Comic-Con 2011: DRIVE and DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK Panel Recap

     July 21, 2011


There are plenty of big genre properties that show off at Comic-Con but this I’m excited out of my mind for two smaller films: the Guillermo del Toro-produced horror flick Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark and Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive.  Last year the panel for Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark was one of the best panels I saw in part because of del Toro’s terrific stage presence and in part because the film just looks damn scary.  As for Drive, I’ve heard nothing but great things about the film and this will be Refn’s first trip to Comic-Con.  Unlike the standard panel format of show footage and audience Q&A, it will be a conversation between del Toro and Refn and the casts of their movies.  Cast members included Ron Perlman, Guy Pearace, Carey Mulligan, and Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark director Troy Nixey.

Hit the jump for the Film District panel of Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark and Drive.

Del Toro says of Refn that he wanted to meet “this insane motherfucker.”  He suggested the idea of mashing-up their movies at Comic-Con and talking to Refn on stage and doing away with the “promo crap”.  Del Toro says of Refn’s work is a “high-wire” act and he’s never been scared of Ron Perlman before until he saw Drive.

Refn comments on how genre cinema has taken over the role of progressive cinema and now progressive films have become the new genre films.  He says Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is a mixture of poetry and cinema, and it’s “a unique example of very clever filmmaking.”

Del Toro talks about working on Pacific Rim and then working with a first-time director to shoot a small film called Mama.  Del Toro feels that it’s his duty to help bring up young filmmakers otherwise it’s just the same voices over and over again.

We then see latest trailer that’s already been released.  If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out below:

We then see some of the creepy designs for the monsters in Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark.  They’ve got white bulging eyes, freaky mouths with messed up teeth, and the best way to describe is if Gollum fucked a xenomorph and the baby got addicted to meth.

Pearce then talks about playing the skeptic which is a tough role because the audience knows real shit is going down.  But he says part of what drew him to the role was that he was cynical and indicative of his character being a poor father.

We then move on to talking about assembling a cast.  Refn says casting the is the most crucial thing and you get a headache trying to figure out who’s perfect for a role and then arguing with a studio over who to get.  But once the casting is in place, “it’s like sex… because even when it’s bad it’s still good.”  He says with actors sometime you need to support them and other times you need to know when to leave them alone.

drive-image-carey-mulligan-02Mulligan then talks about what attracted her to Drive.  She says more than the character or the story, she wanted to work with Nicolas Winding Refn because she was a fan of Bronson and Valhalla Rising.  She then talked about having to make “major small changes” to the part after she “forced” her way into the part.  Mulligan jokes that it’s also that Refn’s wife pushed him to casting.  Pearce interjects, “Is that why casting is like sex?”  The crowd laughs and Refn continues that his wife brought up An Education.

We then check out the Drive trailer which hasn’t been released yet.  I wanted to watch it again immediately after I saw it.  It sets up the plot that Gosling’s character is a part-time stunt driving, part-time getaway man who tries to help Mulligan’s character and her son get away from her criminal husband’s bad debt and then a lot of fast driving and intense violence goes down.  The best part of the trailer is when classical music kicks and we see some slow motion shots and then before we see the credits, Gosling holds a bullet at a bad guy’s forehead and then raises a hammer and if he’s going to nail into the guy’s skull.  I want to see this movie now.

Winding talks about how he wanted to shoot Los Angeles but like you’ve never seen it before.  He explains he always shoots in wide-angle lenses so you can see more of the background until it engulfs the viewer.  The cinematography in the trailer looks fantastic and I think—again, judging solely from the trailer—that he’s achieved his goal.

After having the panel feel like two panels being moderated at the same time, del Toro and Refn start talking about each other’s work where del Toro compares the reality of Refn’s films to the artifice of movies like Pan’s Labyrinth where they build everything from the houses to the chairs.  Refn responds that he started reading Grimm’s Fairy Tales to his daughter and how certain iconic figures keep reappearing and his goal with Drive was to do a kind of fairy tale in Los Angeles by using those fairy tale archetypes.  Gosling is the knight, Mulligan is the princess, Ron Perlman is the dragon, and Albert Brooks is the evil king who comes off as incredibly threatening in the trailer.

drive-image-ron-perlmanPerlman says he got involved when he heard Refn was making his first American film, he wanted to get on board.  His character, Nino, was more of a sketch at the beginning and he says he wanted to play the part because he felt being born a Jew was an accident of birth and he was meant to be an Italian.  Perlman met with Refn and Refn simply asked “Who is Nino?” and Perlman says there was a three-minute pause and finally said, “I don’t know.”  Refn said he didn’t know either, but Perlman pledged, “When you say ‘action’, some serious shit is going to happen.”

We’re then shown an incredible scene.  Gosling and Mulligan enter an elevator and Gosling notices that the elevator’s other occupant is packing heat.  The frame rate then slows down, the lighting dims, slow music starts playing, and Gosling gives Mulligan and long, slow kiss.  Then, the lights slowly begin to come back up in the elevator and suddenly it all speeds up as the elevator thug pulls his gun, Gosling stops him, punches him to the ground and then stomps the guy’s face into oblivion.  It’s a complete 180 from the previous minute and yet it all holds together in the scene.  Mulligan shocked by Gosling’s intense, brutal violence, backs out the elevator and into a parking garage.  Gosling looks back at her with a helpless look on his face and then the elevator door closes with Mulligan on the other side.  I want to see this movie now.

Refn and del Toro talk about having to take risks as filmmakers.  It’s artistically damning to be safe.  Del Toro demanded that he do The Devil’s Backbone before Blade II and he was willing to walk away from the mainstream movie to do his personal film.  Del Toro then comments on how Refn’s films have a difficult tonal decision that is coherent with the story he’s telling.  Some are Kubrickian, others are hardcore 70s, and he asks Refn if he’s inspired by these tones for his movies.  Refn responds that he’s always trying not to make the same movie again and he’s worried that if he does the same thing twice then maybe he’s a hack.  He talks about the Pusher trilogy and says that they’re not gangster films but people caught inside a criminal world and that’s why he cast real drug dealers as themselves.  He then explains how getting out debt was a great motivator to make the Pusher sequels.  As for Bronson, it wasn’t a prisoner movie but an opera about a man who wants to be famous for his violence.  As for Drive, it was a fairy tale idea but uses a lot of European, late-80s score, it would provide a unique feel.  And then you take a genre theme but don’t shoot them conventionally.Guillermo del Toro image Hellboy 2 (1)

We then move on to the Q&A.  Del Toro says he prefers the monsters of horror because “monsters are a living, breathing fuck you” to the fucked-up valuation of perfection in our society.  Pearce comments that some that some members of the audience may be under eighteen.  Del Toro responds “they should’ve known what the fuck they were getting into.”

Refn talks about meeting Ryan Gosling who had director approval.  Refn was stoned out of his mind on flu meds.  He asks Gosling to drive him home because Refn doesn’t drive.  Gosling, confused, agrees.  On the way back to Refn’s house, they turn on the radio and “I Can’t Fight this Feeling Anymore” and Refn starts singing and then he yells at Gosling “I GOT IT!” and Gosling says “What?”  Refn explains, “Drive is about a guy who drives around LA at night and he listens to 80s pop music and that’s his release.”  Gosling pauses and then says “Let’s do it.”  Now they’ll be going Only God Forgives and then follow it up with the remake of Logan’s Run.

Click here for all our Comic-Con 2011 coverage.

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