The Great Story Of How Nicolas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling Got Together For DRIVE

DRIVE is the coolest movie of the year. Here’s the uncool origin of how Refn met Ryan.

This was a weird Comic Con. There was a shortage of ‘holy shit’  moments in mainstream panels, but Hall H hosted a number of smaller, less mainstream films whose panels were once in a lifetime opportunities of awesomeness. One such panel was Film District’s for Drive and Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, which teamed up Guillermo del Toro and Nicolas Winding Refn to chat about filmmaking. And they really did, with Refn actually talking about the nuts and bolts of making a movie, which stunned the Hall H crowd, who was more used to filmmakers whoring out their current movies. It was like real talk.

One of the best parts of the panel was when Nicolas Winding Refn told the story of how he and Ryan Gosling ended up making Drive together. Here’s the entire tale, transcribed by my friend Todd Gilchrist (@mtgilchrist):

This film actually got made because Ryan wanted to make it. He was given the director control of it like when Steve McQueen brought Peter Yates from England or Lee Marvin did Point Blank, he brought John Boorman to come from England to come and make that film with him. I was in LA trying to kill Harrison Ford in a movie [The Dying of the Light], and it was turning out the way I thought Hollywood was going to be, because it went into that development hell which I hear so much about.

I postponed my own film that I was going to do because I was broke, and I went to Hollywood to make some money. And I got a call asking if Ryan Gosling wanted to meet up would I do that, and I was like, sure. I’d never met him, but I had a very high fever I got when I flew in, and my wife only allowed me to stay four days in America. I had a terrible, terrible fever, but I said I’ll go have dinner with him, so I took these American drugs to take the flu down, so I was high as a kite. Literally I couldn’t remember anything.

So I went to Ryan’s restaurant in LA and I had a stiff neck so I couldn’t look at him, so I sat down and I couldn’t move so I was like Frankenstein – and we tried to have a conversation. It was like a blind date – very awkward – because you sit down with an actor and you’re really supposed to get it going and you go make the movie together and you come up with some cool idea. That’s what Hollywood is about, having meetings about doing stuff. So I couldn’t really move, and Ryan would talk, and I would go “mm hmm,” and it was a bit like a blind date realizing that nobody was going to get fucked tonight. There was simply no connection between us because I was so out of it, I was so stoned that I couldn’t remember half of what I was saying and I would react too slowly. Ryan would be like, who the fuck is this stupid European guy?

So halfway through this dinner I said, could you please take me home, and Ryan was like, “What?” And I said, I don’t drive. He goes, “You can’t get a cab?” And I was so out of it that just the idea of having to get up and get a cab, I was like, uhhh. So he was like, sure, I’ll drive you. So we had to go to Santa Monica and it was quite a long ride, and you know that awkward silence when you’re dropping the girl off because you know you’re not getting any action? You go home and watch porn? We were sitting in the car and it was pure silence between us, and Ryan turns on the radio, and it was soft rock. And on this station, REO Speedwagon starts singing, “I Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore,” and I start to cry.

I start to cry, and tears are falling down my cheeks, and Ryan’s driving the car thinking how the fuck do I get him out of my car? And then I start singing the song. It’s like foreplay, and I’m really getting into it, and I slap my knee and for the first time I turn to Ryan in the car and I look at him. I scream in his face because the music is so loud, and I say, “I got it! I got it.” He says, “What?” I say, “I know what Drive is. Its about a man who drives around at night listening to pop music, and that’s his emotional relief.” And he said, “We’re doing it.”

That was a great encounter between us that led to a very passionate and strange relationship that will go on for, well, we’re doing Only God Forgives after Christmas, and then we’re doing the remake of Logan’s Run.