Nicolas Winding Refn: Hollywood Is ‘Falling Apart Desperately,’ but Cinema Can ‘Survive’

The director also said he could still make "Drive" today, but "it would be very difficult to finance, because the ecosystem is in such freefall."
Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn  at the 79 Venice International Film Festival 2022. Chiara Red Carpet. Venice (Italy), September 9th, 2022 (Photo by Marilla Sicilia/Archivio Marilla Sicilia/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)
Nicolas Winding Refn
Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Im

In spite of some success stories at the box office this year — “Top Gun: Maverick,” “Avatar: Way of the Water,” — the theatrical film industry has still had a tough year, with several high-profile bombs and lower grosses than its pre-pandemic counterpart years. One director with a very pessimistic outlook on where the industry, and Hollywood in general, is going is Nicolas Winding Refn, who said that Hollywood as a system is “falling apart desperately.”

“Hollywood is very seductive and intoxicating, but it’s also a system that’s falling apart desperately,” Refn said during an interview on the Deadline podcast “Crew Call” to promote his upcoming Netflix series “Copenhagen Cowboy.” “And I think they’re doing it to themselves more than anything else. Who knows? I would love to make something grandiose and big, but I would want to maintain my freedom, my impulse and creative control.”

Refn further went on to say that he hopes cinema will survive, but that the theatrical market needs to reinvent itself to compete with streaming. He went on to say that he “thinks” he will make a new film in the next year.

“The theatrical market is in its own redefinition of existence. For cinema to survive, we need to go back and make films again. There also needs to be an ecosystem that reflects the opportunities,” Refn said. “Streaming has forced the theatrical market to reinvent themselves as well. I don’t think theatrical will ever go away. I think theatrical will always exist, but it needs to be challenged in order to become better, more sufficient and more meaningful.”

In the United States, Refn is best known for directing the 2011 film “Drive,” which starred Ryan Gosling as a Hollywood stunt driver and hitman. Asked if he thinks he could have made the film today, Refn thinks he could, but it would be more challenging to finance given the current state of the industry.

“Of course, I just think it would be very difficult to finance, because the ecosystem is in such freefall. But absolutely I think you could make any film with a heart nowadays. In a way, it will probably be good for the system. It will probably be something that moves things forward again.”

During the podcast, Refn was also asked if he ever considered making a more mainstream film, such as a superhero project, which he empathetically said no to.

“I’ve always cherished my independence. I think waking up in the morning and going to work and paint the way you want it to look and go home, is still the most satisfying experience ever. For me,” Refn said. “If you don’t have the power of control at the end of the day or the ability to manipulate into your favor, it is committee. You have to spend your entire day struggling to get a compromise across, then what example am I to my own kids?”

“Copenhagen Cowboy” premieres on Netflix January 5.

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