Nicolas Winding Refn Poster


Jump to: Overview (3) | Mini Bio (2) | Spouse (1) | Trade Mark (9) | Trivia (26) | Personal Quotes (28)

Overview (3)

Date of Birth 29 September 1970Copenhagen, Denmark
Nickname Jang
Height 6' 2½" (1.89 m)

Mini Bio (2)

Writer, director, and producer Nicolas Winding Refn was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1970, to Anders Refn, a film director and editor, and Vibeke Winding (née Tuxen), a cinematographer. Just before he turned 11, in 1981, he moved to New York with his parents, where he lived out his teenage years. New York quickly became his city and soon began to shape Nicolas's future.

At 17, Nicolas moved back to his native Copenhagen to complete his high-school Education. After graduation, he swiftly flew back to New York, where he attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. However, this education was cut short when Nicolas threw a desk at a classroom wall and was expelled from the Academy. Consequently, he applied to the Danish Film School and was readily accepted. This education too was to be short-lived, though, as one month prior to the start of the semester, Nicolas dropped out.

A short film Nicolas had written, directed, and starred in was aired on an obscure cable TV channel and lead to the offer of a lifetime. Nicolas was spotted and offered 3.2 million kroners to turn the short into a feature. At only 24, Nicolas had written and directed the extremely violent and uncompromising Pusher (1996), which became a cult phenomenon and won Nicolas instant international critical acclaim. The success of his debut spurred him to push the boundaries of his creative filmmaking further, which resulted in the close-to-the-edge and intricately gritty Bleeder (1999). Highly stylized and focused on introverted reactions to outward situations, this film was a marking point for the shaping of Nicolas's future career. The movie was selected for the 1999 Venice International Film Festival as well as winning the prestigious FIPRESCI Prize in Sarajevo.

Nicolas's fourth feature, the much-anticipated Fear X (2003) was also his first foray into English-language movies. Starring the award-winning actor John Turturro, "Fear X" made its world premiere at the Sundance Film festival. However, Fear X divided critics and it flopped, which made Nicolas Winding Refn broke and in debt.

Having to provide for his family and paying his debt, he returned to Denmark to revisit "Pusher." Refn was reluctant to revisit his past success but decided that he could both make commercially viable and artistically pleasing films. In just two years he managed to write, direct and produce the two sequels. With Blood on My Hands: Pusher II (2004) and I'm the Angel of Death: Pusher III (2005) sealed the box and success of the internationally renowned "Pusher" trilogy. In 2005, the Toronto Film Festival held a "Pusher" retrospective showing all three features cementing its worldwide phenomenon.

In 2006 Nicolas embarked on a second English-language (and first digital) feature called Valhalla Rising (2009), which was inspired by a story his mother read to him at the age of five about a father and son who embark on a trip to the moon. Not recalling the ending of this story has been a long time fascination of Nicolas's with the unknown. During the pre-production on "Valhalla Rising," his long time collaborator and friend, Rupert Preston, urged him into accepting an offer to write and direct Bronson (2008), an ultra-violent, surreal, and escapist film following the real-life landmarks and self-entrapment of Charles Bronson, Britain's most notorious criminal. Before its cinematic release, "Bronson" was making waves inside and outside the film industry. The 2009 Sundance Film Festival selected the blistering film for its World Cinema Dramatic Competition and it soon became the talk of the festival. With such a prestigious premiere, "Bronson" went on to be selected for other major international film festivals and reap strong box-office rewards. But, even with such a buzz surrounding the film, no one could predict how the British press would bite at "Bronson's" bit. The content was close to the knuckle, the subject matter controversial, but Nicolas's take on this was even more inspired leading him to be labeled by the British media as the next great European auteur.

