The Driver (1978)
April 18, 2016 4:30 AM - Subscribe

The Driver is a specialist in a rare business: he drives getaway cars in robberies.

The Driver is a 1978 crime thriller film written and directed by Walter Hill, starring Ryan O'Neal, Bruce Dern, and Isabelle Adjani. Based upon similarities in plot elements, it is heavily influenced by Jean-Pierre Melville's film Le Samouraï. The film is also notable for its impressive car chases, its no-frills style of filmmaking, and its taciturn, nameless titular character. (wikipedia)

• This film was originally written for Steve McQueen, but he turned it down. According to Walter Hill, "He didn't want to do anything that had to do with cars at that time. He felt he had already done that and it was pretty hard to argue with that." Hill had been assistant director on Bullitt (1968) and The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) and wrote The Getaway (1972).

• The titular driver is a man of few words - 350 in all.

• Walter Hill says he sent a copy of the original draft of the script to Raoul Walsh for his approval and that the veteran director liked it.

• Not one character has a name in this movie, and are all addressed by their occupation; e.g. "the Driver".

• The same Torchy's Bar appears in this film as in two other Walter Hill films - 48 Hrs (1982) and Streets of Fire (1984).

• Hill says the major visual influence on the movie was the works of artist Edward Hopper.

• Producer Larry Gordon later reflected on the film's poor critical and box office response in the US:

"If we'd had Clint Eastwood in the film, we'd have been forgiven everything and they'd have said, 'It's another Eastwood film about driving cars'." If we'd had Steve McQueen, we'd have been compared to Bullitt (1968) or The Getaway (1972). We were treated as an art film rather than an action film. We took a unique approach to standard material. We'd go the same way again, but with a different cast we might have attracted an audience. I believe in returning investors' money - and if I could make The Driver (1978) again I'd try to rectify it for a commercial market. When you're writing this kind of script... naturally you think of an action lead like Bronson or Eastwood... and certainly Fox wanted a name. But when we got Ryan, I suggested we make changes to suit his character. This is always the director's prerogative.”

• Isabelle Adjani later complained she felt the film hurt her career. "Afterwards the only American offers I got were bad ones," she said. "I did it, really because after The Story of Adele H (1975) everyone urged me to make a Hollywood film. I turned down several, and felt I couldn't continue to do that. And I liked Walter Hill. Only later did I realize I'd made a terrible mistake."

• Both Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction (1994) and Kill Bill: Volume 2 (2004) refer to this film: a shot and setup of Vincent Vega skidding out into the road with an overdosed Mia Wallace in the passenger seat in Pulp Fiction is copied from the opening chase of The Driver; and Beatrix Kiddo being described as "the cowgirl [who] ain't never been caught" in Kill Bill: Volume 2 is copied from Ryan O'Neal's character description in The Driver as "the cowboy who could not be caught". According to Wensley Clarkson's book, Tarantino - The Man, the Myths and His Movies, Tarantino lists The Driver as one of the "coolest movies of all time."

• The film was a big influence on Drive (2011).


This movie is a selection of the Shut Up And Drive! club.
posted by valkane (2 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Shut Up And Drive! will be screening this feature tonight, April 18, @ 9:00 pm ET. Click here to watch.
posted by valkane at 4:31 AM on April 18, 2016

I always thought that this film was massively underrated. There was also a playstation game that came out that was based on this, I believe.
posted by I-baLL at 7:43 PM on April 18, 2016

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