Nicolas Winding Refn is a favorite over here at Daily Grindhouse, from the PUSHER trilogy, to BRONSON, to VALHALLA RISING, to DRIVE, to ONLY GOD FORGIVES and everything in between the neon. While at Fantastic Fest 2015, Jason Coffman and Mike Vanderbilt sat down with the writer/director to talk about his new book THE ACT OF SEEING, which hits bookstores today.
THE ACT OF SEEING is, as Refn himself put it, “the most expensive movie poster book featuring movies that nobody has ever seen.” The over 300 exploitation posters showcased in the book come from Refn’s personal collection and feature commentary by writer Alan Jones.
Daily Grindhouse: How did a Danish kid get into exploitation cinema? Where was the seed planted?
Nicolas Winding Refn: Well, I grew up in New York. I came over in ’78 when I was 8 years old and I lived there for ten years until ‘87. My mother had photographed Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis; you know, the Haight-Asbury hippie movement. I grew up in a very Scandinavian, healthy home, but I was living in a duplex penthouse in New York at the same time, so I had the Scandinavian values and a high-end, cultural, New York upbringing. So for me to rebel, like you have to do as a teenager, was fairly difficult. Two things my mother really detested were violent American films and Ronald Reagan, so I became a very right-wing, violent, movie fanatic. That was a way to really make my mother angry.
DG: Do you remember the first violent American film that stuck out for you?
NWF: I remember going to Cinema Village… I mean, I was way too young for the whole Times Square thing, I never really had that true experience. Just born in the wrong age. I never experienced the disco era, which I’m always very bitchy about, like true disco, right before Studio 54 when it was really coming up. All that SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER stuff. I wish it was still a club thing. Everything turned around for me cinematically when I was 14 and saw THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE at Cinema Village in New York, which is still around, and my mother was furious about it, seeing a trashy thing like that. I thought it was the fucking, like, this was it. Now I’m in.
DG: Are there any plans to release the rest of the Andy Milligan films that you purchased recently?
NWF: Yes. Actually, the next thing I’m going to do is transfer everything to 4K and from there figure out the best way to preserve it, like NIGHTBIRDS. Because I have all the original camera negatives. I have to put back together HOUSE OF SEVEN BELLES. I have the script because when I bought everything from Jimmy McDonough, the script to HOUSE OF SEVEN BELLES was there. It’s a really weird Civil War movie. I’ve been very lucky; some people have been giving me other strange things and now I just collect stuff.
DG: It’s an impressive collection of posters. Do you have any crown jewels? Favorites?
NWR: I have a personal love for Curtis Harrington’s NIGHT TIDE and QUEEN OF BLOOD. I think NIGHT TIDE is one of the best directorial debuts of the ’60s, and I love QUEEN OF BLOOD. It’s one of my favorite sci-fi movies. I knew Curtis before he died and that’s why I put him in the book, because in a way he’s very much forgotten, which is a shame. I think NEST OF THE CUCOOKOOBIRDS is an incredible piece of art, like a Basqiuat painting. I love the X-RATED SUPERMARKET. Did you see the screening yesterday?
DG: We missed it yesterday…
NWR: Oh, guys…
DG: We’ve been looking forward to FAREWELL, UNCLE TOM.
NWR: …because you’re in Texas.
DG: I’ve seen three very Texas things yesterday: a debutante ball, a Friday night high school football game, and a cop in a cowboy hat.
NWR: That’s very Texas… and of course FAREWELL, UNCLE TOM to top it off.
DG: Do you have these posters hanging up all over the house?
NWR: Are you kidding? I’m married to a feminist, that’s never going to happen.
DG: Do you have a pass on which one you can hang up?
NWR: The only one she likes is CAPTIVE WILD WOMAN, the one with the gorilla. It’s quite famous, actually. That one she likes, so we put that in the kitchen. Everything else, she does not approve of. I have my Japanese robots, those are around.
DG: Fantastic Fest is known as much for partying and karaoke as it is for films, and I know you’re a disco fan. What’s your go-to karaoke song?
NWR: “MacArthur Park.”
DG: Why that one?
NWR: C’mon, do I have to explain anymore?
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