The Driver and Irene actually say very little to each other, primarily because Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan felt that their scenes should be more focused on the mood and refused to say many of the scripted lines. Mulligan summarized making the film as "staring longingly at Ryan Gosling for hours each day."
In preparation for his role, Ryan Gosling restored the 1973 Chevy Malibu that his character uses in the film.
Driver references the fable of The Scorpion and the Frog: the frog agrees to carry the scorpion across the river; the scorpion stings the frog, saying "it's my nature" and both drown. Driver can be seen as The Frog of the story - he drives/carries criminals (scorpions) around in his car, but is inevitably dragged into their destructive world (stung) leading to everybody's downfall. Driver's jacket has a scorpion on the back, just as the frog carried the scorpion on its back.
The name of the main character is never revealed. He is always referred to as "Kid" or "Driver." Even in the end credits, he is listed as "Driver."
Despite the driving storyline, director Nicolas Winding Refn does not have any interest in cars. He doesn't hold a driving license and has failed his driving test 8 times.
For the elevator scene, Nicolas Winding Refn spoke to Gaspar Noé and asked him how he did the head-smashing scene in Irreversible (2002).
Ron Perlman won the role of Nino after explaining to Nicolas Winding Refn that he wanted to play "a Jewish man who wants to be an Italian gangster because that's what [he is], a Jewish boy from N.Y."
The movie's tagline is the same tagline that was used for No Country for Old Men (2007) ("There are no clean getaways").
Bryan Cranston was one of the first actors Nicolas Winding Refn looked to cast, as he was a fan of Breaking Bad (2008). Knowing Cranston had other opportunities, Winding Refn tried to interest him by asking how he would like to develop the role. After not hearing back, Winding Refn called him, at the very same time that Cranston was writing on a piece of paper the pros and cons of doing the film. Moved by Winding Refn's interest, he accepted the part.
Albert Brooks was in character when he met Nicolas Winding Refn, pinning him against a wall and speaking in a threatening manner. Brooks shaved his eyebrows for his role to make his character more emotionless.
Despite the elaborate and realistic images of Los Angeles, Nicolas Winding Refn has no knowledge of the city. Refn spent most of his time with Ryan Gosling to get to know the city.
Nicolas Winding Refn almost didn't get the job, and the film may possibly not have happened. Ryan Gosling and Refn have both talked about their terrible initial meeting. Refn was sick and delirious which Gosling interpreted it as him not being interested so he cut it short. During the car ride home, REO Speedwagon came on the radio and Refn started singing along and bawling, then turned to Gosling and said "The movie is about a guy who drives around LA at night listening to pop songs". If that song hadn't come on the radio, the movie might not have happened.
Gosling's performance is marked by the minimalist dialogue, with Driver only speaking a few words at a time, if at all. In the entire film Driver speaks only 116 lines, with a total of 891 words.
Bryan Cranston revealed in a 2012 interview that he ad-libbed many of his scenes in this film.
Bryan Cranston had previously guest starred in a 1998 episode of "The X-Files" called "Drive." That was his first collaboration with screenwriter Vince Gilligan who, impressed by his performance as a sympathetic villain in the episode, would later cast him as Walter White on Breaking Bad (2008) which ultimately lead to him being cast in Drive.
Drive (2011) was the inspiration for the incredibly popular indie game," Hotline Miami," according to its creator, Jonatan Söderström.
Oscar Isaac worked with Nicolas Winding Refn to further develop his character, Standard, as a less archetypal ex-convict.
Nicolas Winding Refn replaced Neil Marshall as director. Refn was hand-picked by Ryan Gosling for the project.
The opening chase scene was primarily filmed by Nicolas Winding Refn within the car's interior. In an interview, Winding Refn revealed the idea for this scene was to emulate the feeling of a "diver in an ocean of sharks", never leaving the vehicle during a car chase so that the audience can see what's happening from the character's point of view. Tight on money and time, he shot the scene in two days. With two different set-ups prepared in the car, the director found it difficult to have mobility with the camera, so he would then switch the camera to two additional set-ups nearby. As downtown Los Angeles had changed for the better, Refn avoided certain areas to preserve the gloomy atmosphere. Additionally, the scene was shot at low-angles with minimal light.
After a lot of speculation from people on the possibility of a sequel or a spin off to Drive, on a 2016, when asked about it, Nicolas Winding Refn said: "No, there will never be a second Drive movie. [...] It ends too imperfectly. And that's why it works.".
In an interview for this film, Ryan Gosling stated that 'He always wanted to act out a superhero role, but the good ones were taken,' hence using the Driver character as a sort of superhero, giving him the Scorpion jacket as a costume. Later, Gosling would deny the role of Batman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) on an account of his 'no-sequel' rule (but nonetheless starred in Blade Runner 2049 (2017)).
Although this is a quiet crime thriller, the trailers gave the impression that it was a car chase film like the "Fast and Furious" films. One woman even sued because she did not get that sort of film.
Carey Mulligan lived at Nicolas Winding Refn's house during her time working on the film.
Although many stunt drivers are credited, Ryan Gosling did a number of stunts himself, after completing a stunt driving car crash course.
