Exclusive: Director Nicholas W. Refn Discusses Keanu Reeves and 'Jekyll'
by Jen Yamato
Not everyone has confidence in a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde adaptation starring Keanu Reeves as the infamous split personalities; just picture the erstwhile Neo/Ted Logan/Johnny Utah emoting on two different extremes of the acting spectrum, and you might concur. But if there's one person we think might be able to make it work, it's Danish virtuoso director Nicholas Winding Refn (Bronson, The Pusher Trilogy), who spoke exclusively with Cinematical to update the status of the 2011 Universal project and share why he thought Reeves would make the perfect Jekyll.
In Los Angeles to promote his upcoming British prisoner biopic Bronson, Refn divulged that his Jekyll project will not be his next directorial effort. In addition to stumping for Bronson, Refn's got another completed film to shepherd – the brutal Viking actioner Valhalla Rising, which recently debuted at the Toronto Film Festival – and doesn't have the time or energy to jump into writing Jekyll. Instead, the script for Jekyll is currently being re-written by Revolutionary Road screenwriter Justin Haythe, which will make Jekyll the first film Refn directs that he didn't also write himself.
"I declined [to write the script] simply because of other obligations and I felt I wasn't the right one," Refn said. "But I've been working with [Haythe], who's a very good writer, and a very nice guy. I've been sitting with him, but I felt that I was not clear in my mind to start tackling that one as well."
Unlike the bloggers who reacted with skepticism to the idea of Keanu Reeves playing Dr. Jekyll and his alter ego Mr. Hyde, Refn thinks that Reeves could be an extraordinarily effective casting decision precisely because of that audience cynicism. "I think Keanu is a very interesting personality." Refn offered. "I do think that there's a great movie within him. I think his visual look is very interesting. So I think that what makes it exciting is that he's a non-obvious choice, but he actually adds a great sense of curiosity to the film."
"It's almost like they don't expect that, and that's what's good," he added. "Sometimes the unexpected has greater strength because it's more of a surprise, and I do think that doing it would bring great satisfaction to him, to really pull it off. It's probably the most difficult role any man could play."
Curiously, Universal is simultaneously developing another Jekyll and Hyde project -- with Guillermo del Toro, who has a little two-part film called The Hobbit to finish first -- so it's hard to say which competing production will get off the ground before the other. In the meantime, Refn will next direct his script Only God Forgives, a western set in Bangkok, Thailand. He explained further: "[It follows] the mythology of Westerns, but set in an urban environment in Bangkok nowadays. It also combines my own love of Thai food, and I collect toys, because I wanted to be a toy collector when I was younger, and Thailand and Bangkok have great toy stores. So this is three stones in one knock."
Does Refn's take make you less skeptical about a Keanu Reeves version of Jekyll and Hyde? Would you rather see a Guillermo del Toro-directed Jekyll, or don't you think he's got enough on his plate?