Writing an Action Scene
By Tim Grierson
The following is a short excerpt from FilmCraft: Screenwriting by Tim Grierson© 2013 Taylor and Francis Group. All Rights Reserved.
One of Drive’s signature set pieces is its opening action sequence, an almost real-time heist that introduces the audience to the Driver’s (Ryan Gosling) skill as a getaway man. “It was the one sequence that probably changed the least,” says Hossein Amini (the screenwriter of Drive). “It was there from the first draft, right to the finished thing. We had such specific research going into it. I spoke to the headof security at Universal, and he told me, ‘There’s no way you can get away from a helicopter in Los Angeles.’
And I said, ‘What if the Driver goes under a roof?’ So, we devised the whole thing around that idea.” Amini’s scripted sequence contained almost no dialogue (02–03). “That was one of the first really big action sequences that I’d ever written,” he recalls. As far as how the sequence played out on fi lm in comparison to his script, Amini says, “It’s maybe slightly longer on the page, but all the beats are there. But what made it special in the movie was Cliff Martinez’s music and the angles that director Nicolas Winding Refn was shooting inside the car on Ryan’s face. That’s what a great director will do: the same sequence could have been shot by another director, written exactly as it was, and it wouldn’t have worked nearly as well.”