Returning to his roots as a writer five years ago, SYLVESTER STALLONE was full of questions about the type of men it took to control a 900-horsepower car at speeds well over 200 miles per hour. At the core of his new film “Driven” is STALLONE‘s fascination with “the men behind the visor,” the only professional athletes who risk their lives each time they practice or compete.
“For years I watched guys in helmets go around and I never knew who they were,” STALLONE said. “I wanted to understand who was living inside the helmet. What’s that man’s life like? What are his fears? How does he find the ability to maintain such extraordinary focus?”
Produced by Franchise Pictures, “Driven” is currently in post-production and will be released on April 27, 2001 by Warner Bros. Pictures. Using the latest moving-camera techniques and computer graphics technologies, director RENNY HARLIN is bringing to life a meticulously researched script that became a labor of love and an obsession for STALLONE.
Early in the research process, STALLONE narrowed his focus to open-wheel racing, attracted by the extremely high speeds and the danger inherent in an open cockpit. Over the next few years, STALLONE attended dozens of Formula One and CART races around the world. In the process, he spent time with drivers and mechanics, team owners and journalists, asking questions and listening to their personal stories.
STALLONE soon identified an intriguing paradox at the core of motor racing: driving requires enormous personal courage and passion, but a racer has few opportunities to display these emotions during competition. Although he and his car are constantly communicating with the pit crew, each driver works alone in a delicate balancing act of risk and reward. Strapped into a tiny, confining cockpit, hands and feet occupied at all times without a break in the action, the athlete is further isolated from his fans by a full-face helmet. The visceral power and storytelling range of cinema seemed a perfect medium to unmask the driver and reveal his personal experience.
In search of a central character, STALLONE created Joe Tanto, a retired race car driver who is called back to racing to help develop a talented, but unfocused young rookie [KIP PARDUE]. For Tanto, getting back on track means navigating a troubled emotional past and once again confronting the racer’s delicate balancing act between the desire to win and the need to survive.
“These guys have many of the same fears and daily concerns or problems we all have,” STALLONE said. “But they have to develop what we call in the film, the ‘quiet spot,’ this extraordinary focus and channeling of energy to do their jobs. A driver is right on the ragged edge between heaven and hell, life and death. He’s the master of his destiny and that’s a rare, powerful place to be.”
Reflecting the multicultural mix of the real-life racing community, “Driven” stars an international cast of familiar faces and newcomers. The players range from BURT REYNOLDS, whose “Smoky and the Bandit” films featured some of the most unforgettable chase scenes of all time, to CHRISTIAN de la FUENTE [Family Law], who started his career as a pilot in the Chilean Air Force. GINA GERSHON plays FUENTE‘s wife, and German actor/director TIL SCHWEIGER plays the world-champion driver Beau Brandenburg. Making her feature film debut, Canadian supermodel ESTELLA WARREN lights up the screen as Brandenburg‘s girlfriend.
Shot on location in and around the actual 2000 CART racing series, “Driven” will offer race fans with a unique opportunity to transcend the visual limitations of televised motorsports, revealing the driver’s full experience of speed. While the wide lenses and high angles of television used tend to flatten and slow down action for the viewer, HARLIN‘s use of advanced technology moving cameras, multiple angles, visual effects and computer graphic imaging promises a spectacular depiction of velocity.
“We’ve never seen what the driver sees at such high speeds,” said STALLONE. “We want to give the audience the terrifying, thrilling experience of what it’s like to be sitting on top of all that horsepower, to get inside the mind of the driver, to see what he sees and feel what he feels.” To accomplish this ambitions goal, STALLONE and HARLIN dove into the traveling carnival of open-wheel racing and created a new way of planning and making an action film.
Part 2 of this series will explore a complex and unusual shooting process that took place during carefully-scheduled breaks in the actual race action at tracks on four continents. “Driven” stars SYLVESTER STALLONE, BURT REYNOLDS, KIP PARDUE, TIL SCHWEIGER, GINA GERSHON, ESTELLA WARREN, and CHRISTINA de la FUENTE. Directed by RENNY HARLIN and written by STALLONE, the film reunites the two following their highly successful collaboration on “Cliffhanger.” “Driven” is produced by Franchise Pictures‘ ELIE SAMAHA, STALLONE and HARLIN. ANDREW STEVENS, DON CARMODY and KEVIN KING are the executive producers. It will be released by Warner Bros. Pictures, an AOL Time Warner Company
From a “Driven” Street Team press release – Craig Zablo [February 20, 2001]