EXCLUSIVE: Nicolas Winding Refn is teaming with James Bond scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade on a new feature project that the Danish filmmaker will direct. It is still early days, and details are being kept under wraps about the plot other than it will have an Asian setting with both thriller and action elements. Winding Refn is developing and producing the project with his longtime partner Lene Borglum through their Space Rocket Nation banner.

driveCollaborating with Purvis and Wade, who specialize in upmarket, smart and commercial fare, would seem to indicate a desire by Winding Refn to return to a more mainstream space. The no-punch-pulling director burned himself into Hollywood’s conscience with his ultra-cool and uber-violent Drive in 2011. Even though he’d already established himself as one of Europe’s elite genre aesthetes prior to that with his classic Pusher trilogy, it was that Ryan Gosling vehicle — with its mix of retro and ultra-modern sensibilities — that seemed to mark his card as a major A-list stylist. Instead, his follow-up, Only God Forgives, again with Gosling, felt like a misstep. That film, set in Bangkok’s underworld, was gorgeously shot but esoteric to the point of, well, pointlessness.

Refn’s latest, The Neon Demon, follows an aspiring model who moves to Los Angeles only to find her youth and vitality devoured by a group of beauty-obsessed women who will take any means necessary to get what she has. With a cast including Keanu Reeves, Elle Fanning and Christina Hendricks and its Hollywood setting, it returns the director to the milieu that delivered his commercial success to date.

Purvis and Wade are one of the UK’s premier writing teams. The duo have event TV series SS:GB, starring Sam Riley, about to go into production. The drama is set in a UK conquered and occupied by Germany during World War II. The title refers to the branch of the Nazi SS that controls Britain. They also co-wrote the latest Bond Spectre, the sixth 007 installment they have worked on.

The duo and Winding Refn previously collaborated on the TV adaptation of sci-fi femme epic Barbarella, which is set up at Amazon Studios. Winding Refn is repped by WME and Independent Talent Group. Purvis and Wade are repped by UTA and Casarotto Ramsay and Associates.

Refn is also producing a remake of 1980’s cult pic Maniac Cop through Space Rocket Nation with Borglum. John Hyams directs that project, which is set to go into production in the summer.