Two collaborators of Nicolas Winding Refn are developing a project which was introduced at last week’s SPAA conference.
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19 Nov 2012 - 10:32 AM  UPDATED 19 Nov 2012 - 12:33 PM

Danish producer Lene Børglum and English director/ cinematographer Larry Smith plan to shoot Trafficker, an Australian movie set in the Vietnamese-run drug world, in Oz next year.

The film will mark the feature directing debut of Smith, who has a very successful career as a commercials director and as a director of photography who worked with the legendary Stanley Kubrick.

Børglum and Smith attended last week's SPAA conference in Melbourne aiming to drum up support from financiers and distributors, and they spent time scouting locations. Børglum (pictured) will co-produce with veteran Aussie producer Sue Milliken, whose credits include The Odd Angry Shot, The Fringe Dwellers, Black Robe and Paradise Road.

The common denominator is Danish writer-director Nicolas Winding Refn, who broke through in Hollywood with Drive, the bleak Ryan Gosling vehicle. Smith has shot three of Refn's films, 2003 thriller Fear X, the 2008 drama Bronson, which starred Tom Hardy as the notorious English criminal, and his latest, Only God Forgives, a crime thriller set in Bangkok, which features Gosling and Kristin Scott Thomas.

Børglum, who spent 15 years with Lars von Trier at Zentropa Entertainments, is partnered with Refn in the production company Space Rocket Nation, which they launched in 2008 after working together on Refn's Valhalla Rising, a Viking-era adventure.

The script of the Australian movie is by Singaporean Ken Kwek, who wrote The Blue Mansion, a 2009 murder mystery directed by Glen Goei, about a wealthy Asian tycoon who dies suddenly, which Smith photographed. Smith brought the project to Lene, who tells SBS Film, “I only want to do director-driven films.”

Børglum was the first employee at Zentropa when von Trier and Peter Aalbæk Jensen launched the company in 1992 and watched it grow from a two-man show to a European production powerhouse with more than 100 staff.

The director is widely regarded as an idiosyncratic maverick but she says, “He's a fantastic person. I deeply respect artists who know exactly what they want to do. He has a very clear vision from the beginning, the first draft of the script. He knows exactly what the final version will be.”

She had known Refn for more than 20 years before they decided to team up just after she produced Lukas Moodysson's Mammoth.

Smith had the chance to direct several films that were fully financed but turned them down, explaining, “The scripts were compromised by people who think they write and they can't, and producers who think they can cast.”

A couple of years ago he and Lene collaborated on a period film which didn't come to fruition, so he approached Kwek who had shown him the script when they were making The Blue Mansion.

Kwek had tried in vain to get the film made with another director so Smith gave the script to Lene, who agreed to raise the finance and produce under the Space Rocket Nation banner.

He's confident he'll find young actors to play the Vietnamese characters in Australia; looking at those who've appeared in Khoa Do's Footy Legends and Mother Fish would be a good starting point, I suggested. There are also roles for a high-profile actress to play a lawyer and for two male characters.

Smith has just shot Calvary, the saga of a priest battling dark forces starring Brendan Gleeson and Chris O'Dowd, his second effort with Irish writer-director John Michael McDonagh following The Guard.

As an 18-year-old Smith first worked with Kubrick as chief electrician on the 1975 opus Barry Lyndon, a collaboration which lasted 13 years and included The Shining.

After working on other projects Smith was asked by Kubrick to shoot Eyes Wide Shut, the steamy drama which starred Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. It turned out to be the director's final film: he died five days after showing Warner Bros. the final cut. As for the infamous orgy scene which Warners digitally altered to get an R rating in the US, Smith says, “We took a long time to do it, as we did with every scene. There were always lots of takes, lots of rehearsals.”