Yes Notebook was the movie that made Ryan Gosling famous, then Drive (10 years old this week) turned him into an action star. Darker and far more violent than this 2004 romantic comedy, the neo-noir classic from director Nicolas Winding Refn received a A 15-minute standing ovation in Cannes when it premiered in 2011, becoming the arthouse answer to The Fast and the Furious.
Gosling plays the Driver, a Hollywood-working stuntman who moonlights as a getaway driver for the LA criminal underworld. After falling in love with his neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan), his double life is turned upside down when he tries to help her husband (Oscar Issac) achieve a million dollar heist.
The promise of top performers and thrills was what got audiences in theaters to watch Drive, but for many it is the love of the music and the soundtrack of the film that has endured. As the driver patrols the City of Angels in his 1973 Chevrolet Malibu (which was smashed to pieces and rebuilt by Gosling before filming), a collection of ’80s-inspired synth tunes and Europopo bangers accompany him in his escapades.
âIt’s a testament to when someone takes a chance and does something really creative and unexpected,â says Johnny Jewel of Chromatics, who was instrumental in the creation of the soundtrack.
âIt can create upheaval and change everyone’s definition of what works. From introductory titles of “Risky Business” to the use of a heavily synthesized score, I think [Refn and his team] took a big risk. When people roll the dice, it resonates so much.
Talk to NME from his home in California, Jewel remembers how he was first approached to collaborate on the film while touring the West Coast with Glass Candy and Chromatics. Two weeks before the cameras started rolling, Refn, Gosling (a huge fan of Chromatics’ 2007 ‘Night Drive’ album) and a few producers from Drive came to Jewel’s concert in LA to offer him the concert.
âRyan was brought in on the project and had a choice of director and songwriter. We talked about how it would be really cool to do an electronic bass score, which people weren’t doing back then,â says “It hasn’t really been done on a more mainstream level in a very long time.”
Although he already scored Refn’s crime thriller in 2011 Bronson, with Tom Hardy, it was the first time that Jewel had worked personally with the director without a music supervisor acting as an intermediary. First brainstorming concluded Drive should emulate the sounds of the filmography of Dario Argento, who has regularly collaborated with the Italian progressive rock band Goblin on films such as Suspiria. Other influences came from Brian Eno and the 70s Tangerine Dream Krautrockers.
Jewel started off by scoring Refn’s next masterpiece, a task he calls the musical equivalent of âcross-trainingâ. In the end, his version of the score never made it into the film’s final cut. But Chromatics’ “Tick of the Clock” and Desire’s “Under Your Spell”, her synth-pop group starring singer Megan Louise and her compatriot Chromatic Nat Walker, did it (among others) – and have become synonymous with the movie.
âIt’s part of the process, it’s what they call the cutting room floor,â he said, recounting NME the movement was not a slight but a mutual change of direction. âIt’s like when you do a pop album or a photoshoot, you only use highlights or a few moments. Obviously you still want things to be heard, but knowing what is working is more important for a bigger picture of the project. This is the most important goal. “
After Jewel left the project, Cliff Martinez was hired to complete the job. The composer and former drummer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers is best known in the film world for his work on the Steven Soderbergh film. Contagion. But he has since become a mainstay of Refn, providing music for Only god forgives and The neon demon. Drive, however, was a completely different kettle.
âI had five weeks, which is unusual. Usually when they call the composer they edit the picture, âhe says. âI was working on the final cut, which was quite advanced. There was no time for the second, third, or fourth draft music. You had to go with your first impulse and it had to be right. “
Martinez based his music, which was used in the movie, on the temporary sheet music used earlier in Drive, as well as Jewel’s earlier work that Refn wanted to reflect in the film’s theatrical cut. It was gratifying, says Martinez, to work with a director who appreciated the importance of music in cinema.
âEvery time we work together it gets better because he knows my abilities and my limitations, and I know his preferences,â he says. “There is an understanding of what the other is doing and the musical personality of the other [thatâs grown] overtime.”
Even if he didn’t see Drive in nearly a decade, Martinez still remembers the sense of accomplishment he had for what they accomplished. Every scene – from the iconic, bloody elevator scene to the panoramic shots of Gosling zooming in the streets of LA – is enhanced by his vibrant and emotionally intelligent compositions.
âThe other day, I asked Nicolas if he knew the formula for making a film like Drive, remembers Martinez. “If you could do Drive II, could you repeat the success of the first one? He said to me: ‘No’. It was a miraculous coincidence that happened.
âAs a composer, I would like to recreate that kind of cinematic experience. I’ve been scratching my head for 10 years, wondering what the recipe is for creating a soundtrack as successful as the Drive soundtrack. âIf he returns to the formula, we’ll be the first to line up for tickets.