Nicolas Winding Refn

Nicolas Winding Refn backs Hollywood Strikers: ‘Burn it all’

Nicolas Winding Refn shares his support – and bewilderment – with the current state of Hollywood.

The ‘Drive’ and ‘Only God Forgives’ writer-director spoke to IndieWire about the ongoing SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes that have brought Hollywood to a standstill.

“I’m all for it. Burn everything to bring it out again, almost,” the Danish filmmaker told IndieWire. “And I think in terms of what’s happening right now in the industry, from a business perspective, I think it’s just another piece of a global problem of just inequality and lack of opportunity sharing, it’s just overcoming what people are able to accept. Look at your (US) presidencies over the past 10-15 years. So what happened? Yet nobody really learns from it. So all you can really do is go back and look at the French Revolution and remember what they did in the end: they cut off everyone’s heads and I think we should try to avoid that ending.

The “Neon Demon” director added: “If contracts have to be renegotiated because times have changed, obviously. Everyone would understand that I am a very pro-union person. I think the trade unions are very important. I believe workers need protection, especially in corporate America. In the EU, we have more restrictions and more work rules in our government guidelines, where (in the US) it’s like the Wild West (…) So I think there’s a complete understanding of why people are frustrated and they go on strike because things need to be reinvented, reviewed. It needs to be renegotiated (…) and those who are against… well, what are you protecting? Only more wealth? You know, it doesn’t make any sense.

For Refn, alleged greed in Hollywood, as evidenced by the failed AMPTP negotiations, is indicative of the larger international issue of wealth inequality as a whole.

“I come from a socialist country. I’m from Denmark, the homeland of Bernie Sanders,” Refn said. “So I can certainly say why we are the happiest people in the world, and I think we need to be better at coming together rather than separating everything to make more profit. But what does that mean? really, or give us, if there’s nothing to prove?So shouldn’t the people who are actually creating the works be equally part of the upside as the downside?

He continued: “I think nowadays, obviously, because especially up until the pandemic and after the pandemic, the realization of the divide in our society, of the gap between the rich and the poor and between the haves and the have-nots, has intensified beyond what is acceptable. We need to be better at sharing the wealth because if we don’t, we lose our humanity, we lose our empathy, and it just becomes corporate insanity. And that never led to anything good.”

Refn added, “History has proven time and time again at one point: We rise up against what we deem to be unfair and, right now, there is massive inequality in terms of how we share our opportunities. And I think it needs to be readjusted.

The ‘Drive’ director also addressed the need to re-examine why content is being made in the first place. Refn explained that producing content for streaming platforms rather than making artistic statements could be detrimental to the art itself.

“We produce content as a company, but we so rarely talk about why we’re creating content,” Refn said. “What’s the meaning? We never talk about why we create content. We’re just talking about creating content and more content and as fast as possible, and it’s all becoming a scroll, but it’s not necessarily a healthy mirror for society or for us as people.

According to Refn, the paradigm of modern entertainment is to “muddle everything into one and as fast as possible and as meaningless as possible because it can never confront any element (…) the more empty it is, empty calories, the more you can consume it, the faster you can overcome it. Hence the stupidity, the lack of empathy, the ignorance, all those things that art has the ability to contribute. So, in a sense, we are going in the wrong direction.

He concluded: “And I think that’s why there is such a beautiful revolution among young people who are turning against the system of companies and now entertainment (…) I think it’s great.”

Stay tuned for more from IndieWire’s interview with Nicolas Winding Refn on the 10th anniversary of “Only God Forgives.”