By Leah Zak | The Playlist September 14, 2011 at 7:34AM
Actor Talks The Process of Putting A Different Identity On What Was Once A Big-Budgeted Action Flick
This Friday is a big one for cinema fans internationally, as it sees the wider premier of two films that (hopefully!) will be vying for some serious recognition this coming awards season. And while it’s the U.K. audiences who will be basking in the glow of spy thriller “Tinker Tailor Solider Spy,” we here in the States can finally cash in those long held Fandango reservations to experience neo-noir/fairy tale/ode to Los Angeles “Drive,” a film that critics -- ourselves amongst them -- have been having a meltdown over since it premiered at Cannes last May. But for as cool and measured as the final product looks on screen, the process of adapting the James Sallis novel was a lengthy one. We recently had the chance to speak with producer and star Ryan Gosling about the film and how he, working with director Nicholas Winding Refn and screenwriter Hossein Amini took a once big budget Hugh Jackman vehicle (yes, really) and developed it into a romantic look at heroes, Los Angeles and in many ways, moviemaking.
"Drive"'s hero -- simply called Driver -- works as a Hollywood stunt driver by day and real-life get away driver by night; a case of life imitating fantasy, and what Gosling says resonated most with him about this role. After watching Rambo in "First Blood" as a kid, the actor showed up to recess the next day wielding steak knives from his mother's kitchen, and as he tells it, was suspended for throwing them at classmates -- oh my. “My point is that I understand the spell that films can cast on you," he concludes, "When I read this script, the character seemed to me somebody who had seen too many movies and had become the star of his own action film, so that’s how I thought about it.”
“Los Angeles is a fairy tale place, built on fantasy, so we made it a fairy tale land,” he explained, “We tried to make the Driver a knight and Irene [Carey Mulligan] this princess in the tower who needed to be rescued, Bernie Rose [Albert Brooks] was the evil wizard and Ron Perlman was the dragon. We treated it like a Brothers Grimm fairy tale. Nicholas seems to think that it fits into neo-noir.”
Call it what you will, but the two's differing opinions on how to categorize "Drive" don't seem to be breaking them up anytime soon. Gosling seemed to have the right instinct on who would work for the picture, as he hand-picked Refn to direct the script when co-producer, Mark Platt brought it to him. “[Platt] owns the material and basically said that he wanted to make this film together,” said Gosling, “Whoever I wanted to make the film he would support.” Refn accepted and the duo, along with Amini, spent many late nights developing the once big budget action flick into the story they wanted to tell.
“It was a great script, Hoss [Amini] had written a really great script,” said Gosling about the original adaptation, “But it was so authentic to Los Angeles and gang culture and you would have to make a Ken Loach style film in order to honor that script– what we wanted to make was a violent John Hughes movie that was a fairy tale about a guy who drives around listening to music at night because that’s the only way he can feel anything. And a guy who’s seen so many movies that he turned himself into his own super hero and made his own superhero costume [he pauses, miming the Scorpion jacket Driver wears], so that’s what excited us and Hoss helped us to realize that.”
Refn's films have been known to get a reaction out of the audience, and "Drive" looks to continue in the tradition. “We made this film for the audience, and we made it for the theatre,” explained Gosling. “I wanted this movie to be a film that you wanted to be in the movie theatre to see, not one that you wanted to watch at home. There are those movies [that you watch at home] but there are those films as well that you’re just glad that you’re in the theatre to see them. For instance when I first saw “Valhalla Rising,” Nic’s movie, halfway through the movie, a character cuts open his friend and pulls out his guts and starts showing them to him and [the audience] lost their minds! They were hitting each other getting up laughing screaming it just evoked a real hodgepodge of emotions and I guarantee you everybody in that theatre -- whether they liked it or not -- were glad that they saw it in the theatre, so my hope is that what we made -- we made ['Drive'] to be played loud, we made it for the big screen and hopefully people will appreciate that.”
See Gosling, along with Albert Brooks, do their share of spilling guts, blood and meaningful looks when the film open this Friday, September 16th.