Watch Nicolas Winding Refn’s Feature-Length Episode of ‘Marple’

Before Nicolas Winding Refn became Hollywood’s current reigning king of brutally possessive and deliciously fetishistic synth-fueled cinema starring Ryan Gosling with an affinity for leaving one too many buttons undone on his standard white shirt, he was still great. But between the Pusher  crime trilogy and Bronson was the disappointment of Fear X, which led to Refn pick up some television work on his path back to the film.

And in 2007, he directed an hour and a half-long episode of Agatha Christie’s Marple for British ITV. Titled “Nemisis,” the show starred Richard E. Grant, and although it’s not quite the Refn whose work we known today, his auteurist touch is still present. When we interviewed Refn recently for Only God Forgives, he spoke about his process, saying:
Whenever I make a film I almost make a point out of erasing all memory of it so that the next one I do bears as little resemblance. Of course if you use the same actor it’s reminiscent, but the challenge is to do something different. But for me, the act of creativity is more exciting than the actual product. I don’t really care about the end, I care about getting to the end.
Check out “Nemesis” below.
 

‘Skyfall’ Writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade Join Forces With Nicolas Winding Refn for ‘Barbarella’

And today in jobs that every actress in Hollywood should be clamoring for: the role of Barbarella in Nicolas Winding Refn’s upcoming reboot of the 1968 Roger Vadim film, Barbarella. The sexy, intergalactic action-packed film was made iconic by the alluring presence of Jane Fonda and now Refn will have his stab at bringing it back to life with a television adaptation of the classic picture. The decision to take this on may seem like a departure for the cinematically-minded director who brought us The Pusher Trilogy, Bronson, Drive, and the upcoming Only God Forgives, but he’s no stranger to television. Back in 2001 when Refn was struggling to get his films properly-funded, he wrote all 12 episodes of Danish series The Chosen 7, as well as directing the television film Miss Marple: Nemesis

After signing onto Barbarella last summer, little chatter has come about the series—save the fact that we’re not quite sure what else Refn is working on right now. Sure, he’s putting the finishing touches on Only God Forgives—his Thai boxing thriller with Ryan Gosling—but once that hits Cannes, what’s next? His highly-anticipated Logan’s Remake will now go on without his buddy Gosling but doesn’t look to have made much progression as of late; and recently, Refn made a swift exit from Denzel Washington’s drama The Equalizer

The original Vadmin film takes place in the 41st century, where a female astronaut is tasked with finding and stopping the evil Durnand-Durnad. Now, if I heard that anyone else was adapting this into a TV series I’d be pretty skeptical. But with Refn’s well-honed ability to artfully merge action and sex appeal, I’m not too concerned—actually, I kind of cannot wait to see what he does with the Queen of the Galaxy. And better still, Skyfall screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade have just signed on to pen the series, revamping it to fit the 21st century.

Now, the only task will be finding the woman for the job. Naturally, Jennifer Lawrence comes to mind but I’m really hoping that doesn’t happen. No disrespect J.Law, Silver Linings showed us that yes, you do look great in tight clothing and can move quite well (you also happen to be the biggest female action star at the moment with The Hunger Games) BUT wouldn’t it be great if he cast someone unknown or at least lesser known? Refn is so incredibly good at directing his actors and gettting them to disappear so completely into their characters, that when someone like the relatively unknown Tom Hardy came out of nowhere with Bronson—giving one of the greatest performances in the last decade—that’s pretty damn fantastic to see. Refn has said,"I’m certain that the combination of our creative forces will produce a show that is as enthralling as it is sexy,” in regards to his 007 team on the picture.

Here’s hoping.

