The Driver (1978)

The Driver (1978)The Driver is a crime film released in 1978 by 20th Century Fox in North America, and EMI Films internationally. The film stars Ryan O’Neal as a professional getaway driver on the run from the police. The Driver is often cited by critics as a fine example of a film within the film noir genre, and is perhaps most notable for its extensive, exciting car chases.

The film features four taglines that were used in promotion and marketing: "He’ll get you away faster than anyone else on wheels," "He’s the best getaway man in the business… and the deadliest," "To break the driver, the cop was willing to break the law," and "A game… A Challenge… A Chase to the Death!"

Cast and Crew of The Driver

The Driver stars Ryan O’Neal in the role of "the driver." Bruce Dern plays the cop trying to take him down. Isabelle Adjani serves as The Player, while Ronee Blakley plays The Connection. A colorful cast of supporting characters are included, such as Joseph Walsh as Glasses, Rudy Ramos as Teeth, Denny Macko as Exchange Man, Frank Bruno as The Kid, Will Walker as Fingers, Sandy Brown Wyeth as Split, and Tara King as Frizzy.

The music for The Driver was composed by Michael Small. Editing was done by Tina Hirsch and Robert K. Lambert, while Philip Lathrop did the cinematography. The film was directed and written by Walter Hill, while Lawrence Gordon produced. Everett Creach served as the stunt coordinator for the film.

Walter Hill is well known for serving as both writer and director for films, and filled the same roles most famously for movies such as The Warriors, 48 Hrs, Wild Bill, and Last Man Standing. Walter Hill also wrote the screenplays for the Alien series.

Plot Synopsis for The Driver

The Driver is held together with a rather simple plot, while the focus of the film is on the action, and the car chases in particular. Ryan O’Neals plays "The Driver", a professional getaway driver who steals cars and uses them in large-scale robberies. Bruce Dern (father of actress Laura Dern) plays The Detective, a hardened veteran cop looking to take down The Driver. The Detective becomes enthralled and obsessed with bringing The Driver to justice, and sets up a bank heist in order to trap and arrest The Driver.

Interestingly, none of the characters in the film are named, and are simply referred to by their title, or role within the film.

Critical Reception for The Driver

The Driver wasn’t met with a lot of popularity upon its initial release, though critics have cited it as a fine example of film noir. Duncan Shepherd, writing for the San Diego Reader, awarded the film 5 out of 5 stars, saying that The Driver is like a coded message gifted from the filmmakers to devotees of the dark crime genre. Although the film isn’t for everyone, fans of action movies will find a lot to love in the exciting car chases. Fans of drams will enjoy the subtle character development, as well as the overall atmosphere of the film.

Since its release, The Driver has become a cult classic among fans of car chase films. Fans cite the minimalist dialogue and production style, as well as the elaborate car chase scenes as the primary reasons for their love of The Driver. In addition, many movie fans point to Ryan O’Neal’s portrayal of The Driver as a personification of "cool," with his shaded sunglasses tucked behind the wheel of his getaway car.

Additional Facts about The Driver

The Driver is extremely short on dialogue, with the majority of the characters saying hardly any lines throughout the duration of the film. Ryan O’Neal, playing The Driver himself, says only 350 solitary words throughout the entire film. None of the characters are named, and are only referred to as their occupation.

Originally, Ryan O’Neal’s part was written for Steve McQueen.

The Driver was originally meant to be two hours long, although its duration is limited to 91 minutes in the VHS, DVD, and television versions of the film. A special two hour director’s cut was shown once at a theater in Hollywood, with director Walter Hill hosting the screening. The longer version featured additional character development, as well as extra chase scenes. The director’s cut also includes Cheryl Smith in a co-starring role. After the film’s length was reduced, all of Smith’s scenes were removed, much to the regret of director Walter Hill. It is unclear whether the complete version of the film will ever see a full release.

During one of the scenes in The Driver, an orange Mercedes car is destroyed. The destroyed car was later auctioned off for an undisclosed price to Ian Jackson, a British movie car collector. It is believed that the car sold for between eight and nine million pounds.