I’d never had a chance to get a look or listen to Danish-born director Nicolas Winding Refn before today’s Comic-Con presentation.
When I got a glimpse at “Drive,” for which he won best director at the Cannes Film Festival this year, I got the same sense when I first saw Quentin Tarantino: a terrifyingly talented visual storyteller, who would make you watch every frame, and love and hate it simultaneously.
The clip they showed of “Drive” was that kind of tense. Ryan Gosling plays a stuntman turned murderer. In the scene he does unspeakable violence to a man with a gun in an elevator. Just before doing so he deeply kisses Carey Mulligan.
But a more sensitive kind of guy you’ve never seen. Winding-Refn confessed to being the property of a very controlling wife (“she buys my clothes”) who told him to cast Carey Mulligan in his movie because she (and not he) had seen “An Education.”
“When casting falls together, it’s just like sex,” said Winding Refn. “Even when it’s bad, it’s still good.”
He also told the story of getting Ryan Gosling to do the film, for which he didn’t yet have the story. They went to dinner, and Winding-Refn, who doesn’t drive, asked Gosling to drive him home.
“There was this awkward silence between us. Ryan turns on the radio. It’s soft rock -- REO Speedwagon, ‘I can’t fight this feeling.’ And I start to cry. Literally. Tears falling down my cheek.
“Ryan is thinking how the fuck do I get him out of my car? And I start singing the song. It’s foreplay. I’m really into it. I slapped my knee. And turned to Ryan in car, and I scream in his face, music so loud -- I got it!
“It’s a man driving around in a car at night listening to music, that’s his emotional release.”
That became the film, "Drive," which opens in the fall.
Meanwhile, the adorable genius Guillermo del Toro showed up on two panels and managed to use the word “fucking” in about every other sentence. In between, it was other blue language. In between that: pure poetry.
He hailed the camaraderie of being friends with Winding Refn and, later, Jon Favreau.
“We have a craft that doesn’t hang together,” he lamented. “First because we’re assholes. Second because we’re jealous assholes.”
And he explained his view of monsters in his new movie, “Don’t be Afraid of the Dark,” which -- like all his movies -- looked terrifying.
“I’m a monster guy," he said. "I love monsters, I love freaks -- everything deformed, that is beautiful for me.”
“I cultivate my body shape through that principle,” he went on. (Del Toro is famously large.) “Everything aberrant is something to cherish. We live in a society that makes it such a point to enshrine values that are impossible. Perfection is impossible. Imperfection is an achievable goal. Monsters represent that beautifully.
“In our castrating society, you don’t have to sweat, you have to be thin, smiling," Del Toro added, before pausing. “Fuck you. Monsters are a living, breathing fuck you.”