Only God Forgives is one of the most highly anticipated films of 2013. Not only is the man of the moment, Ryan Gosling, starring; it sees him team up with Nicolas Winding Refn again following their amazing collaboration in Drive in 2011. These are the things we know for certain but what about all those quirky, behind the scenes, little facts you don’t see on screen?
- Ryan Gosling wasn’t the first choice for the lead role.
Welsh actor Luke Evans was originally cast and had even begun learning Muay Thai lessons but had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts with The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Then, Gosling stepped in.
Refn: “I remember the day after the premiere of Drive in Cannes, this unknown actor drops out of my movie to go do The Hobbit. So I was like, ‘fuck.’ Then I was in LA right after and Ryan said, ‘I’ll do it.’”
- Director Nicolas Winding Refn is actually colour blind.
This is quite interesting given that colour is such a powerful tool in his films and most recently the latest neon-drenched poster for Only God Forgives.
- Ryan Gosling carried out an intense regimen of Muay Thai training.
For the role of Julian, Gosling studied Thai boxing (known as the “art of eight limbs”) and learned how to master ‘stand-up striking’ and ‘clinching’ for 2-3 hours daily. In the end, Gosling never used his training as the film became more about his character getting beaten up than actually fighting.
- Actors chose their own costumes.
Refn instructed the cast to go shopping and select what their characters would wear.
- Kristin Scott Thomas’ character Crystal is described as a mixture of Donatella Versace and Lady Macbeth.
She brought Refn a picture of herself from a previous photoshoot where she had long blond hair and long creature-like nails that reminded Refn of a Versace sensibility.
- Refn’s daughter’s ability to see spirits and ghosts influenced the film’s direction.
Refn’s daughter, who was born with the ability to see ghosts, woke up screaming many nights in the Bangkok apartment where his family lived during production for six months. Refn explains that Thai culture’s readiness to accept these phenomena and send a shaman to cleanse the house made him realize “that spirituality and mysticism and reality has a different meaning in Asia and that’s when I really realized that this was the kind of movie I wanted to make.”
- Ryan Gosling only has 17 lines of dialogue.
Describing Julian as a character in a sleepwalking state, Refn decided that silence was more powerful than dialogue.
- Refn would whisper, “You’re God,” into Vinthaya Pansringarm’s ear during filming.
Pansringarm’s character (Chang – the Angel of Vengeance) is a retired policeman and former Thai boxer who believes he has spiritual power. To empower Pansringarm and motivate the actor, Refn would whisper things like, “You’re God,” in his ear. Refn was fascinated by the idea of making “God” the antagonist.
- Chang’s name is never mentioned in the film.
Early versions of the film had Pansringarm’s character referenced as both Chang and Angel of Vengeance, but Refn removed the mentions to either name because the names robbed the character of his mystery and enigma.
- There was almost a country music karaoke scene in Bangkok.
Pansringarm’s character performs karaoke in the film after each murder, and Refn wanted to incorporate more English in the film by having him sing country classics like John Denver’s “Country Roads” and Cash’s “Ring of Fire.” Unfortunately, the licensing costs for Cash’s music were too expensive, so they stuck to Thai pop songs.
- Music composer Cliff Martinez travelled to Thailand to compose the score.
The former drummer of The Red Hot Chili Peppers and composer of Drive says, “Eating green curry chicken and barricading myself in a Thai hotel room had a profound impact.” Usually, Martinez composes scores from his Los Angeles home.
- Refn’s favourite movie is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which he saw when he was 14.
Unsurprisingly, many of Refn’s films feature strong violence, especially Only God Forgives, which forced many viewers to get up and walk out of its screening at Cannes 2013. Refn says, “I have surely a fetish for violent emotions and images.”
- Refn shoots most of his films in chronological order.
Unlike most directors who shoot films out of order, Refn likes to shoot films in order from the beginning to end because otherwise he gets confused and has to waste a lot of time figuring out logistics. Fun fact: as a child, he was severely dyslexic.
- Refn wrote Only God Forgives on index cards… sort of.
He writes a single sentence about a scene on an index card and then arranges them in a chart on his wall and sees where he can move things around. He doesn’t consider dialogue until much later, which is why many of his films have been argued to focus more on style than dialogue.
ONLY GOD FORGIVES IN UK CINEMAS 2ND AUGUST 2013