Drive is a 2011 American action-drama heist film directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, and starring Ryan Gosling as the principal character, with Carey Mulligan, Ron Perlman, Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks, and Albert Brooks. Although Drive shares several characteristics with the similarly-named 1978 Walter Hill car-chase film, The Driver, (which also centers around a Los Angeles-based, unnamed, expert getaway car driver who speaks very little), it is actually adapted from the 2005 James Sallis novel of the same name, with a screenplay by Hossein Amini.
Like the book, the movie is about a Hollywood stunt performer (played by Gosling) who moonlights as a getaway driver. Prior to its September 2011 release, it had been shown at a number of film festivals. At the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, Drive was praised and even received a standing ovation. Reviews from critics have been positive, with many drawing comparisons to work from previous eras. Praise has also been given to Gosling's and Brooks' performances. The director has said influences came from Bullitt (1968) and The Day of the Locust (1975); and that Drive was a tribute to Alejandro Jodorowsky.
A driver (Ryan Gosling), who remains unnamed, works in Shannon's (Bryan Cranston) garage, picks up occasional stunt driving work, and moonlights as a getaway driver. His driving skills and precision are made evident when he helps two burglars evade police and split up at the Staples Center's crowded parking lot. The “Driver” always works anonymously, never for the same people twice, and makes a point of allotting them only five minutes to do their business.
Shannon approaches Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks), a Jewish mobster, for backing a scheme to buy a NASCAR racecar and have the “Driver” race it. Bernie agrees to back the plan with $300,000 after “Driver” exhibits his driving skills. Bernie is in business with fellow mobster Nino (Ron Perlman), who, it is learned later, once had Shannon's pelvis broken because he overcharged for his services.
The “Driver” becomes involved with his neighbor, Irene (Carey Mulligan), and her young son, Benicio (Kaden Leos), when their car breaks down at a grocery store. The “Driver” and Irene appear to be slowly developing a romantic connection when her husband, Standard (Oscar Isaac), comes home from prison. Standard owes "protection money" to Cook (James Biberi) from his time in prison. Cook beats him for it and threatens to come after Irene and Benicio if Standard does not do a job for them.
Concerned for Irene, the “Driver” agrees to help Standard placate Cook by robbing a pawn shop. Also participating in the heist is Blanche (Christina Hendricks), a woman associated with Cook. The job goes fatally wrong as Standard is shot dead by the pawn shop owner. As the “Driver” and Blanche escape, they are pursued by a mysterious car - Cook double-crossed them, planning to steal the money from them after they completed the job.
The “Driver” and Blanche elude their pursuers and hide out in a motel room. There they discover that the amount of the stolen money was much more than they had been told. Two of Cook's men attack them in the motel room, killing Blanche with a shotgun blast and injuring the “Driver” before he kills both of them.
The “Driver” confronts Cook and learns that Nino has been behind the heist all along. Nino resents the East-Coast Italian mob and has engineered the job to get at them.
The “Driver” attempts to make a deal with Nino: exchange the money for Irene's safety. However, Nino sends a hitman, whom the “Driver” brutally kills in an elevator while Irene cowers in terror. After Bernie kills Shannon and the “Driver” kills Nino, they both meet in a restaurant, ostensibly to broker another deal of money for safety. In the parking lot afterward, as the money is pulled from the trunk of the car belonging to the “Driver,” Bernie stabs the “Driver” in the abdomen. The attack is not fatal, however, and the “Driver” stabs and kills Bernie, leaving his body on the ground next to the satchel of money. The story ends with the “Driver” driving through the night.
- Ryan Goslingas Driver
- Carey Mulliganas Irene
- Bryan Cranstonas Shannon
- Albert Brooksas Bernie Rose
- Oscar Isaacas Standard
- Christina Hendricksas Blanche
- Ron Perlmanas Nino
- Kaden Leos as Benicio
- Jeff Wolfe as Tan Suit
- James Biberias Cook
- Russ Tamblyn as Doc
James Sallis' 2005 crime novel novel centers around an unnamed Hollywood stunt driver who also drives getaway cars at night. He finds himself in a life-threatening position after a bank heist goes wrong. Drive was optioned by producers Marc Platt and Adam Siegel of Marc Platt Productions. Siegel felt the driver was a rare character: someone who has a purpose, excels at one thing and makes no apologies for it. Platt agreed, noting that the driver reminded him of heroes and movie characters similar to characters Clint Eastwood used to portray. The driver is a man of few words and says fewer than 20 sentences in the whole film exemplifying his isolation.
