Nicholas Winding Refn is the latest hot European director to be taken in by Hollywood (or take over Hollywood, depending on your views).  He has gained a powerful acolyte in Ryan Gosling who starred in his mumblecore gangster movie Drive (2011) and who now stars in his forthcoming film Only God Forgives (2013), a Bangcok-set crime thriller.


Refn began his career in his home country of Denmark directing popular gangster film Pusher (Diler, 1996).  For the next 12 years he worked in Denmark directing, successfully, TV’s and film.  In 2008 he got the chance to direct Tom Hardy in the stylistically unusual Bronson (2008), the success of which led him to Hollywood to direct Nordic fantasy Valhalla Rising (2009) then, most notably, Drive.


The path of the European auteur in Hollywood has been well trodden.  Since the studios moved to California in the early 20th century to escape financial restrictions and chasing the better, more consistent light of the west coast European directors have chased the legend of Hollywood’s big productions.  During the 1930’s many of Europes finest filmmakers fled the troubled continent to work in the U.S.  Directors like William Wyler and Fritz Lang lent their considerable talents to Hollywood and the American film industry has never forgotten the worth of appropriating the skills of foreigners already established in their home country.  Alfred Hitchcock moved to Hollywood after his success in England and became one of the Hollywood golden age’s great filmmakers, ranking alongside Americans like Frank Capra and John Ford.  Glancing over the top box office directors in contemporary Hollywood there is still a huge proportion of foreigners, Christopher Nolan, Ridley Scott and Peter Jackson are just a few examples.


Refn’s latest film, Only God Forgives, is sure to be another success story of Hollywood’s love affair with foreign directors.