With such critical acclaim, Nicolas's reputation as a producer, writer and director was solidly reaffirmed. Nicolas and his wife Liv Corfixen were the subjects of an acclaimed documentary, Gambler (2006), which premiered at the Rotterdam International Film Festival in 2005. In addition, Nicolas already received two lifetime-achievement awards (one from the Taipei International Film festival in 2006 and the second from the Valencia International Film Festival in 2007), and it was the winner of the Emerging Master Award from the Philadelphia International Film Festival 2005.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: annagriffin@live.com

Nicolas Winding Refn is a Danish film director, screenwriter and producer. He moved to the United States in 1981 and is known for directing the crime dramas Bleeder (1999) and the Pusher films (1996, 2004, 2005), the fictionalised biographical film Bronson (2008), the dramatic adventure film Valhalla Rising (2009), the neo-noir crime film Drive (2011) and the thriller Only God Forgives (2013). In 2008, Refn co-founded the Copenhagen-based production company Space Rocket Nation.

In 2008, Refn directed and wrote Bronson, which starred Tom Hardy as the title character, the infamous real-life U.K. prisoner Charles Bronson. The film won Best Film at the 2009 Sydney Film Festival, and was also nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. Hardy also won a Best Actor award at the 2009 British Independent Film Awards for his portrayal of Charles Bronson.

In 2011, Refn directed the American neo-noir crime drama Drive. It premiered in competition at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, where he received the Best Director Award.

Only God Forgives (2013) The Bangkok-set crime thriller, starring Ryan Gosling and Kristin Scott Thomas, premiered in competition at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Pedro Borges

Spouse (1)

Liv Corfixen (? - present) (2 children)

Trade Mark (9)

Usually sets his films in Copenhagen, Denmark
Frequently uses handheld cameras
The color red is frequently shown throughout all of his films
Shoots all his films in chronological order and without rehearsal
Effective use of rock, electronic, and pop music in films
Often works with Ryan Gosling (Drive (2011) and Only God Forgives (2013))
Often works with Cliff Martinez for music (Drive (2011), Only God Forgives (2013) and The Neon Demon (2016))
Unsettling scenes of extreme violence

Trivia (26)

Danish Film School drop-out.
Son of Anders Refn.
Owned a film company called Jang Go Star, which went bankrupt.
Half-brother of Kasper Winding. Ex brother-in-law of Brigitte Nielsen.
Favorite movies are Valley of the Dolls (1967), Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970), The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), The Shining (1980), Escape from New York (1981), Casino (1995), and Eyes Wide Shut (1999).
He once stated that his greatest source of inspiration is Martin Scorsese and his films. As a salute to him, he used the main theme from Scorsese's Casino (1995) in the opening sequence of Bleeder (1999).
Of his Pusher trilogy, he prefers the third movie, because it's the most experimental and risky one.
Lars von Trier offered him a chance to direct Dear Wendy (2004), but he turned it down.
In 2003, a biography, written by famed journalist Henrik List, was published about Nicolas, spanning his earlier years from Pusher (1996) to Fear X (2003).
He and his wife Liv Corfixen were the subjects of a theatrical documentary called Gambler (2006). The film followed the struggle of his career after the bankruptcy from Fear X (2003) to the successful completion of the Pusher trilogy.
Due to the complicated production of Fear X (2003), he was forced to complete the successful Pusher trilogy, which he wrote, produced, and directed within a year.
Avid toy collector. In particular Japanese robots, Dr. Who Daleks, and replica Thunderbird vehicles.
In 2008, he started a new production company called JGS (Jang Go Star) with longtime friends and business associates 'Lene Borglum' and Thor Sighvatsson.
In his native Denmark, Nicolas is known as l'Enfant Sauvage (the Wild Child).
Despite directing Drive (2011), he doesn't have a drivers' license. He failed his driving test 8 times.
He is color blind.
He is dyslexic.
Is a big fan of Hayao Miyazaki whom he considers one of the great masters and frequently watches his films together with his daughters.
He's a fan of Breaking Bad (2008).
Is a huge fan of John Carpenter's Escape from New York (1981).
Is a fan of the comic book series "The Incal" written by Alejandro Jodorowsky and illustrated by Jean Giraud.
Member of the 'Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' (AMPAS) since 2016.
Is a huge fan of Stanley Kubrick and his films. Even twice hired the same cinematographer Kubrick used for Eyes Wide Shut to work on his films, in 2008 for Bronson and in 2013 for Only God Forgives.
In 2009, he was to develop a film biopic on the life of polemic and controversial English occultist, Aleister Crowley, with Tom Hardy (whom he had worked with on Bronson) as Crowley. As of 2016, the project hasn't been brought to fruition.
In an interview regarding the definition and risks of beauty, regarding The Neon Demon, for the BBC, he talked about his childhood, being very hard. He was laughed at because he is dyslexic and wasn't able to read and write properly and he also wasn't good at sports. He said he didn't have a girlfriend until he was 24 and famous. But with time he learned to look at all of those "weaknesses" as strengths, the things that make him who he is.

