Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a drug dealer hears from an old prison buddy that there’s a too-good-to-be-true deal going down, but things don’t go entirely to plan, and before long he’s left drug-less, penniless and hopeless, and he’s in deep trouble with his supplier. The film’s called Pusher.
But which Pusher? The original, Danish-language film was written and directed by Nicolas Winding Refn (Bronson, Drive) back in 1996, and it was remade back in 2010 in, of all places, India - but this week sees the release of the UK version of Pusher, set in the murky underworld of London and starring the likes of Richard Coyle and erstwhile catwalk model Agyness Deyn.
Ahead of the flick’s release, we sat down to chat with Coyle, Deyn and Refn himself (who, this time out, sat in the producer’s chair), about remakes, pigeonholing and how drum-and-bass clubs are perfect locations for film shoots.
GFW: There’s a lot of cynicism about remakes, especially English language remakes. Pusher has been remade before in India, but how did this British remake come about?
Nicolas Winding Refn: You know, for many years people were coming at me trying to buy the rights. There was a television concept and other ideas. There was even an American script written for a remake. But it never really materialized, and I didn’t have a lot of interest in it, so it wasn’t really until Rupert Preston, who had distributed the first one, said he was really interested in doing a remake.
What were some of the things about resetting it in the UK that excited you about the project?
NWR: Well, I very quickly said, “look, I can’t make this movie again, I made three of them. But I’m there to help you whatever you wanted to do”. But I did go out and I found the writer, a guy called Matthew Read, and brought him in to adapt it, and then I said “call me when it’s done”. There’s nothing original about the concept. But the one thing, of course, was that my Pusher films were not about crime, but about people in a criminal environment. London, being one of the major metropolitan cities in the world, it’s certainly a very fitting stage, and a perfect cross between America and Europe, so I couldn’t imagine it taking place anywhere else.
Agyness, how did you prepare for your change from fashion model to stripper. Did it take a lot of hard work?
Agyness Deyn: Yeah, I suppose hard work in a way of being dedicated. I want to work hard, and I don’t expect to be given anything just because I’m a model. I made the decision, and I wanted to throw myself into it, but in a gradual way. So I started off doing little things, and learning, absorbing everything I could. Watching people on set. And Richard - it was like drama school in thirty days!
It must be hard to work against the public or the media pigeonholing you. Richard, despite all your film work, you’re still known to some as ‘the guy from Coupling’. Is that something that factors in your work choices?
Richard Coyle: I guess it can be a blessing and a curse, from my perspective, because I’m an ambitious actor, and there are lots of things that I want to do. It’s frustrating to be pigeonholed, and I work very hard to try not to be. I try to do lots of different things.
One of the other big names associated with the film is Orbital, who soundtracked some pretty intense club scenes. Were they as intense to shoot?
AD: The club scenes were really fun and temperamental at the same time, because we’d just go in on a club night. So it’s a raging drum-and-bass night, and you’re just engrossed in this whole atmosphere. It was mad.
RC: It’s pretty much the only place, in those drum and bass clubs, where you can walk through the crowd and have the whole crew follow you with a handheld camera, and nobody bats an eyelid!
AD: Because everyone’s so off their heads!
Nicolas, where did the inspiration for the original Pusher come from? Were you interested in the Danish criminal underworld?
NWR: I know nothing about crime. I was at Cannes , and I met Kevin Smith, who was there with Clerks, and I had gone to see it, and I was like “I can do that”. So I went home and my mother was going to give me £10,000, and my uncle had a cinema, and my stepfather had a 16mm camera, and I was going to make a gangster movie, because I knew, market-wise, they could sell. And, miraculously, somebody heard about it, and through a very long story, I was able to get about a couple of hundred thousand pounds from the Danish Film Institute, and I went off and made it.
What do you think makes a good, engaging, entertaining film?
NWR: Well, I think that drama is heightened reality. And in heightened reality, the loss of life is the essence, in a way. But life and death can be played in many different ways, and in many different scenarios, so there isn’t one, straight answer.
While we’re on the topic of remakes. What’s the status of your upcoming remake of Logan’s Run with Alex Garland? What can we expect?
NWR: Well, you can’t expect Alex Garland, because he’s no longer on it. So that’s one thing. My take on Logan’s Run? Well, we’re just writing away.