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Fantastica Presents: A Q&A with Liv Corfixen and Nicolas Refn of “MY LIFE DIRECTED BY NICOLAS WINDING REFN”

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By now, cinephiles are familiar with the idea of a behind-the-scenes documentary; in fact, they’ve basically become a standard operating procedure for even independent productions. Yet few documentaries take you truly behind the scenes and into the lives of the people who make the film, and even fewer as as transfixing as MY LIFE DIRECTED BY NICOLAS WINDING REFN.

For those unfamiliar, MY LIFE is directed by Liv Corfixen, operating as a fly-on-the-wall-style document of her husband, esteemed filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn, as he tackles ONLY GOD FORGIVES and his family is transported to the heart of Bangkok. It’s a compelling and emotional affair, and one that certainly redefines the concept of “all-access” documentary filmmaking. On the eve of the film’s release, Corfixen and Refn spoke to FANGORIA about the documentary, the evolution of the film and if we may see more of Corfixen’s directorial eye in the future…

FANGORIA: At what point before, or during, filming of ONLY GOD FORGIVES did you guys decide to move forward with this documentary?

LIV CORFIXEN: It was from me just sort of having the idea because there was nothing to do in Bangkok. We had to move the whole family there, so it was a question of, “What am I going to do in Bangkok for 6 months while ONLY GOD FORGIVES films?” So I had the idea to film the whole process and Nicolas didn’t really have a choice. [laughs]

NICOLAS WINDING REFN: [deadpan] Yep.

FANGORIA: Nicolas, considering you’ve been the focus of one documentary before, GAMBLER, were you more comfortable this time around, especially knowing that your wife would be the one shooting?

REFN: We had a very good experience making GAMBLER, both Liv and I, and for MY LIFE, it was one step more intimate. In fact, it was intimate in a way that only Liv could pull off. My ideas was closer to, “If that’s what you want to do, great. I won’t worry about it.” But it was her movie, completely.

FANGORIA: Was there anything that was specifically off-the-table in terms of covering?

REFN: It was completely all-access. Everything was fair.

CORFIXEN: Yes, it was really nice, and the actors were okay with me filming everything, so it really was all access. It was also cool because everyone was so used to me being “the wife” that they were cool with me filming them during their scenes and that was great.

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FANGORIA: Liv, what was the most important aspect of the documentary for you as a director?

CORFIXEN: It was important for me that it was very personal. I didn’t want to just make a documentary that was about the movie or Nicolas making the movie. I wanted to show the process of how hard it is to bring your family and the other side of living. It’s comforting that it became personal, in a way, and not just a “behind the scenes” movie or something like that. But I never had a plan or a script or anything; it just kind of evolved while I was filming.

FANGORIA: As the project evolved, what was the most surprising element of filmmaking?

REFN: [to Corfixen] That it became more about you then it was about me!

CORFIXEN: I don’t know! Maybe? I never thought that, when I was making the film, I would have to put myself in it more and more. So maybe it was the balance between the work and the family life, because that was exciting.

FANGORIA: As a viewer, it was really interesting to get a glimpse into each of your personal relationships with Alejandro Jodorowsky. Was he at all reserved about participating in the documentary?

REFN: Alejandro is a man who has been very exposed in the media and sees the beauty in film, so I don’t think so.

CORFIXEN: Not, really, no.

REFN: I’m really into spiritual stuff, as is he, and so he was very supportive of everything.

FANGORIA: Considering the themes of art versus success in the making of ONLY GOD FORGIVES, was there any point that the documentary had become something you couldn’t quite expect?

CORFIXEN: I was really happy with the development of MY LIFE, and I have to give a lot of credit to the editor, Cathrine Ambus, who helped navigate through the few times I was unsure if I was showing too much. For instance, in the scene where Nicolas yells at me, that was a tough decision to include it but she helped convince me it was really important. So I don’t think it was the documentary that changed as much as it was my process that changed.

FANGORIA: Liv, outside of this documentary, are you inspired to film anything fictionally or pursue other documentary subjects?

CORFIXEN: Yeah! I think it would be really interesting to see if I could make a documentary about something else. I don’t think I’d want to do anything more about Nicolas. [laughs]

FANGORIA: Nicolas, having been the subject of MY LIFE, is there any subject you think Liv would be suited for as a filmmaker?

REFN: She’d make a great horror movie.

FANGORIA: Do you guys have anything else going on at the moment? Would you consider doing this for other productions should the documentary do well?

CORFIXEN: Maybe! If an opportunity arises, we’ll see where we are in our lives.

REFN: Yeah, we live unpredictable lives. But I start shooting THE NEON DEMON in five weeks, so that’s what I’ll be spending my time on.

MY LIFE DIRECTED BY NICOLAS WINDING REFN hits select theaters and VOD today from Radius-TWC.

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About the author
Ken W. Hanley
Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel "THE I IN EVIL", and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.
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