Comic-Con 2011: DRIVE and DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK offer up fantastic footage and a great discussion

by: Kristal Bailey
July 22nd, 2011

Traditionally, studio panels break up their movies so they strictly focus on one movie at a time. This is FilmDistrict’s first Comic-Con panel and they wanted to change it up a bit. Capitalizing on the mash-up style made popular since the dawn of the Internet, they decided to bring out everyone at once and go back and forth between DRIVE and DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK.

The panel included Nicolas Winding Refn (director of DRIVE), Guillermo Del Toro (producer of DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK), Ron Perlman (HELLBOY, DRIVE), Carey Mulligan (AN EDUCATION, DRIVE), Troy Nixey (director of DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK) and Guy Pearce (MEMENTO, DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK). It was a very interesting format. All panel members had seen both movies so they were able to ask each other questions, along with the moderator and audience questions. Del Toro has been to the con a number of times and wanted to do something different than the same “promo crap” that all the other studios do.

DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK was at Comic-Con last year, but this time they debuted the full trailer and had Guy Pearce and Troy Nixey on hand to field questions on the production. However, Guillermo Del Toro is a pro at these types of presentations and knows how to engage and entertain the crowd. While here for DARK, he also briefly mentioned his work on PACIFIC RIM and MAMA. As a producer, he sees it as his duty to work with as many first-time directors as possible. The worst thing that can happen to the genre is if it’s only the same voices over and over again; to produce is to learn from the new voices.

After premiering the trailer, which was fantastically creepy and thoroughly riveting, they dove in deep to the world of the creatures. With pictures detailing their production, Nixey elaborated that “there’s something inherently creepy about something that can disappear.” Something that small and mean is much scarier than something that’s bigger but can’t hide as easily.

The panel felt both DARK and DRIVE feel timeless, they almost work as a throwback to a different style of filmmaking. That’s why they felt they worked together as a panel, and I have to agree. Plus, with such visionary talent like Guillermo Del Toro and Nicholas Winding Refn, they put on such an informative and fascinating discussion.

Check out the red-band trailer for DRIVE that they showed during the panel:

Keep reading for more questions and answers from Hall H.

Guy Pearce, how did it feel to play the non-believer in a horror film?
It’s an interesting step to take. It’s the first film of this genre I’ve dived in to, it’s different style than RAVENOUS. What drew me to this was that he’s so cynical and disbelieving of his dauther, that it’s representative of his poor fathering skills.

How did you go about assembling the cast?
Refn: To cast a film is the most important part of filmmaking, going way back to the beginning of film history. It’s a headache to figure out who would be right, who do the studios want, who do you want, and who wants to do it. It’s like playing Russian Roulette. Once casting is in place, it’s like sex because you know it’s going to be ok. Even when it’s bad, it’s still good. Everything comes down to casting.

Carey: What attracted you to this character?
I start out very quietly strong, as a single mother, and this man comes into my life and changes everything. It was [Refn] who attracted me to this role. I had seen BRONSON and VALHALLA RISING. I emailed my agent saying I wanted to work with someone like Nicolas and two weeks later this casting notice went out so I basically muscled my way into the film.

Refn: I was casting aggressively, but the minute she came in to the door we knew the part was hers. We had to do some major changes to make it work, but it was perfect. My wife is also very controlling; she had seen AN EDUCATION and said she was fantastic in it so I listened.

Choosing LA as the setting, it’s kind of like a western in a way. Did you choose this consciously?
Refn: I come from not having a lot of money to make movies, so the surroundings become a character in your films. I don’t drive, I tried 8 times and failed and don’t live in USA, so I don’t know the real LA. I know the romanticism of LA though. I went around to all the places talked about in the book and the idea was to use the backdrop of Los Angeles, but not show all the places you’ve seen in film a million times before. I shoot in wide-angle lenses because it gives more depth. Still photography we remember, so behind the actors and the location is one of the most important things.

Ron Perlman: How did you approach this role?
Heard Refn was contemplating making a US film and knew I wanted to work with him. When I read the script, Neno was a sketch of a character. Why did I want to play him? I think being born a jew was an accident, I should have been born Italian and this fit perfectly with Neno. He was a schlubby jew who modeled himself after Italian gangsters. When NWR asked me “who is Neno?” I didn’t know. I looked at him and told him the truth and said that no one here knows. “But I know one thing, when you say action, some shits going to happen!”

Refn: How was the transition from European filmmaking to American filmmaking?
I was also nervous coming over to LA because you always hear the horror stories of other European directors trying to make it out here and hating it. Guillermo Del Toro, were you ever nervous when you moved over?

Del Toro: My career has been a series of accidents. The one word that is common to most languages is No. You need to learn to use that word. In Mexico you make movies with your friends and you need all the friends you can muster. But in US you work in this structure and the politics. It’s an adventure that’s worth having, but you have to learn to say no in order to work on the projects you do want to. People talk about how brave filmmakers are, but the people who put those movies in front of an audience, like FilmDistrict, are brave too.

Del Toro: What is it you like most about consuming and creating horror?
The first thing I loved was monsters. I’m not a guy that likes psycho killers, I like monsters and creatures. I love the creation of monsters, universal horrors, freaks, I love everything that is deformed because that is beautiful to me. Everything that is abhorrent is something we need to cherish because we live in a society that enshrines values that are impossible, like perfection. Monsters are a living, breathing “fuck you” against society’s standards of perfection. I love the unsafe choices, it’s a genre that allows you to create incredibly powerful images.

Ron Perlman, if you could fight anyone in history living or dead who would it be?
Dick Cheney

You tried for a PG-13 rating for DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK but ended up with an R, did that affect the film at all?
There are moments that are pretty brutal. We asked the MPAA what the obstacle was and they said the whole movie is too intense. Why ruin a perfectly good movie just for a rating? Then we found someone who didn’t shy away from the R that would embrace that and distribute it.

It was a fantastic panel that highlighted the films well. The trailer and clips from DRIVE looked compelling and visually stunning. You can check out Chase’s Cannes review of the film here.

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