Personal Quotes (28)

Like all art forms, film is a media as powerful as weapons of mass destruction; the only difference is that war destroys and film inspires.
The auteur theory is such a strange theory, because you're dealing with human beings. You only make good stuff if your collaborators are a part of your process and a part of your ideas, and there's no point in fighting them or them fighting you. Even Ingmar Bergman had a lot of discussions with his actors about pros and cons. An auteur doesn't have to write every single word, because the writer's there to help the director do what the director wants to do, and that was certainly my case.
[on Ryan Gosling] The thing with Ryan, you can look at him for hours. Very few actors have that. It's a gift.
Well, art is an act of violence. It is about penetration, about speaking to our subconscious and our moods at different levels.
[on casting Kristin Scott Thomas in Only God Forgives (2013)] I was initially looking for an unknown in the role and then I heard she was interested through the grapevine. So I went to Paris to meet her and very quickly realized she had no problem in turning on the bitch switch. But she said, 'In order for me to do this, I need to transform'. And I said, ''You're preaching to the choir, baby'.
Silence is cinema! We are so used to sounds; we're always talked at. Silence is very rare for us for a long duration of time. It makes people very uncomfortable. But what it does, it also forces us to perceive on a much deeper level because we can no longer just be told things..Silence is like gold. It forces the audience to engage more, because they're not being told what to think.
The thing that's interesting in the digital revolution is that beyond your classic journalists or film critics, there's a whole world of people that are interested or fascinated by film. They didn't used to have a voice. The way that people describe, argue and debate is very fascinating because it shows that art has been taken back by the people. It's not longer individuals who set the standards or set the taste. It's been completely democratized.
The chief enemy of creativity is being safe, with good taste.
[on his Pusher (1996)-trilogy] Sometimes the difference between Scandinavia and rest of world is, that sense of desperation doesn't always come out of necessity, but comes out of boredom. Because we have a very healthy Socialistic society, very few people do crime out of survival. A lot of the times it comes out of boredom. In one way we have almost a perfect setup, but yet there is a backlash - a dark side. Through the Vikings, we have a very violent tradition in the north. But because of socialism, that has been controlled over the last 30 or 40 years. We take things for granted, we take Socialism for granted. We have a tendency now in Scandinavia to be so spoiled. It actually ends up making us extremely racist. Because we are so preoccupied with ourselves, and what is ours, we want more and more. None of us have lived through a war, or a crisis. If you're a young student you can collect unemployment and live like that very well for the rest of your life. If you get sick, you go to the hospital. If you want your children to go to school, you send them to school. I'm not saying it's a perfect society. But having those things that create a healthy society, can take its toll because everything becomes so collective - like a commune. Everybody lives together on equal terms.
[on Zlatko Buric] Zlatko is my favorite actor. He comes from an experimental theatre in Croatia. He's out there. The amount of talent that guy has... if he had a good agent in America, he would be on top in Hollywood. He could be one of those great character actors that you could pull in to make anything work.
[on casting Bryan Cranston in Drive (2009)] I had seen "Breaking Bad" and I'm probably the biggest fan of Breaking Bad (2008) in the world. [Cranston] was the actor I basically went straight for, and I had to woo him, because Bryan has a lot of opportunities. One of the conditions was that everybody had to come to my house to meet me. So when Bryan came, the character was very underdeveloped, and I said to him: "Look, we are here to create him. What would you like to do?" And that led to very good conversations. Then, of course, I didn't hear anything, and knowing that he was in demand, I called him. Again, it was my good producer friend Adam Siegel who said, "Maybe we should just give him a call." I called him, and at the moment I called, he was sitting with a blank piece of paper writing pros and cons of doing Drive or not. He said: "Well, since you're calling, there must be meaning, so I'll do your movie."
