Interview: Edgar Wright and Walter Hill

A conversation about the cult 1978 car chase thriller "The Driver".

Ryan O'Neal in "The Driver"

Edgar Wright's new movie, which he wrote and directed, is Baby Driver. One of his cinematic influences is the movie The Driver. Here is an IMDb plot synopsis:

In Los Angeles, a mysterious driver (Ryan O'Neal) is a sad man of few words that drives getaway car in robberies. One day, he participates of a heist of a casino and a player (Isabelle Adjani) is the main witness. However, she tells to the detective (Bruce Dern) in charge of the investigation that the suspect is not the driver of the getaway car. The detective becomes obsessed to arrest the driver and he seeks out a gang that has robbed a supermarket and promises to "forgive" their heist if they help him to arrest the driver in a bank robbery. But the player helps the driver to exchange the dirty money.

Written and directed by Walter Hill, it is considered a cult classic. Recently Wright sat down with Hill for an in-depth Empire conversation about The Driver. Here are some excerpts:

Wright: The Driver wasn't commercially successful at the time, but when I was a teenager I had no knowledge of that. At no point until talking to you was I even aware it was a flop.

Hill: The movie actually got a very good reception in Europe, critically. I don't think you can say the movie did commercially well anywhere, except Japan, where I believe it did reasonable business. It did not find an audience.

Wright: To me, especially for your second movie, it's incredibly confident in terms of state-of-the-art action. Unlike a lot of contemporary action films, it's geographically correct and spatially aware. Were you proud of it at the time?

Hill: There's no simple answer to that. You're a filmmaker. You start out with a big vision, a big appetite, a dream. At the end of the day they all fall short of the dream, in my opinion. But I certainly thought I'd done a good, professional job in the straightforward sense. I knew when I was getting ready to do the movie that I was taking a chance. This was not meant to be an everyday action movie. I was trying to do something a little more, or a little less, but I was trying to do something else. When the movie came out, I was already making another movie [The Warriors], so I had a parachute on. You never know. You know this very well, it's an odd way to be making a living. If they decide they don't like you anymore, the phone may not ring.

Wright: One of the things that is amazing about your scripts is the way you write. There's almost a beat-poetry element to the stage direction. I actually read The Driver screenplay before I started writing my movie because I wanted to know, how do you write a car chase? I have to write this thing in words which is only going to be really exciting in action on screen. However, you really write action beautifully. It's almost like little haiku of action.

Hill: You're probably too kind in your assessment. When I was beginning as a writer, there was a bland Hollywood style that everybody seemed to appropriate for their scripts. I had the temerity to try to do a little more. I wasn't first, I don't think. Maybe I pushed it a little further than some of the others.

Wright: [producing the screenplay for The Driver from his bag] This is one I got from the library at CAA. What's amazing is you have an entire page of stage directions, which is usually a no-no, but the way you laid it out is thrilling. It's unusual to see a page like that in contemporary screenwriting.

Hill: I thought that approach made people read with greater intention. It's spare in detail but written to dramatic effect. You could maybe capture the mind of the reader a little better.

Here is a page of the script for The Driver:

Hill approach to scene description has been called "haiku style" and I've covered it on the blog several times as in here and here. It's an effective way to approach action writing.

Here is a trailer for The Driver:

And here is a trailer for Baby Driver:

For the rest of the interview, go here.


Interview: Edgar Wright and Walter Hill was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Go Into The Story – Medium

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