Interview: Nicolas Winding Refn, Director of THE NEON DEMON

Today, Amazon's original movie, THE NEON DEMON will premiere on Amazon Prime for members to stream and enjoy.  The film centers around aspiring model Jesse (Fanning) who moves to Los Angeles only to have her youth and vitality devoured by a group of beauty-obsessed women who will use any means necessary to get what she has in.  In anticipation for the release, we spoke with director Nicolas Winding Refn about his latest visual masterpiece. 

Shannon McGrew: Thank you so much for speaking with me today Nicolas.  To start things off, what inspired you to make THE NEON DEMON? 

Nicolas Winding Refn: I thought it would be interesting to make a movie about the obsession of beauty. 

SM: The film centers around Jesse, an aspiring model, who finds herself in the midst of that cut-throat industry.  How did you get into the head of a young girl aspiring for fame in the modeling world? 

NWR: I have a vivid imagination (laughs).  I think every man has a 16-year-old girl inside of him - they just have to access it, access her. 

SM: How would a man go about accessing that part of himself? 

NWR: They would imagine themselves as though they were beautiful and desired.  It's a very pleasurable fantasy. 

SM: That's a very interesting way to go about it.  THE NEON DEMON was one of my favorite films of this past year and as a fan of your movies I've noticed that the majority of them focus on a male lead.  What inspired you to switch from focusing on the male to focusing on the female? 

NWR: I think with DRIVE I kind of reached the height of male fetish and I wanted to move on but I needed to find a gateway so a lot of ONLY GOD FORGIVES is about emasculation.  It was a good way to step into the world of THE NEON DEMON

SM: Would you like to do more films that focus on powerful, female leads now that you have done THE NEON DEMON? 

NWR: Oh yeah, I love it, I love women.  They are so much more interesting than men. 

SM: One thing I noticed about this film in particular is that it has a bit of a polarizing effect on audiences.  People seem to either love it or hate it.  What do you think is the biggest misconception people have with this film? 

NWR: I don't believe something like that exists, a misconception.  I think it's just how they react.  People react in many different ways which of course is what makes it exciting.  True success of creativity is diversity. 

SM: Do you like that it's had such an effect on people? 

NWR: I love it.

SM: When it came to casting the roles, did you have specific people already in mind? 

NWR: It was very much about having to find everyone.  The casting took quite some time.  The only one that was kind of a given, that I just offered the role too, was Christina Hendrick. Everyone else was picked through casting sessions, besides Keanu Reeves, who near the end of the casting session, before shooting began, I offered him the role if he was willing to come down and drink bad coffee, sit on plastic chairs and do some acting. 

SM: I have to admit, everything about Keanu Reeves character was incredible and his role as Hank is probably my favorite acting role of his. 

NWR: Keanu is quite unique.

SM: When it came to fleshing out the characters, did you have any of the actors do anything specific when researching their roles? 

NWR: Well, whenever there was any questions for Elle [Fanning], we just used Abbey Lee since she was a huge supermodel herself. 

SM: With the success of THE NEON DEMON, what do you have planned next? 

NWR: Well, I don't know what I'm going to do next, I have some ideas.  I think it could be interesting to do something different.  I like the technology, the new hemisphere of the digital canvas. 

SM: Well whatever it is that you create next, I'm sure it'll be incredible.  Again, thank you so much for speaking with me today and we wish you continued success with THE NEON DEMON. 

THE NEON DEMON is available today, November 3, for Amazon Prime member to stream using the Amazon Video app for TV's, connect devices including Amazon Fire TV, and mobile devices, or online at Amazon.com/originals, at no additional cost to their membership.  Prime members will also be able to download the film to mobile devices for offline viewing.  THE NEON DEMON joins Prime Video's line-up of award-winning and critically acclaimed Original Series and Movies.