Rendez-vous with… Nicolas Winding Refn

Rendez-vous with Nicolas Winding Refn © Eliott Chalier


This first interview with Nicolas Winding Refn, the Danish filmmaker who won the Director's Prize for his 2011 film Drive, took place in a packed hall. Accompanied by the journalist Philippe Rouyer, the director looked back on his career, his influences and his choices. He also talked about the format of his new experimental ten-episode series produced by Amazon, Too Old to Die Young, two episodes of which were screened last night Out of Competition.


On creativity:
Creativity brings us to life. It has the power to change the world – it helps us communicate things to others, things that will stay with them forever. Creativity is how we express ourselves. 

On his work: 
I've always sought to channel my emotions through images. I love spontaneity and unpredictability. I like going against the flow of ideas. I picture to myself what I want to see, then set about making it happen. The golden rule is never to sit back and relax, never to do things you've already done, and to make each film as if it were your last. 

On series and streaming:
While I was making The Neon Demon, Netflix became increasingly popular in Los Angeles. People said to me "You've got to do something for TV." I didn't want to, but I took an interest in the idea which I found interesting. I decided to do a series in several parts. I wanted to create something which would allow people to stop viewing and start again as they wanted. 

On Too Old to Die young:
I started out with two themes: religion and death. In 2016, the elections in the United States affected me a great deal. It inspired me for the series. The shoot took ten months and I worked every day without a break. I thought I was going mad, but it was funny. I felt very free. I cut and separated each episode wherever I felt like. It was like painting an enormous canvas, then breaking it into little pieces to show it to the spectators. 

“The golden rule is never to sit back and relax, never to do things you’ve already done, and to make each film as if it were your last.”

On Miles Teller, the lead actor in Too Old to Die Young :
We met and discussed it at my place. We stared straight at each other for a while. I realised that he looked a lot like Elvis Presley. How could I not give a part to an actor who looked like Elvis?! 

On the role of silence in his films, and in general:  
Silence is one of the most important things there is. Calm and silence reveal what's in our soul.  

On the role of humour in his films:
I think that all my films are funny in a way. Why not mix up genres and themes – sex, humour, violence, etc?

On dyslexia and colour-blindness:
I'm dyslexic but that doesn't hinder my projects, and if I can't write something, I get someone else to do it for me. I've turned my colour-blindness into an advantage. Accepting this that we can't do enables us to move forward. 

On his future project:
I want to make a new feature film next year. The project is already underway. I've got the title: I’m Going to Kill You, the concept and I know how to handle it.