Netflix’s Copenhagen Cowboy: Is the TV Show Based on Real Life or a Book?

Netflix’s ‘Copenhagen Cowboy’ follows the story of Miu, a young woman with supernatural powers. Believed to be “a lucky coin”, she is used by people to get their wishes. One woman buys Miu to get her luck and become pregnant, while another gangster employs her services to relieve his chronic headache. In between this, we discover several things about Miu’s past, including the extent of her abilities, while a plethora of new characters is added to the mix as Miu’s enemies and friends.

Written and directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, ‘Copenhagen Cowboy’ is beautifully shot and is saturated with neon lighting that adds to the aesthetic of the story, elevating its supernatural aspect to give it a larger-than-life perception. Still, there is a sense of realism in the story that sets it apart from any other show. If you are wondering whether the show is a true story or if it’s inspired by a book, then here’s what you should know about it.

Copenhagen Cowboy is an Original Story

Image Credit: Magnus Nordenhof Jønck / Netflix

Copenhagen Cowboy’ is not based on true events or a book. It is an original fictional story created by Nicolas Winding Refn. The director has made a name for himself by making films like ‘Drive’ and ‘Only God Forgives’. During a press conference at the Venice Film Festival, the director noted that most of his films have “a certain type of character” that appears in the form of characters played by Mads Mikkelsen in ‘Valhalla Rising’ and Ryan Gosling in ‘Drive’. He was struck by the idea of exploring the same thing but differently than before. “I was like, ‘maybe I should try to do a version of it as female and not just one but many.’ So, I said, ‘I’m going to make my version of a superhero show.’ And that was the kind of aspiration to do it,” Refn said.

Calling it his “Danish fairytale”, the idea completely formed in Refn’s mind during the pandemic. He was in his hometown in Copenhagen, and due to travel restrictions, he couldn’t shoot his next project somewhere else. “What would [Hans Christian] Andersen do if he were alive now, I thought,” he told Volkskrant. He’d already decided to create a superhero story, but he wanted to look at it realistically, focusing on the protagonist’s powers and what challenges it would bring. “I thought if such a woman with healing powers really existed today, she would be traded like a lucky coin on the black market,” he added. Extrapolating on this thought, he created Miu’s story.

Because the criminal world of Copenhagen is such an essential part of the narrative, Refn did his research to create a realistic image of how things might work in a similar setting in his story. In the end, however, he remained more focused on “emotional integrity”. “Research gives you some reassurance as a narrator: the feeling that you know whether something is right or not. I’m more interested in emotions,” the director said.

Image Credit: Magnus Nordenhof Jønck / Netflix

‘Copenhagen Cowboy’ puts a female character front and center, which allowed Refn to look at the world he’d explored numerous times before from a new perspective. To get a clearer sense of Miu’s journey, he involved more women in the project. “I only hired female screenwriters for the series. At home, I am also surrounded by women. My life is inspired by women, and in a sense also controlled [by them],” Refn said, referring to his two daughters. With Miu’s story, he also intended to touch upon the “discussions about gender and representation of men and women.”

Calling the show a return to his past, Refn called Miu “an expansion of [his] constantly evolving alter-egos”. While the show can get rather violent at times, he uses it to describe the emotions of his characters. “I am an emotional person; my characters react emotionally. That can lead to physical violence, but that is out of desperation, out of the need to express something,” he said.

Despite the grim nature of the story, the focus remains on the protagonist and her relentlessness to pursue justice for herself and others. This is what Refn had in mind while making the show. “Above all, I wanted to make a series that my children can watch. With heroes who can be a role model for their generation,” he said. With all this in mind, it is clear that while the events in ‘Copenhagen Cowboy’ might be fictional, it is intended to invoke a sense of reality for the audience, something that makes them think about the nature of good and evil.

Read More: Where is Netflix’s Copenhagen Cowboy Filmed?