Academy Award-nominated screenwriter Hossein Amini adapted the novel for the screen. He felt it was a rare book to receive from a studio because it was short, gloomy and like a poem. Because the novel does not present a linear story but has many flashbacks and jumps around in time, Amini found the adaptation challenging. He felt the non-linear structure made it "a very tricky structure" for a feature film.
A film adaption of Drive was first announced in early 2008, with Neil Marshall set to direct what was then being described as "an L.A.-set action mystery" that would be a starring vehicle for Hugh Jackman. Universal Studios, who had been trying to make a film version for years, was also onboard. By February 2010, Marshall and Jackman were no longer attached to the project, and Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn was set to direct with Ryan Gosling in the leading role. When Ryan Gosling signed on, he was allowed to choose the director. A fan of his work, the actor chose Refn.  When Refn read the first screenplay for Drive, he was more intrigued by the concept of a man having a split personality, being a stuntman by day and a getaway driver at night, than the story itself.
Drive's producer Marc E. Platt contacted Gosling about the movie. He explained, “I have this list that I’ve created of very talented individuals whose work inspire me – writers, directors, actors whom I have to work with before I go onto another career or do something else with my life. Near the top of that list was Ryan Gosling." Platt heard back from Gosling around 48 hours later. Gosling was attracted to the script because it had a "very strong character" at its core as well as a powerful love story. The actor had always been interested in doing an action-type movie, but often found today's films to focus more on the stunts than on its characters. He was able to choose the director, which was a first for the actor. "And I thought 'It had to be Nicolas.' There was no other choice," he says. However, Gosling was unsure if Refn would do the project as it was not like anything he had ever done before.
When it came to selecting other cast members, Refn did not cast actors based on casting tapes or auditions. Instead, he required they meet him in person at his house.Carey Mulligan was in negotiations to star in Drive in August 2010, and she was cast soon after as a Los Angeles-born Anglo mother raising her 7-year-old Latino child. She was interested in working with Refn because she was a fan of his films Bronson and Valhalla Rising. The role was originally written as a Latina woman in her late 20s. Refn made script adjustments to accommodate Mulligan in the role. The filmmaker had not seen any of Mulligan's movies, but upon first seeing her, he recalled, "I knew we had our 'Irene'". He felt her casting would cement the love story in a more engaging way. "It made it more of a Romeo & Juliet kind of love story without the politics that would in this day and age be brought into it if you had different nationalities or different religions," Refn explained.
Bryan Cranston plays the role of Shannon. A fan of Breaking Bad, he was one of the first actors Refn looked to cast. Knowing the actor had other opportunities, the director tried to interest him by asking how he would like to develop the role. After not hearing back, Refn called him, at the very same time that Cranston was writing on a piece of paper the pros and cons of doing Drive. Moved by Refn's interest, he accepted the part.Christina Hendricks plays the small but important role of Blanche. "Trying to work in a more reality arena for a character like that," Refn originally auditioned porn stars for Blanche. However, he was unable to find anyone who was good enough acting-wise. After meeting with Hendricks, he decided to cast her, feeling her "powerhouse" persona would click with the character.
Albert Brooks plays the foul-mouthed, morose Bernie Rose. When Refn suggested him, Gosling agreed but thought the actor would not be up for playing a character who is violent and sullen, or for appearing in a film that he did not work on himself. Brooks accepted the role to go against typecasting and because he loved that Bernie was not a cliché. "There are six people you could always get to play this kind of part, and I like that the director was thinking outside of the box. For me, it was an opportunity to act outside the box. I liked that this mobster had real style. Also, he doesn’t get up in the morning thinking about killing people. He’s sad about it. Upset about it. It’s a case of, 'Look what you made me do.'"
