Only God Forgives Facebook
"Drive," Ryan Gosling and director Nicolas Winding Refn's previous collaboration, was a moody tone piece punctuated with sudden, intense violence. Refn ups the ante in his new film "Only God Forgives," in which Gosling again stars as a troublingly ambiguous main character. As Refn told Moviefone, "If 'Drive' was good cocaine, this would be like great, old-school acid."
In the film, which is set in the criminal underground of Thailand, Gosling must stand up to his overbearing mother (an over-the-top Kristin Scott Thomas as you've never seen her before) and face off with a corrupt cop who acts as the ruthless "God" of the title.
Below, we speak with Refn about the movie's influences, his love of silence, and why he (no surprise) was fine when the movie got partially booed at the Cannes Film Festival.
Moviefone: The trailers for the film make it seem like this is going to be "Fight Club, Thailand." Were you involved in the marketing at all?
Refn: To the extent that I give my two cents. When you've got people in marketing that know what they're doing, why interfere?
There is a surreal quality to this film. It reminded me of [Spanish surrealist director] Luis Buñuel. Was this inspired by his work at all?
No, but I like surrealness.
What movies were you influenced by?
The movie is influenced by many things. There was a film called "The Evil Cameraman" by [experimental New York filmmaker] Richard Kern that made a huge impression on me when I saw it originally.
Why did you want to set this film in Thailand?
I like the notion of placing a movie between heaven and hell. Bangkok is very much a gateway between West and East. By day, it's very much a hustling, bustling tourist attraction. But by night, you can really get a sense of the whole Asian dominance, which is a world that accepts ghosts and mysticism. They accept the supernatural as equally as they accept logic and law.
So you couldn't have set this movie anywhere else?
It would be hard. It would change the film a lot.
Was it hard to film in Thailand?
No. I mean, it was hot. In terms of the crew, it was great. I maybe overdosed on Thai food. That was the worst thing that happened.
You describe this as a movie about a man who wanted to fight God, which is the Chang character. What does that make Gosling's character?
A man searching for a religion to believe in.
Does he find it?
I think he finds it, in the sense that once I had that idea for that heightened concept, I had to come up with something more accessible, so I came up with this mother and son story. And then you can say the key to Julian's confrontation with Mom is through Chang.
How did you talk the always elegant Kristin Scott Thomas into playing this foul-mouthed, trashy crime boss?
It was remarkably easy. [Laughs] She was pretty groovy. I had a very tight budget, so I wasn't pursuing anybody of name value. I was casting unknown actresses in London. The casting director suggested, "Why don't we just ask Kristin Scott Thomas?" I said, "Well, I can't afford her." And she said, "Let's just try. Let's just send her the script." We sent her the script and she very luckily liked what she was reading and she understood the financial condition very quickly and said that didn't bother her; she liked the work more than anything else. I saw that she had no problem turning on the "b*tch switch." She had one condition: She needed to transform herself, she said. "I can't look the way that I usually do." I asked her, "What would you like to look like?" She came with some photos of herself with a long blond wig and I said to her, "Donatella Versace, here we come."
Does Ryan Gosling actually have less dialogue in this than he did in "Drive?"
He has less.
You had a whole film, "Valhalla Rising," with an entirely mute character. What is it you love so much about silence?
It's soooo cinematic. And it's so loud. It's the one sound that makes everyone concentrate that much harder, because they search for sound. We live in a society where we're so bombarded with noise that we very rarely experience silence for a very long time. We forget that silence can be so loud and interesting. The idea was to make a movie that was a waterfall of emotions more than anything else. I was going to make this movie before "Drive," but I decided to make it afterwards. I think that was good because I like working on something, then putting it away and seeing it from the perspective of having left it alone for some time. If "Drive" was good cocaine, as I tried to describe that, this would be like great, old-school acid.
You originally had someone else in mind to play Julian, Gosling's character.
Not just in mind, he was on board, he was ready to go. [Refn declined to say who that actor was.] The actor dropped out right after "Drive" premiered at Cannes. I was devastated. But thank God for that, because Ryan said, "I'll do it."
Speaking of Cannes, when the movie premiered there this year, you got booed, but then you won awards in Sydney. Do you get swayed by how your movies are received?
I think the greatest pleasure in Cannes was that you had people standing up applauding and you had people booing. And it was like you're the Sex Pistols -- you know you did something that everyone is going to be talking about afterwards.
You would rather be booed and applauded than just applauded?
Yeah, because you've gone much deeper into people's psyche. If they can love you the same way that they hate you, then you just impregnated them.