Following his projects “Valhalla Rising” and “Bronson”, Danish film director Nicolas Winding Refn today releases “Drive” in the UK. Winning the Best Director gong at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year (and just missing out on the Palme d’Or prize), Drive – adapted from James Sallis’s 2005 novel of the same name – is the story of an un-named driver (Ryan Gosling) – Hollywood stunt driver by day, criminal get away driver by night – who embarks on a friendship with girl-next-door, Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her son. Set in modern day LA, the film is seeped in 80s nostalgia and plays like an innocent romance story until, roughly half way through, the pace jumps a gear and throttles towards break neck tension and extreme violence when Gosling’s driver finds himself at the centre of a mafia hit job. Catching some time with the film’s director, WONDERLAND quizzes Winding Refn on some of his 80s references and swiftly decide he is a man we would never want to make love to.
What is your earliest memory of film.
It is the combination of a Smurfs movie and “Fat City” by John Huston. I don’t know about the Smurfs going on to be an influence, but “Fat City” has certainly stayed with me ever since. It was the first movie I ever saw in the cinema.
At what point did you decide to be a director?
I never did and I don’t consider myself one. I just consider myself somebody that uses film to express their fetish or indulge their fetish. I just wanted to control the medium, that’s all.
Obviously “Drive” is dripping in 80s references – we wanted to see if we can guess some of the origins. Are the title credits at the beginning of the film a homage to Tom Cruise’s ‘88 outing, “Cocktail”?
No. I stole the credits title design from the font of “Risky Business” [’83 – also a Tom Cruise film]. It looked cool and it was feminine which was always important. It’s always important to counter between the very masculine and feminine.
Is the pulsating electro soundtrack in any way associated with 1986’s “Top Gun”?
No. Although probably, if I think about it, it could have Berlin “Take My Breath Away”, but that’s about it.
And is the scene where the driver takes Irene for a drive down along the LA river with her son a reference to “Grease 2” (1982)?
Ah, no. But I know they shot there.
What is the whole 80s influence about the movie?
It wasn’t intentional it’s just I realised LA never left the 80s so I was stuck in the 80s. It’s like I went into the Tardis and went back in time.
How did you cast for the film?
I was very fortunate because Ryan had approached me about doing a movie together and that became “Drive” and after that most of the actors got in touch with me essentially offering themselves to be part of the film – which was terrific. I loved every minute of working with the Ryan and Carey and the cast. There was a lot of laughing. And a lot of crying.
Were some scenes difficult to direct?
No. Very easy.
And when it comes to directing violence is that quite easy to direct as well?
It’s all about sex.
What’s the correlation?
Violence has the same build up as sex.
We try to keep the two separate ourselves… So what are your influences in film making?
In general it depends on what I make. It’s always individual. I start from scratch [with each project]. Ryan and I are doing a movie again at Christmas called “Only God Forgives” which is an action movie. I don’t know if it will be as violent as Drive as I haven’t made it yet.
What is your favourite Mafia Movie?
“The Killing of a Chinese Bookie” [1976, directed by John Cassavetes]. You have to see it to understand it. It’s not particularly violent, but it is brilliant.
Which 80s film do you wish you had directed?
I don’t look at it like that, but “Sixteen Candles” [John Hughes 1984 romantic comedy] made a huge impression on me. It introduced me to cinema love which is the fake and uncomplicated illusion of love.
Drive is quite an edge of your seat feature – what do you personally do for an adrenaline kick?
I hang out with my family. That’s pretty much a thrill ride! When you have two kids and wife it’s all very hectic but it’s beautiful. It makes everything else secondary and although it can be tiring, it’s worth the agony.
Drive is in cinemas nationwide today
Interview: Seamus Duff