“I learned a long time ago not to think about (awards recognition), because if you do, you go crazy,” Nicolas Winding Refn tells Gold Derby. “You can only make the movie you want to make, and hopefully it will be appreciated.”
Indeed, the director’s existentialist crime thriller “Drive” has been greatly appreciated, earning critical acclaim (79 score at Metacritic) plus nominations for Best Picture and Best Director from the Critics’ Choice Awards. Last May, Winding Refn won Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival, where he competed against international heavyweights like Terrence Malick, Pedro Almodovar, and his fellow Dane Lars von Trier, for whom Winding Refn’s father, Anders Refn, works as an editor.
But it was a long road from page to screen for the film, which began as a 2005 novel by James Sallis. Universal Studios was initially set to produce, at which time the film was intended to be a large-scale action film starring Hugh Jackman, but when Winding Refn took over and began making changes, the studio backed out and he was forced to find independent financing. Fortunately, the lack of studio support may have helped more than it hurt, according to the director: “It made sure I was able to make the movie I wanted to make.”
In doing so, he drew from an unlikely source of inspiration: the Brothers Grimm, whose fairy tales he had read to his older daughter. It was not one Grimms’ tale in particular that sparked his creativity. “It was more how they’re written and how they’re structured and how they’re told,” he says. “The archetypes – Ryan [Gosling] is the knight, Carey Mulligan is the maiden, Albert Brooks is the evil king – but also the sparseness of the dialogue and how the love story is told.”
It wasn’t only Universal that objected to Winding Refn’s vision. Last October “Drive’s” distributor, FilmDistrict, was sued by Sarah Deming, a Michigan woman who complained that the film was falsely marketed to her as a “Fast and the Furious”-style actioner. “It’s kind of ironic that what she was seeking for was the studio’s original intention until I took it over,” says the director. “But I would love to meet her. She sounds like a very fascinating woman.”
“Drive” has reaped much acclaim for Brooks’s performance as sociopathic crime boss Bernie Rose. It’s an unconventional character for Brooks, who is better known for his comic roles. He received his only Oscar nomination to date for the newsroom comedy “Broadcast News” in 1987. But Winding Refn says he always envisioned the actor for the part. “I could just sense that behind this very funny man there was also a volcano of emotion,” he explains. “Eventually he would kill somebody,, so let’s do it on film instead.”
Watch the full interview below.
Sorry, Pixar: ‘Cars 2’ won’t win Animated Feature at Oscars
10 Golden Globe upsets that COULD happen
Can “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” contend for Best Picture at the Oscars?
How ‘Midnight in Paris’ could win Best Picture at the Oscars