Nicolas Winding Refn

Nicolas Winding Refn, Director of "Drive": Interview on The Sound of Young America

Ryan Gosling with director Nicolas Winding Refn, L, on set
Nicolas Winding Refn

Nicolas Winding Refn is the Danish director of the new film Drive, starring Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan. Refn had a very specific vision for the film, which included trance-like music and throwbacks to the aesthetics of films of his childhood. Drive is a moody thriller that combines elements of fairy tale, noir, 80s pop and 70s grit. The film won Refn the Best Director award at Cannes.

Drive opens in theaters nationwide on September 16th.

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JESSE THORN: It's The Sound of Young America, I'm Jesse Thorn. My guest, Nicolas Winding Refn grew up in the world of cinema. His father, Anders, edited the Danish classics Breaking the Waves and Dancer in the Dark for director Lars Von Trier, among dozens of other films. He grew up in Denmark, but spend his teenage years in New York City. He briefly attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts before being expelled, allegedly for throwing a chair into a wall, and passed up one of six slots at a very prestigious Danish film institute when he had the opportunity to develop what had been his application short film into a feature. That movie, Pusher, went on to become a European cult crime classic.

His new film is his first American production. It's called Drive. It won Refn the directing prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Its nearly silent protagonist played by Ryan Gosling is a professional stunt driver by day and a getaway driver by night. It's a movie that somehow both brutal and serene, and because the main character almost never talks, it's tough for us to encapsulate with a clip of dialogue. So instead, suffice it to say that on those evenings when he isn't committing a crime, the protagonist called the driver cruises the roads of Los Angeles listening to music like this.

Nicolas, welcome to The Sound of Young America.


JESSE THORN: It's really great to have you on the show. I want to ask you, having only seen one passing reference to you throwing a chair into a wall at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, I thought I would go to the horse's mouth and find out what got you booted.

NICOLAS WINDING REFN: It was a table instead of a chair. It was great because I hated authority anyways, so it didn't turn out the way I thought it was going to be, but that was maybe good, because if it hadn't maybe I wouldn't be sitting here. So I was the happiest person smashing a table into the wall and being told that was unacceptable.

Drive & "A Real Hero" by College


I'm prepping to interview Nicolas Winding Refn, the director of "Drive," a really remarkable film that Julia and I saw a couple weeks ago. It's a crime thriller starring Ryan Gosling (along with a bunch of other brilliant folks - Albert Brooks, Carey Mulligan, Christina Hendricks, Bryan Cranston, Ron Perlman), but it's disconcertingly quiet. Punctuated, every so often, by shocking violence.

This trailer is really just an early scene from the film in its entirety.

The song "A Real Hero" serves as a sort of theme for the movie, and for Gosling's character. It reminded me of an early 80s score by Tangerine Dream. It's both inspiration and reserved, almost melancholically so. Like the movie, though, it really gets under your skin.

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