Albert Brooks and director Nicolas Winding Refn discuss improbable villains, REO Speedwagon and the sex-and-death connection
Is this what they mean by a powerful sex drive?
Director Nicolas Winding Refn, star Albert Brooks and director of photography Newton Thomas Sigel participated in a question-and-answer session following Wednesday night's screening of the Ryan Gosling action drama "Drive." Thanks to Refn, it didn't take long for the discussion to veer toward carnal (or would that be car-nal?) matters.
Asked by the panel's moderator, TheWrap's own Brent Lang, about the irony that Refn has an aversion to driving, the Danish filmmaker offered an eyebrow-raising insight into his personal life.
"I have car phobia, which means that I'm afraid of cars, but I am very sexually aroused by cars," Refn offered. "I like the sexuality of speed and curves, so I decided to make a movie about a man who has a car."
During the wide-ranging conversation, held at Santa Monica's Aero Theatre, Refn also discussed the origins of the film. He told the crowd at TheWrap Awards Screening Series that the idea was hatched following a seemingly disastrous meeting between he and Gosling. "High as a kite" from flu medications provided by Harrison Ford, Refn begged a ride home from Gosling. It culminated in a drug-addled Refn crying along to REO Speedwagon's "I Can't Fight This Feeling Anymore" on the car radio. (Hey, who's to question where inspiration comes from?)
"I come up with this idea and I turned to Ryan for the first time," Refn recalled. "I screamed in his face and I said, 'I got it! We're gonna make a movie about a man who drives around in his car at night listening to pop music!' And Ryan turns to me for the first time and he says, 'I'm in.'"
The final result — released via Bold Films, Odd Lot Entertainment, Marc Platt Productions, Seed Productions and FilmDistrict — is a bit more complicated than that. In the film, Gosling plays a stunt man and mechanic who moonlights as a driver for criminals in Los Angeles, and finds his life set on a tragic course after growing attached to his neighbor, Irene (played by Carey Mulligan).
Along the way, much blood is shed. (Spoiler alert: Almost all of the main characters in the film die.) And while Brooks might not have a particular reputation for playing villains, he took to the role of movie producer-turned-underworld figure Bernie Rose with relish.
Watch Refn and Brooks discuss the making of "Drive" in the video.
"I don't consider Bernie Rose evil, only because this was forced on him, he didn't initiate this mayhem," Brooks explained of his character. "I always think that the most interesting bad guys are the ones that you don't expect it from.
"When you're looking at the 'Die Hard' movies, you know that the blond-haired German guy — that's the bad guy, and you expect it and you get it. But in real life, that's the guy you'd avoid."
Even so, the "Modern Romance" actor felt the need to prove to Refn that he was up to the task.
"He grabbed me and he pinned me up against the wall to show me that he's also a physical man," Refn recalled.
"And then we kissed and the rest is history," Brooks quipped.
Besides, Refn explained, the brutality in "Drive" isn't violence for violence's sake — it's all in the name of art and, you guessed it, sexy times.
"In a way, making violence is like fucking," Refn explained, before massaging his comparison a bit. "Art is an act of violence, because art is meant to penetrate you, because that's what art can do. If it penetrates you, it stays with you and it travels with you for the rest of your life."