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Marrakech Interview: Nicolas Winding Refn On Disliking Vikings, Realism & What He Learned From 'Fear X'

Photo of Jessica Kiang By Jessica Kiang | The Playlist December 9, 2013 at 2:12PM

It’s telling, and maybe also a little paradoxical, that of the huge array of Nordic talent assembled onstage at the Scandinavian tribute last week at the Marrakech Film Festival, the honor itself was accepted (on the delegation’s behalf) by Nicolas Winding Refn. Telling, because it shows just how sky-high the director’s profile is, despite, or maybe because of, the mixed reaction to this year’s “Only God Forgives,” the follow-up to his Cannes-busting “Drive.” A little paradoxical, because it really feels that Refn can be less and less associated with the region of his birth these days: his last truly Danish film was 2005’s “Pusher 3” and his ongoing association with Ryan Gosling, along with his interest in non-European settings and cultures, makes him feel more international-with-maybe-an-independent-American-edge than anything else.
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PHOTO Nicolas Winding Refn Says He's Listening To Thai Country & Western Music For 'Only God Forgives'

It’s telling, and maybe also a little paradoxical, that of the huge array of Nordic talent assembled onstage at the Scandinavian tribute last week at the Marrakech Film Festival, the honor itself was accepted (on the delegation’s behalf) by Nicolas Winding Refn. Telling, because it shows just how sky-high the director’s profile is, despite, or maybe because of, the mixed reaction to this year’s “Only God Forgives,” the follow-up to his Cannes-busting “Drive.” A little paradoxical, because it really feels that Refn can be less and less associated with the region of his birth these days: his last truly Danish film was 2005’s “Pusher 3” and his ongoing association with Ryan Gosling, along with his interest in non-European settings and cultures, makes him feel more international-with-maybe-an-independent-American-edge than anything else.

Still, we won’t complain as it gave us another chance to talk to the director, in a small group of press, and we found him in remarkably relaxed form. Here's a summary of some of the highlights from that interview, in which Refn spoke not only about his more recent films, but also about “Valhalla Rising” and, candidly about his filmography’s bete noire “Fear X.” He was, as ever, less forthcoming about his putative future projects, to the point of coyness, but did let slip a couple of nuggets, in amongst our wider discussion of inspiration, filmmaking economics and Donatella Versace.

"I can’t stand Vikings I couldn’t care anything about that world, but I thought it would be interesting to work with Mads and make him mute and give him one eye."

Refn consciously moved away from the realism of his early Danish breakthrough films.
I used to make films trying to capture authenticity, to the extent that when I began working, I would use real people playing themselves… But I realized very quickly that was ludicrous because it’s impossible, it always deflates itself. So I became interested in heightened reality, it gives you much more possibilities…

Bronson” was when I decided to make films about heightened reality. A movie like “Drive” is very much fairy-tale inspired...After the “Pusher” trilogy I realized, I’d be repeating myself again and again. [With realism] you’re always bound by logic and this doesn’t interest me. Whereas fairy tales are interpretation and logic does not apply the same way.

Valhalla Rising Mikkelsen One Eye

Nor does he care for Vikings
Movies are also about how you get financing, with “Valhalla Rising” I knew that Mads Mikkelsen and Vikings would help me get financing. But I can’t stand Vikings I couldn’t care anything about that world, but I thought it would be interesting to work with Mads and make him mute and give him one eye--making a sci-fi movie without science. But that was after we got the financing.

The documentary on the making of “Only God Forgives” being made by Refn’s wife is nearing completion.
They’re finishing it now, but I stay out of it to avoid arguments. She goes and hangs out with Ryan [Gosling] and I stay out of the way.

And his wife also advises on his future projects, one of which may be a comedy (with “lots of talking,” Refn adds drily) with Gosling.
I get ideas in many different ways, and then I come home and discuss with my wife how will I do this? And she kinda decides how and where and why… Ryan is really funny so we say “let’s do a comedy!” It’s very easy in that sense. When I was in Tokyo I decided I wanted to make a movie in Tokyo, so I needed an idea for that. But then my wife said she would live in LA for a year if we had to, so we’ll do a comedy in LA… It’s more about what is accessible.

Despite his current project being the “Barbarella” TV show, he has never seen all of Roger Vadim’s “Barbarella”
I’ve only seen the opening, which is great! It’s one of those things I haven’t seen completely. I enjoy the concept and I like the comic books it was based on. The Vadim movie was very clever for its time but you can never do that again because the sexual revolution has come and gone. So I went back to the source material, a bit like “Logan’s Run” which was based on three books, so I had this idea of the world but I needed other people to help me build it, so that’s how [writers] Robert [Wade] and Neal [Purvis] came to be part of it... I came up with a broadstroke version but TV is a lot of hours of material so I couldn’t do it myself.

This article is related to: Nicolas Winding Refn, Fear X, Marrakech Film Festival, Only God Forgives, Drive, Ryan Gosling, Valhalla Rising, Interviews, Interview, Interviews


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