In theaters this Friday is one of the most visually stunning, through provoking, and critically acclaimed films of the year, Nicolas Winding Refn’s DRIVE. The film that won Refn the Best Director Award at this year’s Cannes film festival features a fantastic cast of stars from the world of film and television, a lead performance by the best actor in the world right now, Ryan Gosling, a fun soundtrack and an array of stylized violence that should make Quintin Tarantino jealous. Earlier this week I got a chance to sit down with two actors whose supporting performances help make Drive’s ensemble cast one of the most eclectic and colorful in years.
First up is my chat with the beautiful and talented Christina Hendricks, who is known for playing the stunningly classy secretary Joan Halloway on Mad Men. Below you will find my review of the film, followed by Christina and I talking about DRIVE, working with the brilliant cast and crew, her extremely intense scene that sends the movie on its eventual path of destruction and of course…Mad Men.
You’re not going to find a film with as much star power as DRIVE that also takes as many chances both visually and stylistically. A much more stoic and silent Ryan Gosling than you might be used to seeing plays a Hollywood stunt driver who spends his spare time scoring extra cash as what criminals call a “wheelman.” Gosling’s female counterpart in the film is Carey Mulligan (who is becoming Michelle Williams 2.0) in a very subtle performance that is somehow still more forthcoming than Gosling’s.
The ensemble cast is filled with an All-Star Team of the primetime television landscape that includes Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston, Sons of Anarchy’s Ron Pearlman and Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks. Pearlman teams up with legendary funnyman Albert Brooks who taps into his evil side as the two play the film’s very violent antagonists.
DRIVE is certainly director Nicolas Winding Refn’s most “Hollywood” movie yet, something that should lengthen his leash when it comes to alienating casual filmgoers as he may have done with his past films like Bronson and Valhalla Rising. There aren’t too many movies that have the score and vibe of an 80’s an coming of age movie like Sixteen Candles, the violence of a Tarantino flick and the look of an ambitious indie. DRIVE is a one of a kind film that proves that Hollywood cliché and auteurs can get along after all.
Scott Yager gives DRIVE: A
Scott Yager one-on-one with Christina Hendricks
Scott: Don’t want to give too much away but…talk about your very dramatic “climax” in the middle of the film…
Christina: Things are going at this certain pace and then there is this dramatic situation that sort of unwinds into what the rest of the film is going to be.
Scott: Was that your first…on screen…”exit”?
Christina: I have been dead on screen but I think it was the first time I died on screen. I did my husbands show where I got to play twins so I got to look at myself well…you get it.
Scott: What was it like putting it together?
Christina: I was just so impressed with the special effects and engineering of it all.
Scott: Did you shoot Drive during Mad Men, in between seasons?
Christina: This was right when we wrapped last season.
Scott: Did you find it hard going from playing Joan, who obviously exists in a much different era, to Blanche who is a much more modern character?
Christina: Obviously I’m me as soon as I leave the Mad Men set so it’s actually very helpful to go on set, wear those clothes and be in a 60’s environment. We had almost an entire year off from Mad Men this year, which was really strange, so it was actually harder to go back and get into the 60’s mold cause there was such a long break.
Scott: Talk about that, what was it like getting back on the Mad Men set after the layoff?
Christina: Every year we go back we’re really nervous the first day. The first scene starts out a little shaky and you feel yourself getting back into the character and you’re working with the actors you know so well and everything starts to click. But we were all sort of nervous the first day.
Scott: Were you familiar with Nicolas’ work before signing on for Drive?
Christina:I had seen Bronson. Oh my God, it was so good. I was like ‘who is this director?! I want to work with this director.’ Cause I hadn’t seen a movie that excited me as much as Bronson in a while and I called my agent up and was like ‘get me a meeting with this guy.’
Scott: What was it like working with Ryan Gosling? Obviously the majority of your scenes are with him…
Christina: Awesome. Those scenes were intense and it felt very real because it was our first day of shooting and Ryan and I had just met so it’s not like we had any connection with each other and we were in this creepy little hotel room and it was like 100 degrees, he’s got this leather glove on and I’m being pushed into a bed. The fear felt very real.
Scott: So he was basically a stranger at the time…
Christina: A stranger. A very sexy stranger, but a stranger at that.
