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Comic-Con: "Casting is like Russian Roulette" and More on Drive, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

Thompson on Hollywood By Sophia Savage | Thompson on Hollywood July 22, 2011 at 4:56AM

Why did FilmDistrict--making their Comic-Con Hall H debut--do a combo-panel of Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (directed by Troy Nixey, produced by Guillermo del Toro) and Drive (from director Nicolas Winding Refn)? According to Del Toro, it's because "I wanted to meet this insane mother fucker." He meant Refn. The two have lots of love for each other and each other's films. But Guy Pearce, witty Aussie star of Dark, insisted that "ours is better."
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Thompson on Hollywood


Why did FilmDistrict--making their Comic-Con Hall H debut--do a combo-panel of Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (directed by Troy Nixey, produced by Guillermo del Toro) and Drive (from director Nicolas Winding Refn)? According to Del Toro, it's because "I wanted to meet this insane mother fucker." He meant Refn. The two have lots of love for each other and each other's films. But Guy Pearce, witty Aussie star of Dark, insisted that "ours is better."

The vibe of the FilmDistrict panel was friendly, with both sets of directors and stars delivering plenty of promo lip-service for each other. Refn calls Dark "awesome," while Del Toro calls Drive "balls-to-the-wall filmmaking." The crowd ate up the clips (especially the goriest bit from Drive) and the frequent use of the F-word, thanks to Del Toro.

More banter, words of wisdom from the directors, and the Drive trailer, which premiered at the panel, are below:

Thompson on Hollywood
Thompson on Hollywood

Del Toro, on Ron Perlman's villain in Drive: "I've never been scared of him in any fucking movie, and in this movie I was creeped out." Perlman says he told Refn, while working on his character, "I don't know who Nino is, but when you say action some shit is gonna happen."

Refn on watching Del Toro's films: "I begin to see a pattern, it's like looking into his house or his brain."

On Guy Pearce: "He is the man, by the way, he is the fucking man."

On the evil creatures in Dark: "These mother fuckers never give up, they never quit."

And more seriously:

Refn:"Progressive cinema has really become the new genre film: Mixing poetry and commercialism and cinema, which is really what great filmmaking is."

Del Toro talks about the importance of working big and small. He's prepping big-budget Pacific Rim as well as indie horror Mama, which he is producing with first time feature director Andres Muschietti (based on the Spanish director's 2008 short film) with Jessica Chastain lined up to star. ThePlaylist has more on Mama.

Refn on casting; "The cast has always been the most crucial thing in a film. It's the one major headache that you always sit to figure out…who would be right? Who do they want? Who do you want? It's like playing Russian Roulette. But once you realize the casting is in place, it's like sex, it doesn't get any better, cause you know it's going to be ok. Even when it's bad it's still good. So in terms of the casting--everything you do--directing is really easy, guys, it's just inspiring everyone to do their best and then you put your name on it...Support them, help them, then just leave them alone…essentially everything comes down to casting."

Carey Mulligan chased after the role in Drive. Why? "It's was Nic." She had seen Bronson and Valhalla Rising. "I emailed my agent and I said…'I just want to work with someone like Nicolas Winding Refn.' Two weeks later he has Drive and I muscled myself into the film." She and Refn worked on her character together, making "major small changes." Refn said he had seen "everything" Hollywood had to offer for the role, but hadn't found what he was looking for. Then, "the minute [Mulligan] came through the door, it was like there she is, thank you very much, God." God, or, more likely, his wife. "I have a very controlling wife…she buys my clothes…my wife had seen An Education and she said it was really good, and that I should use her, which helped."

Non-driver Refn was chauffered around L.A. by Ryan Gosling, who showed him the different LA locations that are in the book upon which the film is based (Drive, by James Sallis). Refn didn't want to shoot the LA that we all "seen in so many times before in films." He wanted to find new, real locations. He's a fan of shooting wide angle, stating that "locations, behind the actors [are] one of the most important things." Del Toro laughed, saying his style is the opposite, "Nothing is real in Pan's Labrynth." For him, it's all about context. "I think context is everything in a fable, because every story has already been told…Voice [of the protagonist] and context is everything."

This article is related to: Box Office, Directors, Festivals, Genres, Headliners, Independents, Guillermo Del Toro, Comic-Con, Horror , Drama, Action, Books


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.