had that gift.
What about Carey Mulligan?
REFN: Same thing. The love story within them is heightened because of that. It’s never defined. It’s just pure and almost innocent, in a way. That’s because the Driver protects innocence against evil. It’s very much structured like a fairy tale. I had been reading Grimm’s fairy tales to my eldest daughter a few years ago and I thought, “Well, it would be interesting to make a movie like a fairy tale.” So, when this came up, that was the style I wanted to do it in.
Does that also revitalize a genre, to just do it in its purest form?
REFN: Yeah, I believe the stronger the purity, the stronger the drama.
Can you talk about the importance of the music in the film?
REFN: Well, the music was very important. I don’t do drugs anymore, and so music very much gets me going. I’m a fetish filmmaker, in that I don’t know why I do what I do, I just like to see things. When I figure out what I would like to see, I will put it in a film. When I do something, I think, “If it was a piece of music, what would it be?” Kraftwerk, from the ‘70s, created electronic music and very crude instruments, and that was very similar to the Driver being a machine, but he’s an antique machine. He drives an antique car. So, knowing that I always wanted electronic music, that was the inspiration. I would listen to a lot of very early electronic music, and that was it. It was that whole Euro sound. And then, after I had chosen the songs, I had Cliff Martinez emulate that specific sound.
Do you use music on the set?
REFN: On the set, and then when I write it or when I think about it. I would even walk around with my iPod on, through all the scenes when I was shooting, listening to specific kinds of music.
In this film, it seems very easy for people to kill people. Were you exploring how easily you could just end someone?
REFN: Like fairy tales, once the bad guys are judged, it’s always very vicious, but it’s always in one sentence like, “And they died a violent ending.” It’s very quick. I felt that violence works when it’s quick and unpredictable.
Is there a limit to how far you can push the violence in a movie like this?
REFN: No, I don’t think there’s any limit. It’s just about how you do it. But, you must understand that violence is only a tool. If it’s used badly, it will be horrible. If it’s used correctly, it can be very interesting. But, essentially, it’s just a tool.
Are there other directors that you think use violence well?
REFN: Well, I think that Sam Peckinpah certainly was one of the great masters of violent cinema. John Ford certainly had a very violent impulse in his films and characters. John Woo is another example. [Jean-Pierre] Melville from France is a good example. I always admire Tony Scott’s films. People use it in different kinds of ways.
So, you and Ryan Gosling really clicked and you’re going to do another project together?
REFN: We’re doing two movies together. We’re doing Only God Forgives in February, and then we’re doing Logan’s Run.
That’s still on?
REFN: Oh, yeah. When I have a script that I’m happy with, that Ryan is happy with, and that Warner Bros. is happy with, then we’ll make the movie.
Are you close to that?
REFN: I’m close to presenting how I would like to make it.
Knowing that sci-fi movies like to over-explain things, would you be able to strip the dialogue from that?
REFN: Well, that’s the big trick. Sometimes over-explaining it is actually what makes it more complicated.
What is it about Logan’s Run made you think that it was due for a remake?
REFN: I’ve always been obsessed with the film, ever since I was little. So, when they called and asked if I was interested, my answer was just, “Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!”
Why is it so difficult to get that film off the ground?
REFN: I haven’t been in the other meetings or been around with it before, but I know they’ve been trying to make it for 25 years. I think one of the problems maybe has been that they’ve been trying to remake the original film, which is impossible because it’s already dated. How do you remake something that’s dated, about the future which is much more advanced?
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