Finding the neon demon
Empire tries to unlock nicolas Winding refn’s latest
Here’s what nicolas winding refn wants you to know about his tenth film, The Neon Demon: nothing. he won’t tell you the plot, and certainly won’t tell you what the neon Demon is. is there anything he does want to tell you? “elle Fanning is the star,” deadpans the Dane. “and she’s really good.”
Here’s something else we do know: after the ryan Gosling-fests of Only God Forgives and Drive, refn wanted to “work with women”. inspired by his experience working on a Gucci commercial (“i saw an opening image, and from that i created a whole movie”), he crafted the screenplay with first-time feature writers Mary laws and Polly stenham. then he brought Fanning on board.
“He told me his idea about this girl coming to the city, getting into the modelling world. then he sent me the script,” she says. “it was so wacky!”
If it doesn’t feel quite right that refn, whose work tends to probe the darkness beneath the surface, is directing a movie about modelling, then our trip to the vast canfield-moreno estate for the movie’s la shoot last May soon eases fears. We watch as Fanning’s teen femme fatale Jesse stands in one of its stately rooms, white curtains billowing as Pino Donaggio’s theme from Brian De Palma’s 1980 slasher, Dressed To Kill, plays. it all feels deeply ominous, as refn dips his toes into a new genre. “i went to the financiers and i said, ‘i wanna do a horror movie,’ and they said, ‘Greeaattt!’” he laughs. “so i said, ‘i wanna do a teenage horror movie…’ they said, ‘Yesssss!!!’” a teenage horror movie directed by nicolas winding refn, king of the off-kilter? Maybe that’s all we ever needed to know.
The Neon Demon is out later this year.