Scott: The cast to me feels like an all-star team based on my TiVo. You’ve got yourself from Mad Men, Ron from Sons of Anarchy and Brian from Breaking Bad, all at the top of your games and all stars of arguably the most popular shows on TV, did you notice that at all?
Christina: When I heard the cast I thought, ‘what a cool cast.’ I think we all play very different characters than we do on our shows. I think Nicolas had a very open mind, he was very unfamiliar with a few of us. We are all definitely very different from our TV roles in Drive.
Scott: I love some of the bold choices Nick made with the pink font and the 80’s music…how much of this did you expect while filming and how much of it came as a surprise when you first saw the film?
Christina: The font was a surprise. I love that it looked like it was written in lipstick or something. The music was not a surprise to me since that was an inspiration for Ryan and Nick. They had talked about sort of driving around LA and listening to 80s hits and that feeling and that energy. Even when we were shooting some of the car scenes Ryan was saying ‘hey listen to this band, what do you think of this?’ so we were already listening to some of the bands they used.
And the look of it…since I had seen Bronson and I know how stylized Nick’s films were, I anticipated that it was going to be like that. Another thing that really stood out to me when I saw Bronson was the saturation of colors in the film and how rich everything looked. I told Nick when I met him that everything looked like a painting to me and he said ‘well, that’s cause I’m colorblind.’ So he tends to use richer colors and saturated colors cause they pop out to him which makes it a more intense experience for us.
Scott: Any other performances in the film that stand out to you?
Christina: I think Carrie (Mulligan) does such a great job because she has quite a simple role. I am a big fan of hers. She does it in such a quiet and strong way. I think Oscar (Isaac) is great and a lot of people are going to notice him in this film. But of course everyone loves Ryan…
Scott: Who doesn’t? (laughs) Talk about Nick as a director…
Christina: Nick said to me, “I’m the kind of director who will go and go and go and go so you need to tell me when you feel like you’re comfortable and ready to move on…cause I’ll just let you go forever”, which of course is what every actress wants to hear.
Scott: Now that you’re doing a lot of movies…which schedule suits you more…television or features?
Christina: Mad Men shoots at home so I do get to just go…and I have a parking spot! They are my family and I’m in my hometown so there is a certain comfort level in that. And movies are sort of like an adventure and they don’t go as long so I like both. They’re both great.
Scott: Can you share anything about the upcoming season of the best show on TV, Mad Men?
Christina: I can tell you there will be some surprises immediately…in the first episode…and the scripts are fantastic and it’s good. Trust me.
Scott: When you play such an iconic TV character like Joan it has to be hard not to get typecast…now I’m not saying ‘do you only get offers to play secretary’s’ but would you say the majority of the offers you get seem to be similar to Joan as a person?
Christina: I think Joan is really a one of a kind role. I don’t think that you see roles like that a lot. Certainly my role in Drive is completely different and my role in I Don’t Know How She Does It, which comes out the same night as Drive, is different from both of those. I think people that watch Mad Men realize that it’s a project with people who love to act and love to write and I think people know that we are actors and have a larger range than just what they see on TV.
Scott: Do you ever try to change anything up to make sure nobody sees Joan in the role you’re playing?
Christina: I try not to compare anything to Joan. There have been a couple moments where I have been like ‘lets not put my hair up like that’ cause it might conjure up the idea a bit. The one thing we wanted to do with Blanche in Drive was that she would sort of have this bad died hair…like it was a little too pink or a little too red, we just wanted it to look like maybe she did it herself and didn’t spend a lot of money on it.
Scott: Will you be disappointed if Drive doesn’t receive get any awards come Oscar season, cause I know I will be…
Christina: I’m already astounded at all the buzz around it. Like Mad Men, I’m not surprised since I am such a fan myself and I know the quality of work. But you never know if people are going to see it and you hope people respond but…you never know. All you can do is do it because you love it and if someone else sees it and says they loved it…it’s nice.
Scott: STAY TUNED for my exclusive interviews with Albert Brooks, who plays a much darker character in DRIVE than you might be used to, as well as my one-on-one with Cannes Award Winner Nicolas Winding Refn.
DRIVE your ass to theaters this weekend and check out one of, if not THE best movie of the year so far!
DRIVE (In Theaters 9/16)
Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carrey Mulligan, Albert Brooks, Bryan Cranston