Set to have its world premiere at this year’s Edinburgh Film Festival, Charlie Derry interviews Luis Prieto, director of the upcoming crime thriller, Pusher, about remaking a Nicolas Winding Refn cult classic, as well as working with British actor Richard Coyle and world-class model Agyness Deyn.
Set to be released later this year, Pusher is the first in a trilogy of films that explores the criminal underworld of Copenhagen, Denmark. Originally written and directed by Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn, best known for last year’s highly acclaimed crime thriller, Drive, and released in 1996 with the same name, Pusher is known for being the film that launched Refn’s career.
This latest English language remake is Spanish-born director Luis Prieto’s first English-language film. The first in the trilogy, the film follows a London drug pusher named Frank (played here by Richard Coyle) for a full week as his life turns into chaos when a deal goes wrong. The more desperate Frank’s behaviour gets the more isolated he becomes, until there is nothing left standing between him and the nine millimetre bullet his debtors intend to put through his skull.
Prieto first saw Pusher at a film festival when it was originally released over sixteen years ago, but when the producers first approached Prieto with the idea of re-making the film, he didn’t agree straight way. “At first I refused because I didn’t want to remake such a great film,” he comments. “I only had a vague memory of the film, but I remember that the performances were incredible and that the film had a documentary style to it.”
With Refn serving as Executive Producer, this convinced Prieto to remake the film. “Having him as an executive producer was both a blessing and a gift. From the very start Nicolas was extremely respectful with my decisions as director and he never stepped in the way of my work,” says Prieto. “He was so cool with me – I recall him telling me, ‘Remember this is your film, not mine.’ It was very special.”
From the very beginning, however, neither Prieto nor the film’s producers wanted just to remake the film. “The producers wanted a new interpretation of Refn’s film,” says Prieto. “When I first read the script I thought that it was wonderful. I proposed what I would do with it and everyone was very excited about my reinterpretation.”
Prieto’s vision was to make the original film happen in a modern-day London. He says: “The material felt very close to me and I gave it my vision. I thought that if I tried to do what Refn did then I could only fail because his Pusher is great.”
He continues: “The only thing that I share from the original is the script, which Mathew Read has done a great job of rewriting, so you could say that I just took advantage of the interest of the producers to make the remake to actually shoot my own film.”
One way that Prieto managed to capture a whole new film rather than remaking Refn’s Pusher was to not let the actors or the crew see the original beforehand, with the only exception being actor Zlatko Buric who reprises his role of Milo.
“I told everyone that we were actually making a different film,” Prieto says. “When I asked Zlatko to forget about his previous characterization he told me not to worry about it, as, back in 1995 while they were shooting it, the drugs in the film were real and so was the consumption, so he practically didn’t remember anything.”
Not only is Pusher Prieto’s first hard-hitting feature, moving away from the comedy genre that he usually works with, this is also the director’s first English-language film. Prieto, however, comments that he felt quite at home shooting it, as he comments: “I’m sure the fact I went to film school in the US helped me to feel that way.”
As well as starring Richard Coyle in film’s the lead role, Pusher also stars British actors Bronson Webb (Game of Thrones), Agyness Deyn (Clash of the Titans), Mem Ferda (The Devil’s Double), Paul Kaye (Match Point), and Daisy Lewis.
“British actors are great!” says Prieto. “And I was lucky to get to direct Richard Coyle, who for me is one of the most talented actors in the UK. He’s so special and powerful and Agyness Deyn, as well, was a real actress, even if this was her first experience.”
Known best for her modelling career, this is Deyn’s first major role in a film after briefly appearing in 2010’s Clash Of The Titans. “I chose Agyness without knowing who she really was,” says Prieto. “It wasn’t until later that the casting director told me that she was a top model, but the truth is that she is a top person and a top actress.”
Deyn plays the role of Coyle’s girlfriend Flo, and from the trailer alone it’s easy to see that the two have great chemistry together. “When Agyness and Richard were together on-screen everyone was mesmerized with their performance,” says Prieto. “They were really incredible and moving. I love them, and I’m sure that they are both going to be very busy once the film comes out.”
Talking about his influences whilst making Pusher, Prieto comments that, “The style is very similar in some ways to some of my previous work.” Best known for his Spanish-language film Bamboleho, which won over 45 international awards, and the Italian teen-romance Ho voglia di te, Prieto relates to both of these films as an influence whilst making Pusher.
“For the camera movement I am closer to my short film Bamboleho,” he says, “and for the look you could say that is closer to some of my Italian films.”
When asked if Prieto plans to work on more British films in the future, he replied: “I hope so! I loved the whole experience and I hope there will be more opportunities to come, so fingers crossed and let’s see what the future brings.”
Now in its post-production stage, Pusher is set to be released on 31st August.