Drive's Nicolas Winding Refn, Albert Brooks, and the Best Film Festival Introduction Maybe Ever

Nicolas Winding Refn turned up the charm Friday night at the L.A. Film Fest, delivering a crowd-pleasing introduction for his highly anticipated crime pic, Drive. Part acceptance speech, part promotional spiel, and part comedy roast, Refn's delivery included nods to his wife Liv, Ryan Gosling, Prada menswear, a studio head in the making, his rumored Wonder Woman project, and Alejandro Jodorowsky -- wildly entertaining and all too rare, as far as these things go.

It was the North American premiere for Drive, which started out strong in May at the Cannes Film Festival. (Refn took home the best director prize; read Stephanie Zacharek's review here.). Refn was joined by stars Ryan Gosling, Albert Brooks, Oscar Isaac, Bryan Cranston, Ron Perlman, and Christina Hendricks, who each got their turn to be roasted by their droll director.

Moments before dropping his intro to a packed house, Refn stopped to chat with Movieline. Acknowledging the legacy of the muscular '60s, '70s, and '80s films that could be seen as precursors to Drive, Refn had to navigate the line between being influenced by genre films of the past and making Drive feel contemporary. "I didn't want to get into what they call a retro kind of feel, but of course you watch and you see what's out there and what works."

What intrigued him on a more visceral level about a story about a driver was the concept of speed -- a "sexual arousing," he explains. I was hit by a car when I was six, so it must have done something to me. I don't have a license, but I like the sense of speed -- of being in a car that goes fast."

One of Drive's villains is played, perhaps unexpectedly for many moviegoers, by Albert Brooks. He plays Bernie Rose, a Hollywood producer-turned-gangster who fatefully crosses paths with Gosling's quiet, focused (and unnamed) Driver. And if that sounds like a surprising casting move, you're not alone.

"I've wanted to do these for a long time," explained Brooks of the call he got to play Rose. "You know, most casting is so -- I hate to use the word cliché -- but the same people play the same role over and over and over. You know, the bad guy in every movie is the blond German guy. So he had the sense to know that people who can do that aren't necessarily who you think they are."

Refn, however, had seen something slightly sinister in Brooks for years. "He told me that when he was a young guy and he saw Lost in America and I was yelling at my wife," Brooks recalled. "He sat in the theater and went, 'This guy scares me!'"

Between the film's startling performances, neo-noir turns, bold (and beautiful) visual style, and pulsating, operatic soundtrack, which meshes Riz Ortolani's Addio Zio Tom love theme and tracks by the likes of Glass Candy's Johnny Jewel, Drive is without question one of the more exciting new films of 2011. When it debuts nationwide in September, expect to see a lot more of Refn doing the press rounds.

Next: Refn's L.A. Film Fest intro

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