Nicolas Winding Refn
Nicolas Winding Refn
Refn at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival
|Occupation||Film director, screenwriter, producer|
|Awards||AACTA International Award|
Festival de Cannes Prix de la mise en scène
José Luis Guarner Critic's Award
Nicolas Winding Refn (Danish: [ˈne̝kolɑs ˈve̝nte̝ŋ ˈʁæfn̩]; born 29 September 1970) is a Danish film director, screenwriter and producer. He is known for directing the Pusher trilogy (1996–2005), the fictionalised biographical film Bronson (2008), the adventure film Valhalla Rising (2009), the action drama film Drive (2011), the crime film Only God Forgives (2013), the psychological horror film The Neon Demon (2016), and the crime series Too Old to Die Young (2019). In 2008, Refn co-founded the Copenhagen-based production company Space Rocket Nation.
Refn was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, and raised partly in New York, United States. Refn's parents are Danish film director and editor Anders Refn and cinematographer Vibeke Winding. His half-brother is Kasper Winding, who has become a singer in Denmark. Refn has referred to himself as Jewish, though his geneaology indicates no recent Jewish heritage.
1996–2005: Early career and the Pusher trilogy
Refn then directed Bleeder (1999), which featured much of the same cast from the Pusher Trilogy, including actors such as Kim Bodnia and Mads Mikkelsen. Refn won the FIPRESCI prize for the film at the 2000 Sarajevo Film Festival the work won Best Lighting at the Robert Festival. The film was nominated for Best Film and Best Supporting Actress at the 2000 Bodil Awards, as well as for the Grand Prix Asturias for Best Feature at the 1999 Gijon International Film Festival.
In 2003, Refn directed and wrote his first English-language film, Fear X, which starred John Turturro and was shot in Canada. Although a financial disappointment, the Danish-Canadian production won an International Fantasy Film Award for Best Screenplay at the 2004 Fantasporto Film Festival, and was nominated for best actor awards (for Turturro) at the Bodil Awards and the Fangoria Awards, and best film awards at festivals including Sitges Film Festival and the Sochi International Film Festival.
Refn later made two sequels to Pusher, Pusher II (2004) (a.k.a. Pusher II: With Blood on My Hands) and Pusher 3 (2005) (a.k.a. Pusher III: I'm The Angel of Death). For Pusher II, lead actor Mads Mikkelsen won a Best Actor award at the 2005 Bodil Awards, Best Actor at the 2005 Robert Festival (where the film was also nominated for Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Film, among other nominations), and Best Actor at the 2005 Zulu Awards. The film was remade as a British version in 2012, Pusher, directed by Luis Prieto and executive produced by Refn.
2005–2011: Critical acclaim
In 2008, Refn returned to the European art house film circuit after his unsuccessful Hollywood venture Fear X. He wrote and directed Bronson (2008), which starred Tom Hardy as the title character, the U.K. prisoner Charles Bronson, noted for mental illness, violence and art. The film won Best Film at the 2009 Sydney Film Festival, and was also nominated for the Grand Jury Prize (World Cinema — Dramatic) at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. Hardy won a Best Actor award at the 2009 British Independent Film Awards for his portrayal of Charles Bronson (and the film was nominated for a Best Achievement in Production award as well). Hardy was nominated for Best Actor by the Evening Standard British Film Awards and the London Critics Circle Film Awards.
In 2009, Refn teamed up again with frequent collaborator Mads Mikkelsen to write and direct Valhalla Rising, a surrealistic period piece about the Viking era. The film won an International Fantasy Film Special Jury Award and Special Mention at the 2010 Fantasporto Festival, and won the Titra Film Award for Refn at the 2010 Neuchatel International Fantastic Film Festival. The film also won a Best Make-Up award at the 2011 Robert Festival.
2011–2016: Hollywood breakthrough
The film earned Refn a BAFTA nomination for directing. The film was also nominated in 2012 for an Academy Award for Best Sound Editing, a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture nomination for Albert Brooks, Excellence in Production Design Award from the Art Directors Guild, won Best Director, Best Screenplay (for Hossein Amini) and Best Supporting Actor (for Brooks) at the Austin Film Critics Awards, won Boston Society of Film Critics Awards for Best Supporting Actor (Albert Brooks) and Best Use of Music in a Film (by Cliff Martinez), the Critics Choice Award at the Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards for Best Action Movie, Best Director, Best Picture and Breakthrough Film Artist at the Central Ohio Film Critics Association, Best Original Score (Martinez) and Best Supporting Actor (Brooks) at the Chicago Film Critics Association Awards, Best Supporting Actor (Brooks) at the Florida Film Critics Circle Awards, Best Foreign Film at the Fotogramas de Plata, Best Director from the Las Vegas Film Critics Society, a Top Films Award from the National Board of Review, Best Supporting Actor (Brooks) at the National Society of Film Critics Awards, the San Francisco Film Critics Circle Awards and the New York Film Critics Circle Awards, Best Director at the San Diego Film Critics Society Awards.