[on Breaking Bad (2008)] "Breaking Bad" is like watching Shakespeare but not on stage. I think it's absolutely wonderfully written, directed, acted and photographed. It pushed the limit of how we view television: it went completely out of the episodic [structure] and every season peeled the layers away from Walter White's inevitable destiny. That I find very inspiring. It's what made me see television as a medium now to work with.
[on the failure of Fear X (2003) and market value:] What I learned from my failure is that it's not creativity you should be afraid of, you should just be aware of what the value is. The film industry is very simple, like any market. If your films make money, it's a lot easier to get money to make more films. If your films don't lose money, you can still find people to give you money. But if you lose money, that's a very dangerous, slippery slope to get into. The problem with "Fear X" - creatively I didn't solve it as much as I should have. That's my fault, pure and simple. Financially, the film was just too expensive for what it was worth. If the film had cost half a million dollars, nothing would have happened. But because it cost between $3-4 million, it was just way too expensive for the kind of film it was. Also when I was making it I thought I was god's gift to mankind. I felt I could walk on water. Which is what you do. You have to have that attitude. But when it became such a colossal failure, and because I invested my own money it, not only was the movie a failure, but I owed my bank $1 million. Now when you owe your bank $1 million, you're pretty much ruined for life. At the same time, I was a has-been at 30 years old. I felt really sorry for myself. I was really pathetic. In a way, failing was always something that had to happen to me. Because you need to learn you can't walk on water. Then you can understand when it really works.
[how Kevin Smith inspired him to become a filmmaker:] My first work in the film industry was in distribution. I was taken to Cannes for about 3 or 4 years working as a film scout for my uncle, learning what it means to sell and buy movies. So my introduction to actually making films was from a distribution point of view, and it was a great learning experience. You walk into a cinema and you see these buyers, and you can count the minutes before they get out of their seats and don't want to buy the movie, or if they stay, how long they stay for. And you learn what market value actually means. And that's the secret to staying alive in the film industry - knowing the value of your work. And how you can inflate it, or do the opposite. The two films that I had significant input in distributing for my uncle were Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986) and Clerks (1994) by Kevin Smith. When I went to the screening of "Clerks" at Cannes, I met Kevin, and I was around 23. He had this long speech about how he'd dropped out of film school to make this movie, then I saw the movie and I loved it, and my first reaction was: I could do that. That's when I went home and decided to make my first movie.
[on his cinematic inspirations for Drive (2011)] I think in terms of both the movie and using the city - so vital and so interestingly - I would say probably a movie like Thief (1981). What I like about Michael Mann is that Michael Mann reminds me very much of a Western director. He would make Westerns, I feel. He would use the landscape of L.A. like a Western. He's always been very good at photographing L.A. like L.A. should be seen. As a unique place. It was always hard to define L.A. because it doesn't have the same familiarity that other urban cities have, like New York, Paris, London, Rome. They have a lot of things in common, whereas L.A. is unique.[2011]
[how he got to direct Drive (2011)] I had no aspirations of working in Hollywood. It was not something that I set out to do. It was perfectly content to stay in Europe and make the kind of films I make in that arena. I guess after Valhalla Rising (2009) I kind of felt, well, maybe I should try to do a movie in Los Angeles; maybe it wouldn't be that bad. It would also be an interesting obstacle to work within, because it would probably be in a much more controlled environment than I was used to. I was offered a script by Paul Schrader that Paul had written called Dying of the Light (2014), I actually got Harrison Ford to play the lead. I was really interested in doing a movie where I got to kill Harrison Ford. And then, as it always does in Hollywood, it began to unravel. What you thought was the head began to unravel. Suddenly Harrison didn't want to die, maybe, and blah blah blah, and I was like, oh dammit. I postponed my own