Working with Ryan on this in comparison to Drive, it seems like he’s supposed to do very little as a performer—and your last several films, Bronson and Valhalla Rising, you seem to use actors in a spatial way almost as mannequins. What kind of guidance do you give to him, and how much do you rely on color and sound to enhance his performance?
Refn: We very much talk about the sense of movement, you know. Once all of the dialogue has been minimalized, next to nothing, like also in Drive, it’s about positioning him and the camera and understanding that the camera and him, the camera is the window to his soul, which is his performance. And you realize that he has this ability to say everything without having to talk. That I can become obsessed with, and it’s so inspiring to work with, because it opens a whole new possibility of how to tell the story. And music underscores that in different ways. Like when this Asian woman apparently ties his hands and he’s submitting as she pleasures herself, which is a symbolism of his own fear of sexuality—a sense of impotence, symbolically. And as that goes on in the beginning, there’s a very romantic love theme—a very gentle, sensuous piece as the woman pleasures herself leading up to this amputation of his sexual genitals. We take that theme again and we place it in the exact same situation with his mother, in the same room, and this time, she’s a predator. She hugs him in the wrong way. She caresses him in the wrong way. She commands him. She tells him off, she humiliates him. But because of that theme, there’s a sensuous, sexual nature between them, and Ryan’s ability to portray that just by his aura is what great acting is about.