The Bangkok-set crime film Only God Forgives, starring Ryan Gosling and Kristin Scott Thomas, premiered in competition at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. The film was awarded the Sydney Film Prize at the 2013 Sydney Film Festival.
Liv Corfixen, Refn's wife, directed the documentary My Life Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, centered on the life and work of Refn and their relationship. The documentary film premiered on July 17, 2014 in Denmark.
In September 2011, Refn said his next film would be I Walk with the Dead, with Carey Mulligan slated to play the lead; she was co-star of Drive. According to Refn, it will be a horror-movie sex thriller that may be set in Tokyo or Los Angeles.
In 2013, Refn confirmed I Walk with the Dead as his next project. In October 2013 playwright Polly Stenham was confirmed to write the screenplay with Refn. They stated that the film will have an all-female cast. Refn admitted that he asked Stenham to write the screenplay to compensate for his perceived inability to write female characters.
On November 3, 2014, his production company Space Rocket Nation, alongside its co-producers Gaumont Film Company and Wild Bunch, announced that Refn's next film would be titled The Neon Demon, rather than I Walk With The Dead. The Neon Demon would be filmed in Los Angeles, California, in early 2015. The film stars Elle Fanning, Karl Glusman, Keanu Reeves, Christina Hendricks, Abbey Lee, Jena Malone and Bella Heathcote. On April 14, 2016, it was announced that the film would be competing for the Palme d'Or at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, marking it as the third consecutive film directed by Refn that had competed for the Palme d'Or.
Adverts and short films
He directed an extended Gucci commercial featuring Blake Lively and himself in a brief cameo, which premiered at the 2012 Venice Film Festival. The short film is entitled Gucci Premiere. He also directed the music video for his frequent collaborator Peter Peter's band Bleeder, which featured his wife Liv Corfixen as a crazy nurse. He also directed a series of Lincoln commercials starring Matthew McConaughey.
On August 14, 2016, Refn announced via his Twitter page that his next project would be titled The Avenging Silence, calling it "Ian Fleming + William Burroughs + NWR = The Avenging Silence" and posted images for Fleming's novel, Dr. No and for Burroughs's novel The Soft Machine. Variety reported that producer Lene Borglum described the purported plot as following: "[A] former European spy [accepts] a mission from a Japanese businessman to take down the head of a Yakuza boss in Japan".
In 2019, Cannes Film Festival announced that it will host a masterclass with Refn on working in Film and TV.
In 2005, it was reported that Refn co-wrote a screenplay with Nicholas St. John titled Billy’s People. However, Refn scrapped the project because his films Bleeder (1999) and Fear X (2003) were box office disasters.
In 2009, Refn expressed high interest in developing a film biopic of notoriously polemic and controversial English occultist, Aleister Crowley, with Bronson star, Tom Hardy, as Crowley. Refn admitted to not knowing anything about the life of the magician and referred to Crowley as a "Satan-worshipping cult personality".
In 2009, Refn was attached to direct a modern retelling of Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde with Keanu Reeves playing the titular roles. The working title of the film was Jekyll. According to an interview with SciFi Wire, he wanted the film to take place "in modern America and use as much credible science as possible." However, in February 2010, Winding Refn dropped out of the project in order to work on Drive.
In 2010, Refn was attached to direct Paul Schrader's script The Dying of the Light with Harrison Ford as the lead. However, in February 2010, Winding Refn exited the project. In September 2011 during promotion for Drive, he claimed that Ford did not want his character to die, causing the film production to fall apart. Channing Tatum, who was to co-star with Ford in The Dying of the Light, originally wanted Refn to direct Magic Mike (2012), which Steven Soderbergh came to direct.
In 2012, Refn was attached to direct a remake of the 1980s crime show The Equalizer with Denzel Washington in the lead role, but the deal did not materialize with Sony for unknown reasons. The adaptation The Equalizer ended up being directed by Antoine Fuqua for release in 2014.