Nino, a key villain, is portrayed by Ron Perlman, one of the last actors to join the cast. Regarding the casting of Perlman, Refn said, "The character of Nino was originally not particularly interesting, so I asked Ron why he wanted to be in my movie when he’s done so many great films. When Ron said, ‘I always wanted to play a Jewish man who wants to be an Italian gangster’, and I asked why, and he said, ‘because that’s what I am – a Jewish boy from New York’, well, that automatically cemented it for me."Oscar Isaac portrays a Latino convict named Standard who is married to Irene and is just released from prison a week after Irene meets The Driver. He found the role to be a bit unappealing and chose to turn the archetypal character into something more. He said of the role,
"As soon as I sat down with Nicolas, he explained this universe and world of the story, so we made the character into someone interested in owning a restaurant, someone who made some wrong decisions in his life, ending up in a bad place. By making ‘Standard’ more specific and more interesting, we found that it made the story that more compelling."
The film was made on a production budget of about $13 million and shot in various parts of Los Angeles, California. Refn moved into a Los Angeles home and insisted that the cast members and screenwriter Amini move in with him. They would work on the script and film all day, then watch films, edit or drive at night. Refn requested that the editing suite be placed in his home as well. The film was shot digitally using the Arri Alexa camera. Refn spoke to Gaspar Noé and asked him how he did the head-smashing scene in his film Irréversible (2002). According to Drive's executive producer Lancaster, the film contains abundant, evocative, intense images of Los Angeles that are not often seen. "From the little seen back streets of downtown LA to the dry arid outposts on the peaks of the desert landscape surrounding it, Siegel has re-imagined an LA all the way down to the rocky cliffs by the sea."
With a shooting script of 81 pages, Refn and Gosling continued to trim down dialog during filming. Car scenes were filmed with a "biscuit rig", a camera car rig developed for the film Seabiscuit (2003), which allowed a precision driver to steer the car, freeing Gosling to concentrate on acting. Consistent with Refn's usual visual style, wide-angle lenses were heavily used by cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel. Handheld camerawork was avoided. Preferring to keep the film more "grounded" and authentic, Refn also avoided use of computer-generated imagery (CGI). Unable to afford CGI due to budgeting restrictions also played a factor in this decision. Although many stunt drivers are credited, Gosling did a number of stunts himself, after completing a stunt driving car crash course. During production, Gosling re-built the 1973 Chevrolet Malibu used in the film, taking it apart and putting it back together. Filming concluded in November 2010.
Beth Mickle was hired as Drive's production designer after Gosling recommended her, after working together on 2006's Half Nelson. Prior to filming, Mickle supervised a crew of 40, routinely working 16-to-18-hour days. Her most expensive film to date, Mickle felt freer since, unlike Half Nelson, "there was another zero added to the budget." They built Gosling's character's apartment building, which included a hallway and elevator that linked his unit to Irene's. Mickle also made a strip club and re-created Brooks' character's apartment in an abandoned building. Turning a "run-of-the-mill" Los Angeles auto body shop into a grandiose dealership was one of the most challenging. Painting the walls an electric blue color, she brought in a showroom full of vintage cars.
"Thinking back, there isn't really all that much driving in Drive – a couple of chase scenes here and there, staged efficiently, thrillingly. It's more about the questionable choices that drive people – and, ultimately, the ones that drive them away."
Journalists and reviewers have called Drive a "classic Los Angeles heist-gone-wrong story" that is a "tribute to the genre of car films" in the vein of movies like Bullitt (1968). It combines comic gore, film noir and B-movie aesthetics, and Hollywood spectacle, resulting in "a bizarre concoction...reminiscent of David Lynch's Mulholland Drive...Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, and [with] angst-laden love scenes that would not be out of place in a Scandinavian drama". Other comparisons have been to the works of Walter Hill, John Carpenter and Michael Mann. According to Refn, Drive is dedicated to filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky and includes "a bit of Jodorowsky existentialism."
Drive has been called a tough, hard-edged neo-noir