The first collaboration between director Nicolas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling, “Drive,” was a perfect combination of a few, unlikely elements. Refn brought together art-house characters, genre levels of violence and one of Hollywood’s hottest actors to create an unlikely cult hit. Their second movie together somehow managed to be even “Drive”-ier. “Only God Forgives” was more violent, moodier and Gosling had almost no dialogue at all, and while it didn’t get the same wide and warm reception as its processor, it continued the fascinating work between the duo.
For the Blu-ray release of “Only God Forgives” next week, we spoke with Refn about a sentiment he shared in an exclusive featurette from the disc — violence is like sex — and four other theories that he has on making memorable movies.
Treat Violence Like Sex
Refn’s brand of gut-punching violence comes out of an understanding of foreplay, what comes beforehand. Think back to the bathroom scene with Christina Hendricks in “Drive.” The proof is in the blood splatter. “It’s just ‘How do you make something work?’ The stronger the build-up, the better the pay-off,” Refn said. “The act of something violent depends on how you earned it, like sex. It’s all about building up to it.”
Everything Is An Experiment
Even though Refn brought back his “Drive” leading man for “Only God Forgives,” making the movie his attention was squarely on the present, not on their past. Starting fresh with each film is a requirement for Refn to keep making movies his way. “I think each film is different; at least I try to approach it like that,” he said. “I think it’s important that you’re not too clever for your own good. If you become too conscious of what you do, the process becomes more mechanical and less organic. Everything is an experiment.”
Make Every Movie Like It’s Your Last
Even though Refn experienced a new height of commercial success with “Drive,” he refused to let that achievement dictate what came next. “If you do make every film like it’s your last movie, you make it with no restrictions and no fear because we’re always bound by our previous successes to make new movie, but that can also restrict us,” he said. “It can make us safe. The chief enemy of creativity is being safe. Every time you approach a film, it’s like you try to erase the memory of your previous film. Whether it was a success of not is irrelevant.”
Creativity Comes First
Though his name has been tossed around for big-budget projects, Refn has stayed away from the typical filmmaker trajectory of jumping from successful indie to potential blockbuster, but he hasn’t written off the possibility. It just has to be the right one. “The reality is, if I were to do that, that I’d probably most likely have to trade off my creative freedom. That trade-off is very valuable,” Refn said. “Creative freedom outweighs any money they can give you. It has to outweigh it. Why do it? The $100 million movie, there hasn’t been one where I’ve said ‘That’s the trade-off one.’ I hope it will come. I would love to make a $500 million movie, but they haven’t call yet.”
When In Doubt, Listen To Ryan Gosling
While Refn keeps his options open, advise from his leading man rings in his head. “I’m open to anything, just like I like all kinds of music Like Ryan said to me, ‘Be careful. If you don’t like the movie, you’re going to have to spend another year promoting it, and then you’d have to spend your life cursing why you made it.’ ”
“Only God Forgives” hits Blu-ray and DVD on October 22.