Sometimes from an actor and director, James Franco transforms into an employee of the IndieWire portal (obviously using the flywheel of time). His interview with one of the most controversial and scandalous directors of our time - Nicholas Winding Refn - is timed to coincide with the release on DVD of the director's latest film " The Neon Demon ". Franco and Refn worked together on an advertisement for Gucci , but the current conversation was devoted not only to "The Demon" , but also the early work of the filmmaker, as well as how he came to the current point of development.|
Your parents were directors. I also heard that you invited your future wife to your first date in the movies, to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Very romantic. Tell us a little about how you grew up and where you started. I'm interested in what your upbringing has given to your further creativity.
If we talk about the starting point, then it all started with television. We moved to New York City, Manhattan, when I was eight. I couldn't speak English and I was dyslexic. It took me a long time to learn to read. But I was really comforted that, apart from the skyscrapers around, I had a TV set. Multichannel television, where completely different things are played, reminded me of a kaleidoscope. In general, it was then that I became obsessed with the screen, which can be controlled in any way - switch channels and change pictures.
My mom and stepfather were documentaries and had a Scandinavian serious attitude to everything. Mom was very fond of the French new wave - this is the cinema of her generation. And she hated just a few things: American entertainment, brutality and Ronald Reagan. You can guess by yourself that I fell in love when I grew up.
Have you watched a lot of 70s-80s slashers?
I watched everything that was shown on TV or sold on video at that time. When I was 12 or 13 years old, I started going to cinemas. At 14 I watched that very "Texas Massacre" - it was a kind of liberation. There is no convention in it related to how to present the story, it is just a switch of emotions - click, click. There is nothing human, alive, and it scared me wildly. After that I thought that I would never become a director, but I want to experience similar feelings, something on the verge of horror and admiration, from my work. Perhaps that's how it all started.
Sounds like you never wanted to make slashers, but you were really impressed.
Yes, exactly. Probably, you experience such a feeling from directing in general. At least that's how it was with me. As I said in Bronson , unfortunately there are not many ways I can express myself in art. I cannot dance or sing, I don’t play any musical instrument, I don’t make sculptures, I don’t perform in the theater. I can’t even draw because I’m color blind. Thank God that the movie found me and the screen became my canvas.
After the first realization of what you wanted, where did you start?
I started shooting short films when I was 16 or 18 years old - then we had to return to Copenhagen. At 19 I came to New York again, entered drama school, studied there for a year and went to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts , but flew out a year later. And only after that he once again returned to Denmark and rented "Dealer" . Initially, it was a short film, but, having found funding, I remade it into a full film. At that time I was 23 years old.
You entered the Academy for the acting department. Going to play after graduation?
To be honest, I just wanted to be famous and for some reason thought acting would help. Mom once gave me a book about John Cassavetes, in which it was mentioned that he attended that very American Academy ... I applied to several institutions and got there. I can say that I was good at the comedy genre. In any case, my teacher and grades spoke about it. Although I still flew from there. It was only part of the journey, and I understood that something more was waiting for me.
When we were working on the advertisement, you repeated to me in almost every scene:"Less is more, nothing is everything". If they told me that you said the same thing to the actors of all your films, from " Drive " to " Neon Demon ", I would believe it. But in "Dealer" , apparently, a different approach worked ...
Yes, "Dealer" is a search for a reflection of reality in cinema. I tried to portray everything as authentically as possible - as in subsequent works, I shot all the scenes in chronological order, invited real gangsters as actors, which was pure improvisation. I was haunted by the idea of getting as close to reality as possible. But by the end of filming, I realized that I would never reach even a satisfying version. In any case, the process itself was more than fun.
You filmed real people as themselves. How did you find them?
For example, I called the Hell's Angels chapter in Copenhagen, invited me to shoot, but they refused. I also went to meetings of different subcultures in search of suitable people. It's funny, but in my first picture, even all the cocaine was real. Of course, this is not the best idea, but when you are only 24, it is probably important to work a little arrogantly. I tried to convey reality authentically, as in documentary filmmaking, and then decided that I would just create this effect myself. Thus was born Bronson .