Start Getting Excited for Nicolas Winding Refn’s ‘Only God Forgives’

I remember it being the fall of 2009 when I first saw the trailer for Bronson. I must have watched it at least 500 times and showed it to everyone I could. No one cared. But when I dragged my friends to see it with me the second it came out, they too fell in love with the blood-drenched character study that carried the muscularity and theatricality of something entirely its own, something that felt entirely new. There was a fresh sense of violence, not for the hell of it, but to illustrate something pounding inside its titular character that bubbled over onto the screen. Not to mention, one of the best performances of the last decade from the ever-chameleon Tom Hardy. And with Nicolas Winding Refn’s 2011 follow-up Drive, the world finally caught on to the incredible Danish director’s eye for making visceral, gut-pounding dramas that are as stylish and cinematic as they are thematically gritty and raw. But it was his collaboration with Ryan Gosling that truly brought Drive to life, to which Refn said, "I love him. And I don’t love him in the Hollywood way where everyone loves everybody, I mean I really love him. My wife loves him… He loves my wife… I love his mother… So we’re very similar in many aspects of our sensibilities, we have different upbringings but we gravitate towards the same things. And of course he was the one who gave me the opportunity to make a film in Hollywood the way I would like to make one, which probably would never have happened otherwise."

And this weekend, we got a glimpse at their latest work together, Only God Forgives, the highly-anticipated Thai-boxing thriller, set to premiere at Cannes in May. Although great to get a slight look at the picture, it’s difficult to ascertain too much from the trailer—save Refn’s usual bent towards lush, vibrant colors and violence filled with eloquent silences and hair-raising musical moments. In terms of Gosling’s character Julien, we haven’t been given too much insight, but last year, the director was speaking to the silent nature of Drive’s hero and said, "It goes back to [Valhalla Rising‘s] One Eye, the enigma, and it’s a kind of classic mythological character that is part of our tradition of storytelling. You know, the silent hero that has a past we don’t know and we read things into him that mirror our own needs. It’s a very classical figure that’s been around in literature for thousands of years. It’s a character that I’m very fond of and it actually going to be in my next movie Only God Forgives." On working with Gosling, he also went on to say, "Making a movie is like Russian roulette, but when a star wants something they will certainly get what they want. That’s the scenario that happened with me and I was just lucky that it happened in my favour. But in terms of his status in Hollywood, it was actually quite the contrary: it was a blessing working with him and we actually avoided a lot of drama just from him being there. Ryan is a great actor, but he’s also very respectful for the medium. But his opinion was that good films are made by good directors and bad films are made by bad directors. Film is a directors’ medium, it will always be a directors’ medium. He was very respectful to me as the director." 

Well, one can only hope we’ll receive a bigger tasting of the film soon but in the meantime check out the teaser and enjoy some opening credits from Refn’s dark oeuvre.

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Drive Opening Credits

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Looks Like Tom Hardy Is Your New ‘Batman’ Villain

Even as you read this, word is spreading across the internet like bedbugs in a Hollister outlet that Tom Hardy has been cast in Christopher Nolan’s upcoming Batman 3. No one’s spilling much as to which part he landed, but everyone’s guess is he’ll play some kind of villain. (The Riddler? Penguin? Killer Croc? Catwoman?) This is huge news, because who ever plays the new Batman villain has two really, really big shoes to fill.

At the moment, Hardy is still mostly known as the guy from Inception (the one with the gun, remember?). That was set to change when he got cast as the lead in George Miller’s upcoming Mad Max movie, but that film has been waylaid in development hell.

Lucky Hardy’s just found himself in development heaven. He’s officially part of Christopher Nolan’s distinguished crew of reusable actors (joining Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Ken Watanabe, and Cillian Murphy), and he’s probably going to be playing one of the most talked-about roles, under one of the most talked-about director in Hollywood. Good for him!

If you want a sense of what kind of menace Hardy can bring to the role of a comic book villain, look no further than Bronson, an ultraviolent British film where the actor is unrecognizable as Charles Bronson, Britain’s most notorious prisoner. His ghoulish charisma reminds us of you-know-who, and proves he’s one of those rare actors who can truly disappear into a role. Check out the trailer below, and dare to disagree.

Nicolas Winding Refn on ‘Bronson’

At first glance, one might expect Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn’s Bronson to be another in an assembly line of violent British crime capers full of cockney thugs and punchy one-liners. But it’s far from that. Bronson is a stark and surreal adventure into the mind of someone who exists in his own reality. It is meticulously staged, colored, and costumed, and it’s scored with one of the eeriest and most effective soundtracks in a long time — full of new wave anthems, heavy dark electro scores, and opera music. Bronson is based on the life of the infamous British inmate Michael Peterson (played by an unrecognizable Tom Hardy), dubbed “Britain’s most violent prisoner,” who spent 35 of his 57 years in prison, much of it in solitary confinement. Refn’s film avoids typical biopic styling in favor of a picaresque character study on Peterson’s self-inflicted transformation into Charlie Bronson. Successfully merging popular genre-movies with theater traditions and performance art, Refn has created and unsettling portrait of self-mythologizing man.