Nicolas Winding Refn's first film based on a novel, and first film he did not write the script for.
The opening credits song "Nightcall" by Kavinsky, was suggested by editor Mat Newman. The song was also used in The Lincoln Lawyer (2011), which "Drive" costume designer Erin Benach and actor Bryan Cranston also worked on.
During every encounter with Irene, Driver is at his happiest. This is portrayed with the song "wrong floor" as it plays everytime the two are together.
Although fake blood was used on the set, most of the gore effects were added in post-production.
During filming, Carey Mulligan got pulled over for speeding when driving Nicolas Winding Refn home. Her excuse was having too many cans of Red Bull.
Locations were picked by Nicolas Winding Refn while Ryan Gosling drove him around the city at night. Under the director's request, Los Angeles was picked as the shooting site due to budget concerns.
Irene and Standard were originally a Hispanic couple before Carey Mulligan was cast.
The film premiered on May 20, in competition at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. At its first showing to the media, it received abundant praise and received "some of the best responses of the festival", but one positive review said it "can't win, won't win" Cannes's top prize. It was greeted with hoots and howls of joy from the media, with viewers cheering on some of the scenes featuring extreme violence. It also received a 15-minute standing ovation from the crowd.
Originally planned as a blockbuster, the movie was eventually re-labelled as an independent film.
The movie soundtrack was listed on Spin Magazine's list of "40 Movie Soundtracks That Changed Alternative Music".
Nicolas Winding Refn moved into a Los Angeles home during filming and insisted that the cast members and screenwriter 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. With a shooting script of 81 pages, Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling continued to trim down dialog during filming.
Consistent with Nicolas Winding 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, he also avoided use of computer-generated imagery (CGI). Inability to afford CGI due to budgeting restrictions also played a factor in this decision.
After Ryan Gosling and Nicolas Winding Refn removed much of the Driver's dialogue, Bryan Cranston felt that his character, Shannon, should make up for the lack of talking in the film, and thus made Shannon a motormouth. Much of his dialogue is improvised.
Nino (Ron Perlman) is not the character's real name. Bernie (Albert Brooks) mentions Nino is Jewish and calls him Izzy one time. Typically, the Jewish proper names Isaac or Isadore become the nickname Izzy.
A leaked version of this film didn't include Cliff Martinez original score. In that version, many tracks from The Social Network (2010) score were used instead.
The mask worn by Driver is from SPFX Masks, which sells ultra-realistic masks to the public.
"Trying to work in a more reality arena for a character like that," Nicolas Winding Refn originally auditioned porn stars for Blanche. He was unable to find anyone with the necessary acting talent. After meeting with Christina Hendricks, he decided to cast her, feeling her "powerhouse" persona would click with the character.
Hossein Amini felt that the source novel 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.
According to Nicolas Winding Refn, the film's romance was partially inspired by the films of John Hughes.
Most of the licensed songs (such as "Nightcall" by Kavinsky and "A Real Hero" by College) were released between 2007-2011, despite their retro feel.
When Nicolas Winding Refn read the first screenplay, 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.
Car scenes were filmed with a "biscuit rig", a camera car rig developed for Seabiscuit (2003), which allowed stunt driver Robert Nagle to steer the car, freeing Ryan Gosling to concentrate on acting.
The title sequence is hot-pink, which was inspired by Risky Business (1983)' editing table.
There are many references to Taxi Driver (1976) in this film. One is the scene in which Driver sits alone eating pie. This is the same thing the protagonist, Travis Bickle, did in Taxi Driver. Refn has expressed an esteemed admiration for Taxi Driver director Martin Scorsese.
When Nicolas Winding Refn suggested Albert Brooks for the role of Bernie, Ryan 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.
According to Nicolas Winding Refn, the film is dedicated to filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky and includes some of Jodorowsky's existentialism.
Oscar Isaac and Carey Mulligan would work together again a few years later in Inside Llewyn Davis (2013).
An alternative/work print version of the film has many subtle additions of dialogue and scenes when compared to the final cut film. The temp score includes a strikingly different and haunting piece of music in the famous restaurant/showdown scene between Bernie and Driver.
The crew built the driver's apartment building, which included a hallway and elevator that linked his unit to Irene's. Beth Mickle also built a strip club set and Bernie Rose'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.
Nicolas Winding Refn was inspired by films such as Point Blank (1967), Two-Lane Blacktop (1971), The Driver (1978), and Thief (1981). Jean-Pierre Melville's crime productions influenced the cinematography.
Angelo Badalamenti was reported to be composing the score before Cliff Martinez, and is credited in some early versions of the film. Martinez later confirmed the name was used as a placeholder.
While watching a cartoon, Benicio assumes one of the characters is a villain because he's a shark, to which Driver replies "Are there no friendly sharks?" In Finding Nemo (2003), Albert Brooks (who plays Bernie in this movie) voiced a fish who encounters a vicious-looking shark that turns out to be quite friendly.
Nicolas Winding Refn's inspiration came partly from reading Grimm's Fairy Tales, and his goal was to make "a fairy tale that takes Los Angeles as the background," with The Driver as the hero. To play with the common theme of fairy tales, The Driver protects what is good while at the same time killing degenerate people in violent ways.
