Elle Fanning The Neon Demon

Elle Fanning The Neon Demon

Elle Fanning The Neon Demon

Cast: Elle Fanning, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Running Time: 118 minutes

Synopsis: When aspiring model Jesse moves to Los Angeles, her youth and vitality are devoured by a group of beauty-obsessed women who will use any means necessary to get what she has.

The Neon Demon
Release Date: October 20th, 2016

About The Production

The Demon Rises

'For a number of years, I've had this interest in making a film about beauty, because, in my life, I'm surrounded by it," Nicolas Winding Refn says, referring to his wife, filmmaker Liv Corfixen (My Life Directed By Nicolas Winding Refn), his two young daughters, and, presumably, the myriad actresses and models he's encountered directing both feature films and fashion advertisements for brands like Gucci, YXL, H&M and Hennessey. 'And I see a lot of female empowerment with beauty."

'The currency of beauty continues to rise and never falls. And, as we evolve the lifespan of beauty becomes more limited, while our obsession with it becomes more and more extreme. This obsession can often lead to a unique kind of madness."

To illustrate this, Nicolas Winding Refn references Narcissus, the subject of ancient Greek myth who became so enamored with his own beauty he drowned in its reflection.

Known for both embracing and subverting such well-worn genres as the prison drama (2008's Bronson), the historical adventure (2010's Valhalla Rising), the action thriller (2011's Drive), and the revenge drama (2013's Only God Forgives), NICOLAS WINDING REFN was similarly curious to see if he could both honor and defy the 'horror movie". 'Was there a way to hit all of the basic genre beats, but not necessarily in the right order?" And could he 'make a horror film without the horror?"

To help give voice to The Neon Demon's quartet of young female characters, Nicolas Winding Refn sought collaboration with a young female writer – preferably one with a background in the more dialogue-intensive world of theater... Nicolas Winding Refn found these qualities in two writers: Polly Stenham, a well-known British playwright, and Mary Laws, an up-and-coming American one.

'Both women were absolutely wonderful to work with because of their differing approaches. And each brought a distinct perspective that helped mold the script in very interesting ways.

Neon Beauties

The first and most pivotal role to cast was Jesse, a seemingly innocent young beauty from small town Georgia whose character slowly starts to transform as her modelling career takes off.

'To me, Elle Fanning is a blend of the greatest silent movie stars of the past and the most cutting edge actresses of today. She has this magnificent ability to transform herself. And the camera just loves her."

To prepare for the role, Nicolas Winding Refn instructed Elle Fanning to watch a series of films - but not just in the horror genre.

Like Valley Of The Dolls and Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls. According to Nicolas Winding Refn, Jena Malone became 'very instrumental in creating the Ruby character because this character was more of an enigma at the script stage. So I needed someone that could transform and mutate into her."

Supporting The Demon

'The minute Keanu Reeves' name came up, I was like, that would be the best. And it was a way for me to complete a full circle because Keanu and I had met about ten years ago on my first big job in Hollywood. That film never materialized… but I always wanted to revisit the chance to work with him. Very few actors have the pop icon status that he has and the ability he has as an actor, combined with a bona fide movie star aura."

'Then Desmond Harrington came in - I think two days before we were to start shooting that role - and when I saw him, it was more like, now there's a mystery to Jack because Desmond Harrington is a very enigmatic personality."

Nicolas Winding Refn was also intent on creating an opportunity to reunite with Christina Hendricks, who here portrays Roberta Hoffman, head of Jesse's modelling agency.

Nicolas Winding Refn had been tipped off to Karl Glusman's talent by filmmaker friend Gaspar Noé, who worked with Karl on the controversial romance Love. 'I kind of put it off a little bit. And then Karl would contact me and I didn't really respond. And we were running out of time and there was no actor that I wanted to use - so Karl came back from France and I said, -Let's get him in and see how this works out.' And Elle Fanning was going to be there for the reading. Their chemistry - from the moment he walked in the room - was so obvious."

Demon Crew

'It was a combination of two things: after shooting Only God Forgives in Bangkok, I wanted to do a film in Tokyo, and Liv said, -I'm not living in Tokyo.' Then I asked her, -What's a compromise?' And she said, -L.A.'" In terms of the creative impetus for setting the story in L.A., Nicolas Winding Refn says, 'I'd been doing a lot of fashion work in L.A. so I got to see the fashion side of it. And, even though you might say high-end fashion is more based in New York or Paris, every part of the entertainment industry leads back to L.A.. So you can say L.A. is the gateway between all entertainment and the rest of the world.
'One of the first challenges in L.A. is that it's an expensive city to shoot in. So it was difficult getting a crew for the amount of money I had. But I think that forced me to…really go outside of my comfort zone and work with people who are much more new and fresh; people who were on the verge of breaking into the industry in a much bigger way, which actually added to the movie."

