Nicolas Winding Refn and Cliff Martinez

The director and composer behind Drive talk about karaoke, the beauty of camp, and their polarizing new film, Only God Forgives, starring Ryan Gosling.

Cliff Martinez photo by Ricardo De Aratanha

Cliff Martinez photo by Ricardo De Aratanha

A few hours after my conversation with Refn, I ask Cliff Martinez, who composed Only God Forgives’ sparse, droning score, what he thought of the film after seeing it for the first time. “Nicolas called me right after I finished watching it,” the 59-year-old former Red Hot Chili Peppers and Captain Beefheart drummer laughs, with a hint of unease. “He seems to take pride in not listening to anybody, but he’s always all over you, like, ‘What’d you think?’ So I said, ‘Where did all the dialogue go?’ Nicolas’ answer was, ‘I never shoot everything on the page. If I did, there’d be no element of surprise, and where’s the fun in that?'” Refn then asked Martinez about one of Only God Forgives’ most graphic scenes, in which (spoiler alert) Julian plunges his hand into his murdered mother’s open stomach wound, apropos of nothing. “I told him it was really weird,” remembers Martinez. “He said, ‘What do you think it means?’ I said, ‘If you think it’s important that it means something, you might want to tell me.’ He never did.”

See the full interview at

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