Drive: Making of Thriller Noir (Part Two)

Director Nicolas Winding Refn has been a major figure on the international film circuit since making his debut at the age of 24 with the gritty 1996 gangster pic PUSHER. In its technically brilliant and tonally sophisticated mix of black comedy, high tragedy and viscerally effective action, Pusher not only initiated a landmark trilogy in the crime genre—a franchise currently being remade in English by Vertigo Films—it also showcased the singular vision of Denmark’s biggest break-out success since Lars von Trier. Refn’s international reputation has since been buoyed by the critical acclaim and cult following that came in the wake of U.K. crossovers BRONSON, a bare-knuckled, convention-busting biopic of the infamous English criminal Charlie Bronson, which spotlighted a brilliant performance by Tom Hardy in the title role; and VALHALLA RISING, a muddy, bloody Medieval epic elevated to the level of religious art.


Based on Refn’s past achievements, Ryan Gosling approached the director about a forthcoming adaptation of James Sallis’ pared down, page-turning pulp novel Drive. Refn thought that the novel’s Los Angeles setting and stunt-driver story line made for a particularly cinematic scenario, and he appreciated Sallis’ breakneck narrative economy and signature brand of noir-ish existentialism shaded with sardonic humor. In the figure of the book’s nameless protagonist (known only as Driver), Refn saw an opportunity to simultaneously deepen his dramatic interests and dramatically expand his audience.


“Driver flows into characters I put together for BRONSON and VALHALLA RISING,” says Refn. “These larger-than-life, ambiguously god-like figures. I’m very interested in the dark side of heroism, how that unstoppable drive and righteous adherence to a code above the average person’s can shade into something that is quite psychotic.”


Though Ryan Gosling’s early successes as a child actor and breakout role i