'I spent two months finding the right set of anamorphic lenses and then fixing them because I chose a very old set that not a lot of people use anymore. They're called 'Crystal Express" and they were made by Joe Dunton, a legend in the anamorphic field. They're great because they're very soft and gentle and cosmetic on the faces. And I needed the skins to be as close to those captured on a fashion photo shoot - although those are always extremely corrected in Photoshop. But I knew on our budget we were not going to be able to treat the skins in post, so I had to do as much as I could in-camera."

Nicolas Winding Refn describes the hiring of both production designer Elliott Hostetter and director of photography Natasha Braier as 'absolutely crucial in designing and creating the film."

Dressing The Demon

When The Neon Demon finally commenced pre-production, Nicolas Winding Refn told Erin Benach (costume designer) he wanted the film's costume design to 'really push the envelope and set the stage for high fashion – not fake high fashion." This presented Erin Benach with the dual challenge of both finding authentic pieces and then giving them an 'elevated look that really feels like the high-fashion world."

Cutting The Demon

To cut The Neon Demon, Nicolas Winding Refn enlisted longtime editing partner Matthew Newman, who helped bring such innovative editorial structure and texture to Bronson (2008), Valhalla Rising (2009), Drive (2011), and Only God Forgives (2013).

'When I first hired him (on the 2007 British TV movie -Agatha Christie's Marple'), I never imagined that our paths would be so intertwined," says Nicolas Winding Refn. 'But that was a great experience. And then I hired him to do Bronson and, from then on, he's become very instrumental in helping me alter my ways of making films."

'Matt Newman doesn't just edit my films during and after production; I bring him in during the script stage as a fresh pair of eyes to look at the screenplay and, later on, to supervise large parts of the postproduction process."

'On Bronson, he stayed in a hotel room next to mine to do the editing; when we did Valhalla Rising he lived in Copenhagen near my house; when we did Drive, I edited it in my house, so he stayed with me; on Only God Forgives, I gave him a hotel room to edit it; and, for The Neon Demon, I put him up in my pool house, which is where we edited the film."

'It helps me stay close to this force of creativity between us."

In addition to evaluating individual scenes, Nicolas Winding Refn and Matthew Newman would also consider the overall shape the film was taking. 'Because I was shooting in chronological order," says Nicolas Winding Refn, 'I could see the film unfolding in front of my eyes editorially – not just photographically – and that sometimes necessitated rewriting and/or making other logistical changes going forward."

'So it wasn't just about looking at stuff with Matt Newman; it was also about asking, -Where are we in the story and how is it flowing and what new direction could it or should it take?' For example, half way through the movie, I changed my mind about one character's fate – and this was really the result of sitting with Matt and reflecting on how the film was living and breathing and transforming into whatever it was essentially going to be."

Neon Music

To create the perfect musical soundscape for his first horror thriller, Nicolas Winding Refn reteamed with Cliff Martinez, who previously composed the celebrated scores for his films Drive and Only God Forgives, as well as for LIV Corfixen's My Life Directed By Nicolas Winding Refn.

Initially, Nicolas Winding Refn filled his temp score with samples from the work of Hitchcock composer Bernard Herrmann (Psycho, Vertigo). Cliff Martinez recalls, 'It completely threw me because it was anachronistic; it was orchestral." Nicolas Winding Refn quickly reassured him, 'I don't want the score to sound like that; I want it to feel like that."

For The Neon Demon, Nicolas Winding Refn includes a handful of licensed songs, including 'Waving Goodbye" by SIA (featuring Diplo), whom Nicolas Winding Refn describes as 'one of the most uniquely gifted female artists," and 'Mine" and 'Demon Dance" by Nicolas Winding Refn's nephew, Julian Winding.

Shooting The Neon City

A rarity in the business - but common practice for director Nicolas Winding Refn - the film was shot in chronological order.

'It's a process I do for all of my movies because I like the fear of not being able to fully see how the film will turn out until the end," Nicolas Winding Refn says.

'It forces everyone to submit themselves because it's a constant organism that needs to be handled and needs to be touched and felt. And every day there is possible change. And that can both be very terrifying and very exhilarating at the same time."

'I think that L.A. has two realities: the socalled -real' reality and there's the -artificial' reality. The artificial reality is the illusion of Los Angeles and that's something I find really exciting because it's about mythology."

The Neon Demon
Release Date: October 20th, 2016


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