My Life Directed
Nicolas Winding Refn wanted his family to be with him while he spent months in Thailand making “Only God Forgives.” So off they went, sharing a luxury condo in a Bangkok high-rise. Along the way Liv Corfixen, Refn’s wife, starting making a behind the scene style documentary about the entire excursion.
The result is “My Life Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn” a one-hour documentary that takes viewers behind the scenes while Refn makes “Only God Forgives,” helmed by Corfixen.
Refn was born in Denmark but lived much of his youth in New York City, returning to Copenhagen in his late teens. Both of his parents were filmmakers. Refn’s impressive filmography includes “The Pusher Trilogy,” “Bronson,” “Valhalla Rising,” “Drive” and “Only God Forgives.”
There are times when the creative ego wants to wrap itself in a comfortable bed and not confront various critics. “My Life Directed” depicts the ups and downs an artist grapples with, shown through a detached glance. Whether it’s dealing with family nuclear unit issues, or deciding to film another take that involves replacing a prop window, or even reading a scathing review of the finished project, “My Life Directed” flows with a very objective attitude.
Free Press spoke to Refn and Corfixen by phone about the experience.
FPH: As the film opens up you are having your fortune read by Alejandro Jodorowsky using Tarot cards. Did his predictions come true?
Refn: Yes they did. When I stopped worrying about the perception and just gave into the film being made I was much more relaxed.
FPH: Jodorowsky is such an iconoclastic director, much like yourself. He refuses to talk about a film he made called “The Rainbow Thief” evidently having to do with a bad relation with the film’s lead actor Peter O’Toole. Did he ever talk about that film with you?
Refn: I know very little about that movie but that sounds about right.
FPH: We see your production board posted on the wall in the living room. As a Danish director do you find methods of making your films different in America, where you made “Drive?”
Refn: Not really. I grew up in New York so I was always working with a kind of Americanization of what I do. I am always worrying about the financial situation because in the end that is what makes you capable of making more movies.
FPH: Liv, what is your approach to directing a film?
Corfixen: I am very intuitive. I didn’t plan, when I started shooting. The thought came to me when we moved to Bangkok that I would film the process, the making of “Only God Forgives.” Then it became clear that the film would really be about the ups and downs of being an artist.
FPH: There’s a scene where you and Ryan Gosling go to a film festival, where you receive money that you use to complete shooting “Only God Forgives.”
Refn: I needed money to pay for police for the set. The organizers offered to pay us if we showed up at their film festival.
Corfixen: They didn’t know we needed completion money, they had just asked us to appear at their festival.
Refn: Lucky for everyone.
FPH: When do you decide on your set-ups and when you are going to move the camera?
Refn: Mostly on the set, on the day of shooting, when I see how things are playing out. Sometimes those things are planned in advance. Sometimes the shots are out of necessity.
FPH: There’s another scene where your daughter goes out on the ledge of the high rise apartment where your family is living, and you explain to her how dangerous that was and ask her not to do it again. Did she do it again?
Corfixen: No she didn’t do it again, thank God. Nothing was planned in the film, what you see it what happened.
FPH: Some really strong actors head your films, whether it’s Tom Hardy or Mads Mikkelsen. When did you first meet Ryan Gosling?
Refn: He invited me to a very strange dinner that lead to this idea I had that became “Drive.” He had seen my movies; I hadn’t seen any of his except “The Believer.” It was a perfect match.
FPH: Your next film is The Neon Demon with Keanu Reeves. Is there anything you can tell us about that project?
Refn: It’s going to be really good and exciting and funny and scary. It’s mostly a female cast.
“My Life Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn” opens in limited release as well as video-on-demand February 27.
— Michael Bergeron