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“Drive” director Nicolas Winding Refn on L.A., the Oscar season and the Blu-rays that never leave his player – AWARDS ALLEY

By Sean O’Connell Nicolas Winding Refn has returned to the scene of the crime.

The director of “Bronson,” “Valhalla Rising” and, most recently, “Drive,” is in Los Angeles doing awards-circuit press. Of course, he shot his stylish thriller in and around L.A., spinning a modern-day fairy tale about a dangerous driver for hire (Ryan Gosling) and the “damsel in distress” he fights to protect. After winning Best Director distinctions (and a Palme d’Or nod) in Cannes, “Drive” gradually conquered the festival circuit and finally opened in September, earning an estimated $34.5 million in domestic ticket sales.

The accolades have continued as of late, with Gosling’s nemesis, Albert Brooks, picking up a Best Supporting Actor win from the New York Film Critics’ Circle and “Drive” making the National Board of Reviews Top 10 list for the year.

Refn and I started there during a interview on behalf of “Drive,” one of the more thrilling features you’ll see this year: “Drive” technically entered the awards race back in Cannes, where you earned Best Director honors. It has continued lately with recognition from the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Board of Review. What does this recognition mean to you?

Nicolas Winding Refn: I mean, anybody liking your film and wanting to honor it … there’s always a great satisfaction both personally and creatively. You can’t deny that. It’s very, very flattering and it means a lot to me. Do you also think these notices help drum up awareness for the film?

Oh absolutely. A movie like “Drive” needs critics. It needs people. It needs journalists and it needs fans to help promote it. As many people as possible. And that is the power of these awards for smaller movies like “Drive.” So much of what I think makes “Drive” unique is the below-the-line aspects, from your sound design to your precise editing. Is there a technical Oscar category that you’d really like to see “Drive” nominated in?

I think “Drive” has three very interesting below-the-line categories. I focused on the music, the editing, and the photography. Those three aspects played a huge part in the creation of the film. I’m glad that you mentioned the photography, because “Drive,” to me, captured a side of L.A. that we rarely see on screen. I’m in L.A. all of the time, and it never looks like it does in “Drive.”

Well, it’s not that I did anything particular because I don’t know Los Angeles. I don’t live here, and I didn’t really know the city before I shot here. I just really shot it the way that I wanted it to look. And for some people, I did use some places where people would ask me, “Why did you shoot there?” Maybe they didn’t see the same things that I did. But again, I’m not from here, and a stranger in a strange town will always see things differently. Do you feel a more intimate connection to the city now that you have filmed here, or was it just another location shot?

No, no I really like the city. Now, that I’ve had to spend so much time here, it’s probably one of my favorite cities in the world. Let’s talk about your editing, which you also brought up. “Drive” is a compact 100 minutes, and doesn’t have an ounce of fat. Do you even have deleted scenes?

No. Was that just an economical decision? You shot only what you needed to shoot?

Well, we didn’t have a lot of time or money. Can we expect a commentary track on the Blu-ray or DVD?

Yes, and in fact, the edition that will be in stores in January doesn’t hold the secrets, nor the answers, so hopefully there will be a more definite release in the near future. That’s not to say that the one that is being released is bad, because it has the movie on it, which is the most important thing. But for people like myself, who have a huge interest in Blu-rays … I mean, I’m a Blu-ray fanatic. I think it is the world’s greatest invention since the wheel. The version that will answer more questions is in the process of being made. When do you think we might see that version?

Hopefully in the fall. Can you give me any specifics as to what some of those answers might be on this beefed-up Blu-ray release?

Now that is for me to know and you to find out. [Laughs] I will tell you later. OK, well, as a Blu-ray junkie, give me a few discs that never leave your player.

Well, I have to admit, Blue Underground’s release of Lucio Fulci’s “Zombie” has to be my pick of the year’s best release. Definitely. It’s in high-def. It’s just amazing. Another movie that I always watch – I’d go buy another copy if I was in another country – is [Charles Laughton’s] “Night of the Hunter.” It’s always close at hand. Let me see. What else? The Blu-ray release of “The Battle of Algiers.” Such a great film.

And what else? There are so many of them, and it’s such a strange question. I’d also say the Blu-ray release of “The Prisoner” television series. That certainly never leaves my shelf. It’s always one of those things that I keep close. It’s a combination of the transfer and the features. You can pack a home entertainment release with so much nonsense. Just stuff. But people only have XX-amount of hours in life. Let’s give those people a little respect.

Awards Alley brings you the best Oscar coverage. Click below to read our exclusive interviews with:

Harvey Weinstein

Gary Oldman and Colin Firth for “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.”

Charlize Theron, Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody for “Young Adult.”

Steve McQueen for “Shame.”

– The cast of “The Artist.”

Glenn Close for “Albert Nobbs.”

Tilda Swinton for “We Need to Talk About Kevin.”

For complete Oscar and Film Festival coverage, visit our Awards Alley for the latest news items, reviews and interviews all season long.

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