We caught up with the director and star of cult new movie Drive…
Nicolas, can you talk about Drive and it’s seeming nostalgia for American cinema of the 1970s?
NWR: I am a child of the 70s, but I didn’t live through the cinema of the 70s. The 80s was more my thing. What was interesting in making this film, was that I wanted to live the mythology of what it was like for a European to come to LA and make a movie. Usually you just hear the horror stories: what went wrong. But on this one, it was the fucking best! I was in Hollywood, which is the mythology heart. It is where all the Europeans came in the 30s and 40s. In the 70s they were making European films, with Hollywood narratives. Being there, I wanted a house with a swimming pool and an orange tree [laughs] and I lived in the (Hollywood) Hills with the Hollywood sign above me. It was that whole mythology of making a film in LA. Even thought I came to LA with the idea that I was going to be called out for making this film, I was ready for the attack, for people to come and try to take away my vision and creativity and all the things you hear that they do… Which they do. A lot! But on this one, I was working with a brilliant script writer and everyone wanted to know how they could help me, I got suspicious of that! [laughs] In the end, I was allowed to make the film I wanted to make, and I had the best Hollywood experience it was possible to have.
In Drive, European art house cinema appears to be married to the thrills and rush of the American action picture. Ryan, as an actor, how do you feel about having these two types of cinema put together to form a visceral rush for the audience.
RG: Like Nic, I can’t believe they let us do it. This whole project was charmed. For instance, Marc Platt said, a year earlier that he was only going to send me scripts that I wanted to do. So a year later he sent me Drive and the second I finished it, I called him up and said that he was right. He gave my this opportunity – which I’d never had before – to get any director I wanted involved. It was clear to me that Nicolas was one of my favourite film makers and he would have something to contribute to this wild story. Nicolas wouldn’t let himself mimic anyone. It had to be him. I knew that if we could get him on board that we had a shot of getting the film made.
How did you get Nicolas involved?
RG: I tried to get a meeting with him, and was not sure I could get him because he was trying to kill Harrison Ford in a movie – he really wants to kill Harrison Ford in a movie. We eventually had a meeting and he wouldn’t look at me or talk to me and he seemed very bored. It eventually felt like a date that was going horribly wrong. It turns out Nicolas was sick and was on American medication and he was high [laughs]. He asked if I could take him home, basically it was the stage where I wasn’t getting anything and we should just call it. We got in the car and it was an awkward drive home, we didn’t know what to say to each other, so I just turned up the music. REO Speedwagon’s I Can’t Fight This Feeling Any More came on, and I wasn’t sure, but out of the corner of my eye I saw him singing at the top of his lungs; I can’t fight this feeling any more, it’s time to bring this ship into the shore, Time to throw away the oars… Because I can’t fight this feeling any more. [laughs] Then he said, “I got the movie. It’s about a man who drives around Los Angeles listening to pop music”. [laughs]
Ryan, can you comment on the violence in the movie?
RG: When I saw Valhalla Rising in the movie theatre, when one of the characters has his intestines pulled out, everyone in the theatre started laughing and the whole theatre came to life. Suddenly it was fun to go to the movies. It was allowed to be poetry, and it was allowed to be funny. For me, that’s what’s truly amazing in the way that Nicolas handles violence. Last night we got to go into the cinema alone for the test, and the scene where someone is stabbed in the throat, everyone started to laugh.
NWR: I think that art is a kind of violence. I started reading Grimm’s fairy tales for my eldest daughter, and when I was reading them I felt that I would like to make a movie just like a fairy tale, in how a fairy tale is told and using these very few archetypes that appear in the stories. Essentially the movie is about a guy who is psychotic. That’s not a bad way, because he has a lot of empathy, he’s not psychopathic, he’s psychotic!
Ryan, you character is very like a samurai, did you use this as a frame of reference for the character?
RG: We didn’t really talk a lot about samurai stuff, we talked a lot about music, music became a real driving force. Just movies in general… The process was so beautiful for me. We’d write all day, or shoot all day, we’d drive around at night, or edit at night. I think if you watch the film, it’s kind of the essence of that it was like to watch the movie.
Could you talk about Albert Brooks’s involvement in Drive?
RG: I think we all felt that the movie became awesome when Albert Brooks agreed to play the villain, Bernie Rose. There is no one like Albert Brooks, but you love him and it’s even more terrifying if you love your villain. Personally, the movie wouldn’t be what it is if it didn’t have Albert. Nicolas just cast who he felt who was right, then we all just tried to make the character come to you, in a way.
How did you explore LA?
NWR: I don’t know LA, and I don’r drive, so Ryan would just drive me around and point out places from the book. Mostly I would go with what I liked, I didn’t have any preference. What looked interesting to me was what we used.
Where did the film noir touches on the film come from?
NWR: Well the premise a noir-ish structure from the book, which is a pulp novel. The noir element was because it has these arch types that come from noir – the silent hero, the samurai… They are all mythological figures. In LA it was almost like neon noir – it was all about the neon lights of LA.
Nicolas, your mentor, Lars Von Trier was thrown out of Cannes, can you comment on this?
NWR: I think that what Lars said was very unacceptable. I don’t want to comment on his movie, I haven’t seen it. I just think that it shows that in Denmark we have a very small mentality and we sometimes forget that there are other people around us. I was very repulsed by what he said. I don’t really want to get into it. Whatever he wants to do, it’s his life.
Drive hits cinemas this weekend
Words – Brogen Hayes
Check out our interview with Casey Mulligan later this week