Before Bronson you directed Fear X , which was your first English film. Some filmmakers find it difficult to make the transition to another language. What trials did you have to overcome?
Fear X is just a sign from above, a reminder that I cannot walk on water. Then I needed a slap in the face. Ever since The Dealer , I have wanted to be the greatest director of all time. But this is ridiculous, because it is impossible. In Fear X , all the work was carried out under my control: I had enough money, an amazing cast was invited, the wonderful screenwriter Hubert Selby Jr. was working, and cameraman Larry Smith from the thriller "Wide closed eyes. " But everything collapsed because of me, I screwed up completely.
I had two options: to fall and not get up again, or to get up and use all my experience to become stronger. I kept repeating to myself:"I will never give up". I had something to think about in order to regain my place in the cinema. I first shot two sequels to Dealers to pay off the bills, then moved on to Bronson . But without those tests, I would not have created all the other tapes. No longer wishing to become generally recognized, I decided to just be the best director in the genre that I started with. I stayed honest with myself, which is the main thing that is needed for creativity.
Bronson was the next level for you and the breakthrough for Tom Hardy. How did you find your actor?
I created this drama based on the life story of England's most famous criminal, Charles Bronson , to selfishly tell about myself to my beloved. And, of course, someone had to play "me". I first turned to Jason State, but he refused. Guy Pearce was next in mind, but he was not eager to participate in the project.
During that period, there was a lot of talk about the young actor Tom Hardy , but I had no idea about him. We met, and when all the other applicants refused to cooperate, I invited Tom . And, here it is, luck, he turned out to be the best choice and just a find of the project. I still admire Tom and love him very much. He is a unique, great actor, and it was a godsend to work with him.
It feels like Bronson has become a film in which you have moved away from the concept of using documentary principles inherent in your early works ...
In this tape, the idea of achieving success at any cost becomes a fetish of the protagonist. Actually, as I said, this is my youthful dream. The world of fame has always seemed to me full of sexuality, glitz and glamor. It has music, cruelty, violence and comedy at the same time. All this required structuring for the implementation on the screen.
It was great to be back with Larry Smith . In addition, for the first time, I had the opportunity to fully work with Matt Newman, who now edits all my paintings. We met on the set of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple, which is how I found one of my most important colleagues.
I would like to move on to your later works. How was "Drive" created?
It all started with Ryan Gosling's invitation to go to dinner with him. It was in Los Angeles, and then I was drinking all the time - I didn't have a project with Harrison Ford. Ryan was extremely interested in Drive - the script belonged to the studio Universal , which by that time had been trying to get the film into production for ten years.
The picture was born of how we rode in the car together after dinner - Ryan drove me to my hotel in Santa Monica, and I was drunk as a lord, crying and singing some kind of pop. I remember being hooked on the idea of making a movie about a guy who drives around at night, listens to pop music, and it relaxes him, which is what we did while driving with Gosling . It was then that he said that he was in business.
We were inspired by a joint trip and bought the project from Universal . As a result, he has changed significantly from what he was supposed to be. Drive is a personal love story with Ryan .
The phrase “Less is more, nothing is everything” seems to have been extremely important for the plot of “Drive” , since the hero of Ryan is almost always silent. Was it originally conceived, or did he find the concept himself while filming?
Many of the crew members were not familiar with the script, so no one intervened. Just great! But even before Drive and after Bronson I made the drama Valhalla: The Viking Saga - almost completely silent. In it, I plunged into silence, although "Bronson" was previously extremely spoken and theatrical.
In Valhalla I wanted to make an almost silent movie. The character, played by Mads Mikkelsen, is not particularly talkative throughout the action. With this attitude I approached the shooting of "Drive" . Ryan is able to convey a whole range of emotions with just facial expressions and eyes. He has a magnetically attractive appearance that allows him to tell a story without words. This is his unique gift. I suggested:“Let's not say anything, but just listen to the music”. Often in the frame he is depicted from the back, because he has a scorpion on his jacket, which is better than words.