film back in Europe and gone to Hollywood and, of course, ended up in development hell. While this was going on I would come to LA at four days a trip because I just got a new child, and I couldn't be away for a long time. One of the times that I came here at a critical point in the collapse of "Dying of the Light", I'd gotten the flu coming in so I was pretty out of it. Harrison got me these anti-flu drugs. I don't do drugs anymore and I haven't done them for a long time, so it didn't take a whole lot of American anti-flu drug to make me as high as a kite. (...) Then I got a call asking if I would have time to have dinner with Ryan Gosling. I'd never met him, we'd never crossed paths. I was, yeah, sure, why not. That morning, they sent the script over called Drive that I read, but I couldn't remember it because I was so stoned when I read it. I got a taxi that came to the restaurant and Ryan was already there because I couldn't find the restaurant, I was quite delayed. Ryan was terrific, so courteous, respectful, nice, professional, and I was completely zoned out. It was basically impossible to have a conversation about anything besides music and films, a little bit about my films. After we were through with dinner I asked him to take me home, because I can't drive a car and I just needed a ride home, which of course was a strange thing to do because it was like a blind date that was about to go terribly wrong. He was like, yeah, absolutely, sure. It was all the way in Santa Monica that was quite a long trip. We got into his car and we were driving along the highway in just awkward silence. I liked him so much; even though I was out of it I knew that the man was very unique in his aura around him. So we're sitting there in silence and Ryan turns on the radio to break the silence, and REO Speedwagon's "I Can't Fight this Feeling Anymore" starts to play. I am very emotional because I'm both ill and high at the same time, flying as a kite. I actually started to sing the song, because I love REO Speedwagon, I love that song it reminds me of my youth. It almost brought me down memory lane of where I grew up, and it's a very much LA driving song. There I am, singing this song, and probably obnoxiously, and then I start to cry. I turned to Ryan, for the first time, and I looked at him in the car, and I just screamed in his face, "I know what Drive is. It's going to be about a man that drives around in a car at night and listens to pop music because that's his emotional release." Ryan very quickly just caught up on that and just nodded and was like, got it. I'm in. And then we did it.[2011]
If you look at films of Jean-Pierre Melville or Sergio Leone or Sam Peckinpah or Michael Mann, a lot of it deals with heroes that have difficulties connecting to our world. Clearly Drive (2011) is within that category.
I grew up in New York with my mother and my step-father who were photographers. Growing up in what you would call a Scandinavian socialistic household of upper class New York, anything that was actually American was considered Fascist and everything that was Europe was great, especially European cinema of the 60s, the French New Wave and sorts. Growing up, if you couldn't rebel with your music - because my mother had photographed Jimi Hendrix and so forth - I turned to genre movies as my Rebel Without a Cause (1955), and that would surely get them pumped because they thought it was the vilest thing to see, and tracking down extreme cinema. But it wasn't really until I was 14 that I saw the The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), it was a double feature in New York at Cinema Village that I realized to me film was an art-form. I've always been very fascinated by images, maybe that's because I'm dyslexic and I didn't learn how to read until I was 13, so images became very much my understanding of story telling.[2011]
I'm colorblind, I can't see mid-colors. That's why all my films are very contrasted, if it were anything else I couldn't see it.[2011]