Producers Marc Platt and Adam Siegel of Marc Platt Productions optioned the novel, after Siegel read a review in Publishers Weekly. The driver intrigued Siegel because he was "the kind of character you rarely see anymore - he was a man with a purpose; he was very good at one thing and made no apologies for it." The character interested Platt, because he reminded him of movie heroes he looked up to as a child, characters typically portrayed by Steve McQueen or Clint Eastwood.
A re-scored soundtrack for the film was produced for the BBC by Zane Lowe for its television broadcast in October 2014. The soundtrack included original music from Chvrches, Banks, Bastille, Eric Prydz, SBTRKT, Bring Me The Horizon, The 1975 and Laura Mvula.
Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
While working on the film, Carey Mulligan moved in with Nicolas Winding Refn, his wife and two daughters in their home in Los Angeles. Hossein Amini, the film's screenwriter, also lived with Refn's family during the duration of the film's shoot. Refn and Amini made significant changes to the original script during this time.
This was the first film Carey Mulligan signed on to after being nominated for an Academy Award for her role in An Education (2009).
As Nicolas Winding Refn was going through mixer Johnny Jewel's catalog, he picked out "Under Your Spell" and "Tick of the Clock" because he thought of the film being a fairytale. During the climax, "A Real Hero"'s keynote melody, about becoming "a real human being, and a real hero", refrains because that is when the driver changes into both those statuses'. At first, Jewel worried that "Under Your Spell" might be too literal but soon realized it is used in Drive "in the exact same way that I was feeling it when I wrote it. He definitely got the nuance of the song, and understood what it was supposed to mean, and he wanted to give that emotion to the viewer, that same feeling."
Director Nicolas Winding Refn's apartment in LA was an important place during the developing and making of the film. The editing took place there, all the actors used to hang out there during the making of the film, writer Hussain Amini lived in the attic while developing the script with Refn, and Carry Muligan lived there too. Also, The actors did readings there while developing and suggesting further ideas to the story.
Pornstar Bobbi Starr originally had a cameo as the abused wife of Bernie Rose's (Albert Brooks) neighbor, Lenny. This scene was cut.
Casting director Mindy Marin, production designer Beth Mickle and costume designer Erin Benach have all worked with Ryan Gosling before "Drive." The latter has designed distinctive clothes for Gosling in Half Nelson (2006) and Blue Valentine (2010), as well as this film.
Thinking of music in terms of basic elements, Johnny Jewel would tell Nicolas Winding Refn that for certain scenes, it should not have bass since, as an earth tone, it usually is used for a more emotional or ominous part. Jewel thought the music should be upper register and relaxing for the "dreamlike" scene. To help himself with the writing process and conjure up melodies, the producer would perform a procedure where he highlighted many phrases from the novel, then printed those words in large font and hung them on his walls or drew pictures during viewings of the film.
The camera being used by the film crew to shoot the cop car stunt Driver performs is a Panavision Panaflex System 65 Studio, apparently loaned by Panavision to the production as a prop.
Beth Mickle was hired as production designer on Ryan Gosling's recommendation; they had worked together on Half Nelson (2006). Prior to filming, Mickle supervised a crew of 40, routinely working 16-to-18-hour days. This was her most expensive film to date, and Mickle felt freer since, compared to Half Nelson (2006), "there was another zero added to the budget."
The parts of the city seen in the Valley and by downtown Los Angeles are actually cheap stucco and mirrored glass, which has been carefully edited to largely leave out more contemporary buildings.
James Biberi, who typically plays policemen in minor roles, plays against type as the thug Cook.
The police officer name tag worn by Driver in the movie set scene reads "McCall", referring to assistant property master Dana McCall.
The Driver's wardrobe, in particular the satin jacket with the logo of a golden scorpion on the back, was inspired by the band KISS and Kenneth Anger's experimental film Scorpio Rising (1963).
In 2016, to celebrate the film's fifth anniversary, Invada Records re-released the soundtrack on vinyl. Invada's pressing came with new artwork in addition to liner notes from composer Cliff Martinez and director Nicolas Winding Refn.
Nicolas Winding Refn wanted a score by Johnny Jewel of Desire and Chromatics, whose music was used in the film, but the studio had other plans. They instead hired Cliff Martinez at the last minute to imitate the style and feel of Jewel's bands Chromatics and Glass Candy.
Editor Matt Newman suggested the opening credits song - "Nightcall" by French electronic musician Vincent Belorgey.
Ron Perlman and Bryan Cranston were both starring as anti-heroes in separate TV shows (_Sons of Anarchy_ and Breaking Bad (2008), respectfully) at the time this movie was released.
Ryan Gosling's character wears a jacket with a scorpion on the back. Gosling also happens to be a Scorpio (born November 12, 1980).
The film cast includes four Oscar nominees: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston and Albert Brooks.
Albert Brooks and Oscar Isaac would finally share scenes in A Most Violent Year (2014).
Nicolas Winding Refn wanted to work with Bryan Cranston after seeing him in Breaking Bad.