Refn has spoken about characterization in his films:
I've always liked characters that because of the circumstances, have to transform themselves, and in the end, it's inevitable that what they end up becoming is what they were meant to be. Take, for example, Pusher II, which is a movie about a son [played by Mads Mikkelsen] who all his life wants his father's love, but realizes he needs to kill him to free the sins of the father from him. What plants the seed for him is realizing he has his own child, and the responsibility of that suddenly forces him to take action. And it's a happy ending, even though it's a dark ending, but for the character, it is what he was meant to become. It's almost like he achieved his true meaning. And Drive is similar in the sense that The Driver was meant to become a superhero, and he's denied all these things—relationships, companionship. And why would he be denied that? It was because he was meant for something greater.
Refn prefers to shoot his films in chronological order: "I read that [director John Cassavetes] had done it on some of his films, so I thought, 'That's a pretty cool approach.' And after I did it on my first movie, I felt, 'How can you do a movie any other way?' It's like a painting—you paint the movie as you go along, and I like the uncertainty of not knowing exactly how it's going to turn out." Refn spoke more about shooting in chronological order in September 2011, in reference to Drive:
It's always difficult with production. All my films previous to Drive had been shot in what I call 100-percent almost-chronological order. Where Drive is like 80 percent. The reason why it didn't go 100 was that I just simply couldn't afford the last remaining pieces. I could afford what I call "the emotional chronological order". So nobody would die or leave the movie in the middle of their shooting schedule. It would always be the end. So there was a build-up as much as possible.
On his approach to working with actors, Refn has said:
I think the first thing I ask any actor is what they would like to do, which sometimes can frighten people or can be looked upon as, 'Oh, you don't know what you want.' But I try to draw the actor in—to force them in, in some cases, because a lot of actors don't want to discuss things or go in deep; they just want to come and do the work, play their part and walk away. But for me, it doesn't work like that. You've got to get absorbed and dirty, and a way to do that is to ask the actor what they would like to do. It also forces them to be more truthful.
Refn has cited viewing The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) as inspiration for his filmmaking career:
I grew up in a cinema family. My parents were brought up on the French New Wave. That was God to them, but to me it was the antichrist, and how better to rebel against your parents than by watching something your mother is going to hate, which were American horror movies. When I saw Texas Chain Saw Massacre, I realized: I don't want to be a director, I don't want to be a writer, I don't want to be a producer, I don't want to be a photographer, I don't want to be an editor, I don't want to be a sound man. I want to be all of them at once. And that film proved that you can do it because that movie is not a normal movie.
I had been seeing Jodorowsky the last couple years in Paris and we’d become quite close. Before we’d have dinner, we’d always have a tarot reading and talk about what it means. I feel that as a filmmaker, he’s the last of the great giants of an era that’s coming to a close. A year ago, he baptized me as his spiritual son and I wanted to reward that gesture.
He stated that for his first film Pusher, he stole everything from Gillo Pontecorvo's 1965 Oscar-nominated The Battle of Algiers and the 1980 Italian horror movie Cannibal Holocaust. Also influential to his movie viewing experience were Cassavetes' 1976 film The Killing of a Chinese Bookie and Kevin Smith's 1994 indie classic Clerks.
After making the movie Fear X, Refn was heavily in debt. The story of Refn's recovery is recorded in the documentary Gambler, directed by Phie Ambo.
Refn's wife, Liv Corfixen, wrote and directed a documentary entitled My Life Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, which chronicles the "behind the scenes" experience of shooting Only God Forgives when the entire family had to be relocated to Thailand. The documentary has received positive reviews after premiering at Fantastic Fest and Beyond Fest. The soundtrack for the documentary is also composed entirely by Cliff Martinez, with the last track "Disconnected" composed, written and sung by Julian Winding, Refn's nephew.
|2013||Only God Forgives||Yes||Yes||No|
|2016||The Neon Demon||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|2005||Kinamand||Lægen ("The Doctor")|
|2015||My Life Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn||Himself/Subject|
|2009||Agatha Christie's Marple: Nemesis||Yes||No||No||Television film|
|2019||Too Old to Die Young||Yes||Yes||Yes||Co-creator|
|2019||Death Stranding||Heartman||3D model only|
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- Hugo Wins Sound Editing: 2012 Oscars
- Drive|Golden Globes
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- Quick Note: Another Evil Crowley Film?|Paganism
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- Nicolas Winding Refn's Top 10|The Current|The Criterion Collection
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- Hideo Kojima [@HIDEO_KOJIMA_EN] (29 May 2019). "I asked my bestie, Nicolas, to be "HEARTMAN" in DS as special guest. We 3D scanned his head, body, and facial expressions to make his 3D model, but his acting and voice are done by a different performer, same as with Guillermo" (Tweet). Retrieved 30 May 2019 – via Twitter.
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