In talking with Refn about his planned horror film “I Walk With The Dead”, what level of involvement will you have with that?
I don't know what it is yet. That's all in his mind. I'll go with him, I'll go anywhere with him, because I think he's just such a brilliant filmmaker, but that's never been more than the two of us saying we'll make a film together again.
What was that discussion like?
I lived with him and his family when we were filming "Drive," and we really liked working together and wanted to do something where I had more to do. And so he always talked about doing this film called “I Walk With The Dead,” and then he announced it at a film festival in a middle of an interview and it turned into a thing. We're in contact all the time, but we haven't sat down to talk about what it's going to be. I mean, it could happen in 10 years, but I hope it happens eventually. I'd love to work with him again.
It’s interesting that you’ve worked with two filmmakers who favor extended takes to really draw the viewer in—Refn and Steve McQueen—but with completely different results. How did your process change from acting in “Drive” and “Shame”?
I loved working with Steve so much, but it was a totally different energy. Nicolas is very low-key and calm and everything's done very gently. "Drive" was sort of a fairy tale—it was a princess stuck in a tower and a knight in shining armor—so we could afford to really play with those beats and build up that relationship. I mean, we cut all of the lines out of "Drive." There was so much more to say but we would just come in every day and be like, 'You don't need to say any of this.' So we didn't.
“Shame” was much more intense. A couple of months before, Steve and I hung out a lot. We went to go and see photography exhibitions together and talk constantly. Then when we were filming it was always a night shoot, it was always one in the morning before I was on-set, and we would always just shoot 16 takes in a row. A lot of it was one shot and the camera would just follow us across the room. There was sort of a manic energy to it. Steve's got that; he kind of feeds off it and encourages it and he's like a whirlwind to work with. He used to watch a take and come in and be so excited by what would happen. His expectations are so high, he was like a football coach screaming at you, but never in a negative way. Positive, but so amped up all the time—it was such a high level that he would expect more and more and more.
Well, there’s the tale of you trying to make him stay in a meeting and consider you for the part when he was trying to leave. Do you need those collaborators that perhaps doubt you initially?
Yes, very much. Steve said to me in that meeting, "You're good, but if you're going to be in my film you've gotta be ten times better." I was like, "Great. Make me.” I don't ever want to be the same as like the film that I've just done. I want to be much better.
Did Vinterberg say the same thing when considering you for “Far From The Madding Crowd”?
He did, actually. But I think that would always be an ambition for a director. You always want someone who wants one more take. I hate moving on from scenes. I mean, at some point you obviously trust a director and if they've got the take, they've got it. But you want someone who's going to push you for one last stretch to see if there's anything else.
How do you feel that “Far From The Madding Crowd” approaches the English period drama?
Well, Vinterberg is an outsider so he doesn't have the reverence for Hardy. I mean, obviously he respects and loves the novel, but he's not precious about it. It’s so hard to describe the way he works, but it's really liberating. The stakes in “Far From The Madding Crowd” are so high, and the things that happen in that story are so massive and very melodramatic. I think he embraced the melodrama and I think that's going to be really exciting. It'll either be something completely insane or it'll work, and I think it'll work.
“Inside Llewyn Davis” opens in theatres on December 6th.