Pusher Man

Nicolas Winding Refn's first film is the drug-world morality tale Pusher (see review). It's a remarkably confident effort— and the 28-year-old Danish director is correspondingly self-assured.

You grew up in New York— are you pleased that your film is opening here?

I saw Texas Chainsaw Massacre at Cinema Village when I was 14, and it means more to me than any award that the film's opening in the cinema where I had the most cinematic experience of my life.

It says in your bio you were expelled from the American

Academy of Dramatic Arts.

Well, I wasn't invited back. That experience proved all my theories about art school. Maybe I wasn't a very good actor either [laughs]. It's the attitude, not the talent, you know?

What did you do after that?

I came back to Copenhagen, made a five-minute short, also called Pusher, basically the same story, inspired by that segment in Goodfellas where Ray Liotta is driving around completely paranoid. I always thought it was fun to watch someone so much under stress.

In expanding the short, what themes did you try to develop?

The main character's emotional life, what's going on in his head. I don't find drugs or violence interesting unless there's a purpose, a psychological element. I didn't want to romanticize that so-called crime world, make it hip and trendy.

Was the film improvised much?

Not much. The script was quite tight, and I actually storyboarded. But we did shoot in chronological order. I wasn't too thrilled with the original ending, so I changed it but didn't tell anybody. Nobody knew how it was going to turn out— there was an extreme nervous energy. I wanted a documentary look. And I took out all the establishing shots, so you jump straight from one scene to another. With a lot of films, the audience is observing more than getting involved.

There's been talk of an American remake of Pusher.

At one point I heard they were doing it as a blaxploitation movie, which I thought was funny. They can do whatever they want, as long as they pay me.

Tell me about your second feature, Bleeder.

I just finished it. It was the most difficult film to finance in Denmark in the last 30 years. There's this mentality here— "Don't think you're better than anybody else"— and I'm from a New York background where everybody thinks they are somebody. There was a clash.

Do you have plans to act?

Well, I do want to make the ultimate ego movie.

Meaning? . . .

Meaning me, me, me.

 
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