James Sallis

By
Oliver Lunn

Remember that Ryan Gosling film with Carey Mulligan that came out last year? You know, the one where he cruises around the streets of LA, sports some classy driving gloves and chews a toothpick. Yes, we’re talking about Drive. As it happens, we caught up with writer James Sallis to chat about his new book, Driven, which as you might’ve guessed, is a sequel to Drive. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait too long for the film.

GFW: What was your first reaction when you saw Drive?
James Sallis: I knew it was different. My wife and I went to the premiere, which was the first time I saw it; I was absolutely riveted through the entire thing. When we left we didn’t say anything, we couldn’t say anything. And then for the next three weeks we talked almost continually... One hates to use clichés like ‘instant classic’ but that’s very much the way I felt.

How much of yourself is in the Ryan Gosling character? Anything?
I think fragments certainly appear. There are certain things in the back-story that I took from my life and changed and put in there. I envisioned Driver from the first as an icon. He’s the great American cowboy. So I had a fairly clear idea of who he was internally. But he’s quite unlike me. I can’t drive well at all; I’m certainly not heroic. I am a romantic but aside from that...

The soundtrack plays I big part in the film. Did you have any music in mind when you wrote the book?
No, I didn’t. I had no idea what they were going to do. It’s not my kind of music but it works beautifully with the film and that’s what matters.

Is your writing influenced by cinema?
Tremendously. It’s mostly European films and bad science fiction films from the ‘50s. That’s what I grew up on… I think a lot of the way I write was actually sort of appropriated from foreign films, especially French films; I love Francois Truffaut. I also grew up immersed in [Ingmar] Bergman’s films. It was whatever was around, which wasn’t an awful lot.

Had you always planned on writing Driven, the sequel? How did that idea come about?
No, I didn’t. I never dreamed I would but the studio asked; they called my agent and said, “Do you think Jim would ever…” I first said no, and I hung up and went to write the first page. By the time I got to the computer I pretty much knew what I was doing. I didn’t know where the story would go but I had the title. I just went in and typed ‘Driven’.

Can you tell us a bit about the story?
It’s seven years later. He [Driver] has created a life for himself, a normal life. He buys, restores, rents old cars... it’s a thriving business. On the first page, he and his fiancée are walking down the street and they’re attacked, and Driver assumes that they’re after him but that turns out not to be quite the case. They manage to kill the fiancée; then he goes back to what he knows best. He actually tries not to go after people but they keep coming after him.

A film called Driven was made in 2000 with Sylvester Stallone. Were you aware of that film?
No. I was aware of The Driver [1978] but I didn’t know my hero, Sylvester Stallone, was… and it was called Driven? I’ll have to look that up.

If you could choose any filmmaker to direct Driven, who would it be?
Oh I would love Nic [Refn] to do it again. We talked at the LA premiere and at that time he was very eager for a second one. Of course now everyone in the world wants him to make their films. Whether it will happen, who knows?

Other than Ryan Gosling, can you see anyone else in that role?
It’s really hard to see anyone else in that role because Ryan created such a strong character. I suppose I could accept someone else doing it but it would be hard for all of us I think.

‘Driven’ is available to buy now. Released through No Exit Press.

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