Earlier, you mentioned that in the The Dealer trilogy you tested how far you can go. Does the episode in "Drive" where Ryan literally trample a gangster in an elevator echoes that idea?
I think it's closer to The Texas Massacre . The idea here is that nothing is limited - the more extreme this or that action, the more interesting it can be shown. Since I shoot everything in a strict chronology, and the scene with the broken head was supposed to be at the end, we no longer had time to think. We just went and filmed it. Then I decided that there should be a kiss before the murder, because every film needs a scene that, like a heart, pushes blood throughout the plot. Drive managed to show the beauty of a kiss and extreme cruelty in one episode. The light goes out, and time seems to stop. One moment combines poetry and violence.
After the success of "Drive" did you feel the burden of responsibility, did you fear too high expectations?
Interesting question. I don't think Drive is any special film compared to the rest of my work. But he was the first in which there were two main ingredients of mass success - a real movie star and some approximation to the mainstream. Before that, I had never participated in film festivals, did not win any awards, and with Drive won the Cannes Prize for Directing. Of course, everything has changed since that evening. But I understood: we need to move on and not repeat ourselves. If the criterion of success begins to dictate the rules, it will force me to stay where I am. Of course, this is very convenient, but this approach has nothing to do with creativity as such.
So, when I started the drama " Only God will forgive ", I decided that I had to do something radically different. It was necessary to destroy everything in order to build something new and original. And I'm happy that Ryan supported me by going to the shooting in Bangkok. At that time, something was fixed between us at the level of telekinesis.
Let's move on to The Neon Demon ... You talk about the need to demolish old "buildings" and erect new ones in their place. But when it comes to silence and visuals that are richer than words, it turns out that in the last four films, including The Demon , you just explore the same idea in different ways. B >
You have to be a little obsessed to understand my philosophy. I will never fall under control or clear categories. For example, you can say that in " Drive " I have reached the pinnacle in the image of masculinity. In "Only God will forgive" deeply studied the topic of impotence, as my hero is depressed by his mother. And the 16-year-old girl in "Neon Demon" is just a fantasy about what it means to be a beautiful woman. As you can see, I was not born beautiful, and therefore I do not know what that means. You look good, James . If they say about me that I am charismatic, it will already be good luck. And you are handsome, and that's another matter entirely.
Beauty is my obsession. Perhaps I myself would like to be a beautiful woman. In "The Demon" , I expressed my fantasy, showing how this has to do with the world in which we now live. More and more people are becoming obsessed with beauty. Life expectancy decreases, and beauty becomes more and more youthful and eventually devours itself.
Among other things, I wanted to make a horror film about beauty. I think the fashion world is the perfect place to shoot this theme. It is there that the level of obsession with beauty is transcended. In addition to horror, I set out to create a science fiction film, melodrama and comedy. I needed to express all the thoughts that I was captured at that time. And in the end "Neon Demon" turned out to be something like ritual magic for me when analyzing the beauty born from demonic forces.
The images in the feed are so accurate. And everything - the play of actors, camera movements, editing - has its own rhythm. In this regard, the picture is very different from all your other works. How did you achieve this effect?
Everything here is based on a clear connection between content and form. As you can imagine, the visual component in my cinema is sometimes the content. The main elements that you can still experiment with in cinematography are structure and rhythm. It is the study of these aspects that allows us to move forward in directing.
From the very childhood I felt like I was from the future. So " Neon Demon " is the same, a picture from the future. You know, sometimes films themselves begin to dictate how their stories should be told. But in the end, everything comes to one thing: “Less is more, nothing is everything.”
Have you ever said this to Elle Fanning while filming?
I would tell her that over and over again. And I would like her to repeat these words to me. And then instead of the command "Motor!" I would say: "Let's go fuck."
The Topic of Article: Nicholas Winding Refn: ”Beauty is my obsession”.