As for Winding Refn, he first gained notoriety from his cult Pusher trilogy, an unflinching glimpse into Denmark’s criminal underworld. Growing up with artist parents, Refn spent his teenage years in New York City and briefly attended the American Academy of the Dramatic Arts; he was sucked into New York’s club scene (the influence of which is made apparent in Bronson’s soundtrack). Winding Refn is an impossible director to pin down, citing The Sopranos, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and avant-garde filmmaker Kenneth Anger as influences (his next film is the Viking epic Valhalla Rising). After speaking with the director, it’s he clear would rather divide audiences than merely satisfy them.

Why did you shoot Bronson in this surreal and episodic nature, considering it’s based on the life of a real person? I always wanted to make a Kenneth Anger movie, and I wanted to combine great theatrical tradition and British pop cinema of the 60s, which was very psychedelic, and at the same time, to make a movie about a man who creates his own mythology. It had to be surreal in order to pay off.

There are reoccurring scenes where Bronson’s in a suit and mime make-up, delivering monologues to an imagined and applauding audience. What was the idea behind this? Because Charlie Bronson has no face. Charlie Bronson is a faceless person because there is no end to Charlie Bronson. For me it was important to show a film about a person that can be interpreted but not understood. The film is divided up into three sections. The first act is Charlie being on stage, in control, wanting to be perceived in a specific way, to see his life the way he wants it to be. In act two, he’s released and we begin to see Charlie in an alternate universe and his difficulties relating to reality. Not because he’s insane but because he lives in another world. Act 3, when he goes back to prison, we see the movie through the audience’s perception of him: is he crazy or is he not crazy? We see the transformation finalize itself at the end of the movie.

When specifically is the transformation finally complete? In the final scene at the end of the film, when he mixes art and violence in the [prison] classroom. That is when the transformation has becomes complete. That’s why the in a way, the movie has a happy ending because in the end he fulfills everything that he set out to achieve.

Can you talk about Tom Hardy and his own transformation into the role of Charlie Bronson? Tom was a great guy to work with, and we had a very interesting work relationship because it was very much collaboration. I do that with any actor — we go on a journey together.

Physically, what did he have to do in order to realistically play an intimidating inmate? He’s into that whole physical training thing, so it was very easy for him to beef up.

One of the trailers describes your movie as A Clockwork Orange of the 21st century. What influence if any did A Clockwork Orange have on the making of Bronson? There was no direct influence other than the use of classical music, and then I guess the Alex character had similarities to Charlie Bronson. They’re both pop figures. But I really wanted to make a Kenneth Anger movie, so the whole movie is stolen from Kenneth Anger.

There is quite a lot of violence in the film … could you discuss how you approached that violence? The violence comes out of my own interpretation of art, that it’s there to penetrate you, to make you think.

The film seems to romanticize mental instability and the creative outsiders who lives by their own rules. I don’t know if it’s a romantic way, but it’s a way to survive. I didn’t want to make a social realistic film about imprisonment because you can’t.

Would you want the real Michael Peterson to see the movie? Is there any way for him to see the movie? I would love for him to see it, but he’s not allowed to because he is in confinement. But his mother came to the premiere, and she really liked it. She thought it was nice tribute.

Did you speak to her directly? Oh, yeah, she was a very nice lady. It was a very nice experience because everybody was so happy with it, even though it was so many other things than a biopic of Michael Peterson.

You also spoke directly to Michael Peterson over the phone in prison, is that right? It was only one time, and now because of the film’s success, all communication with him has been shut down from anybody. Nobody’s allowed to speak with him anymore. He would do anything to help the movie. He’s never seen it, but he thinks it’s the greatest film ever made.

Can you talk more about the conversation you had with him? I told him I wanted it to be two specific things. I wanted to know how he got back into prison after he was released for 69 days, and I wanted him to come up with some lines for the stage monologues.

Which lines specifically? “Prison was madness at its very best.”