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Nicolas Refn helps Gosling, Hendricks ‘Drive’ into theaters

Courtesy of FilmDistrict

“Strong brutal bloody violence.”

“Drive,” the action thriller set for release Friday starring Ryan Gosling and directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, is rated R for that very reason. (Among others.)

Based on the novel “Driver” by James Sallis, “Drive” follows a Hollywood stunt driver (Gosling) who makes a living driving getaway cars. Driver falls in love with his neighbor, Irene (Carey Mulligan), who was dragged into a dangerous underworld by the return of her ex-convict husband Standard (Oscar Isaac.)

After a heist intended to pay off Standard’s protection money spins out of control, Driver finds himself defending the girl he loves, tailgated by deadly serious criminals (Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman), who are after more than just the bag of cash in his trunk.

Refn, as well as stars Christina Hendricks and Albert Brooks, recently spoke about the film in a press conference.

What about that penchant for violence?

“That comes from me always thinking that sex scenes are really boring to watch, but I’m a fetish filmmaker,” Refn said. “I make films based on what I want to see, not always understanding it when I come up with it, but always purely based on what would I like to see.”

Danish-born Refn made a name for himself in 1996 with “Pusher,” a Danish-language film about a drug dealer, which went on to inspire a successful trilogy.

Refn was yet to helm a film through the Hollywood system before signing on for “Drive,” however. His previous two films, “Bronson” in 2008 and “Valhalla Rising” in 2009, were relatively successful at the box office, but neither was based out of the U.S.

“I felt it could be interesting to do a movie in Hollywood just to see what it would be like, but of course I ended up not really doing a Hollywood movie because no studio wanted to finance the movie,” he said.

With a budget of $10 million (financed independently) and only seven weeks to shoot in Los Angeles, Refn went to work. Finding actors was the easy part, Refn said, because there’s so many of them looking for work in Hollywood.

One of those was Ryan Gosling.

Gosling called Refn and asked if they could meet for dinner. Under the weather and highly drugged as a result, Refn agreed to meet Gosling, but struggled to focus.

On the car ride home, REO Speedwagon’s “Can’t Fight This Feeling” started playing on the radio. Refn said he broke down and cried because the song made him miss his family.

Then he had an epiphany.

He wanted to do a movie about a man who drove around in his car listening to pop music because it’s his “emotional relief,” he said.

After picking up Gosling as the film’s star, Refn and Gosling went on to establish an intimate working relationship during production.

“Ryan and I just kind of clicked in a way that was very rare, I would presume,” Refn said. “And I couldn’t tell you why exactly, but we were one person, as they say. We’re very telekinetic.”

Gosling isn’t the film’s only recognizable face.

Mulligan (“Public Enemies”), Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”), Brooks (“Finding Nemo”), Hendricks (“Mad Men”) and Perlman (“Hellboy”) also star in suppporting roles.

Brooks has built a career not only out of acting, but writing and directing as well.

Still, he hasn’t played many villains like he does in “Drive,” though he said could make playing a baddie unique.

“I always thought I would make a very good bad guy because I can play it smart, and most bad guys are smart and they’re charming and they’re even funny,” Brooks said. “I heard Ted Bundy interviewed from prison and he’s quite charming and even had a joke or two.”

Then there’s Christina Hendricks, who has built quite a name for herself of late, notably in TV and as Joan Holloway in AMC’s critically acclaimed series, “Mad Men.”

With other stars in the film having also played distinctive TV characters, Hendricks said Refn gambled on casting actors he might not have known much about.

“(Refn) was unfamiliar with quite a few of us and took the chance on us … so I think we’re all sort of playing opposite or quite different from how you see us on TV,” Hendricks said.

Seeing Hendricks dressed in a rather trashy fashion, as well as noting the gratuitous shots of a new, speedy Ford Mustang and the constant use of firearms, one might not get the impression “Drive” was inspired by Grimm’s Fairy Tales, of all things, just by watching the trailer.

The mythological hero, the mythological innocent woman and the mythological innocent king are all transplanted to the world of “Drive,” metaphorically speaking, of course, Refn said.

But maybe the reason “Drive” recalls those fairy tales of old lore is a little more simple after all.

“I would love to make a movie like a fairy tale because I’ve been reading them to my daughter for the last couple of years,” Refn said.

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