[on casting Bronson (2008)] I'm a big fan of Jason Statham, and have seen a lot of his movies. I really tried to get Jason, and he loved our meeting but then got the script and was like "yeah man, I don't know what to tell you." And it was a shame because at that time, getting Jason Statham in a movie like this was gonna make you a millionaire, but it didn't turn out that way which was probably the right thing to do. And when it got to Guy Pearce, who also turned me down, I knew I was never gonna get anyone with value. And I only had like $900,000 to make the movie, so it was not like I could pay anyone. I had met Tom Hardy earlier that year because he was like an up-and-coming actor. I don't drink alcohol and he was an ex-alcoholic, and we met at a wine bar in London which is the worst place you could meet in. And I don't think we very much liked each other, so that was that. I looked around and then at the end when I couldn't find anyone, the casting director said, "You should really meet with Tom again, I'm telling you he is it." I was very stupid and arrogant and reluctant, but in the end, there were no real choices that I had that I was happy with. So we met again in a much more just "me and him" situation, and right away I saw my guy. So he got the part, and I must say I think he's absolutely amazing in the movie. Tom Hardy is a fantastic stage actor and a lot of it was about his stage performance. He's a wonderful comedian. He's very much a chameleon. He had oddly been obsessive about Charlie Bronson and knew him and was studying him because they were trying to make the movie earlier on with someone else and he was gonna play Bronson back then. But when I decided to make it, I wanted Jason Statham. So I had a different take on it [and that's] what you end up seeing. But to do that, we needed someone like Tom to pull it off. And that's what he does and he's probably one of the greatest living actors nowadays.
[on the use of pop music in cinema] Scorpio Rising (1964) by Kenneth Anger. That was the first time that a filmmaker would use pop music of its time to underscore the emotion with the images. Its very interesting that it all leads back to that film.[2015]
I always loved Kenneth Anger's work, especially his earlier elements and leading up to Scorpio Rising (1964) which is kind of his greatest, and that was the first time where pop music was used for certain images. It was the first kind of music video because it was the first commercial advertisement with symbolic images combined with music. There's a lot of that with everything I do. And there was a time when Stanley Kubrick was very influential and I'd seen his movies and saw the rawness. I actually hired the same cinematographer who did Eyes Wide Shut (1999): Larry Smith.[2015]
I remember when I finished Bronson (2008), I sent it to the Toronto Film Festival because they had shown my "Pusher" trilogy, and I got a letter back from the festival director saying this is the worst movie he's ever seen. [laughs][2015]
[after mixed press reactions to The Neon Demon (2016) at Cannes] Art is not about good or bad, guys. Those days are over. [2016]
[from his introduction to the 'Cannes Classics' screening of the 4K restoration] Planet of the Vampires (1965) is the film that Ridley Scott and Dan O'Bannon stole from to make Alien (1979). We found the elements, we have the evidence tonight. This is the origin! (...) When you look at the two movies it's not just similarities. It's lifted structure, scenes, characters, dilemmas, themes that are very apparent. (...) I think it's wonderful: Everyone steals from everyone. And with "Alien", which is another masterpiece, it defined genre movies as having a very high artistic standard. But the irony is that it all comes back to this Italian movie that I don't think has gotten the recognition it deserved. [2016]
[on working with Amazon Studios and artistic integrity] I think that one of the things with the modernism of the entertainment industry and especially working with Amazon, who understands the power when you go from theatrical to streaming, is that the integrity of the creator is really the commodity besides of course the product. The product is more a reaction to who you are. So in a way, the experience of a culture is more and more, what do you stand for as an artist? [2016]
No compromise. Do it your way. Singularity - it's the only thing no one can take away from you. It's the only thing that sustains timelessness. [2016]
[on his Aleister Crowley biopic and Tom Hardy as Crowley]

I am not knowledgeable at all about Crowley's life and I will need a good writer to put all these ideas in formation. But the moment I called Tom (Tom Hardy) and suggested the project, he didn't hesitate to say yes. His only question was, 'When do we start?' We had a great working relationship on Bronson, and finally, after many years of trying to break through, I believe he's now on his way to real stardom. I couldn't think of anyone better to play the young Crowley. I have no title as yet, and will not be able to get around to it until after the proposed Pusher 4 at least. But there's definitely a far-out, sexy, trippy, horrifying movie to be made out of this notorious, Satan-worshipping cult personality. Think Charles Manson times a billion, and that's what I want to depict on screen.


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