Movieline's Interactive Drive Map: Explore Los Angeles With Director Nicolas Winding Refn

Few films in recent memory traverse the urban terrain of Los Angeles as memorably as Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive, the stylish, sublime (and yes, ultra-violent) September 16 "fairytale" starring Ryan Gosling as a soft-spoken stunt man who gets mixed up with vicious gangsters in the city of angels. Using practical locations from downtown to the Valley, Refn paints a portrait of L.A. seldom seen in even the best L.A. stories -- and with nary a glimpse of glitzy Hollywood in sight. Dive into Movieline's interactive Drive map and explore the landscape of Refn's Los Angeles, in the director's own words.

"One of the reasons why I wanted to do the film was because I wanted to live the life of a European filmmaker in Los Angeles, coming to a city that I didn't know, that I only knew from cinema and mythology," Refn recalled to Movieline. "So that was the idea -- to create a movie about traveling into something I didn't know."

Refn rejected the glamorous side of L.A. in favor of a more realistic L.A. -- downtown, Echo Park, Reseda, and beyond. Gosling's quiet stunt driver, known only as Driver, similarly represents the practical side of the Hollywood fantasy machine. "I found the real and practical [Los Angeles] much more beautiful," Refn explained. "I don't like Sunset, that's my least favorite place in L.A.; it's like shooting Times Square in New York, it doesn't do anything for me. I'm much more interested in what L.A. is in reality, and I would always go to things that I thought looked more interesting."

To find locations that fit the film, adapted by Hossein Amini from James Sallis's novel of the same name, Refn, who doesn't have a license himself, drove around Los Angeles with Gosling behind the wheel searching for places that felt right. "I'm very much a fetish filmmaker in the sense that I just shoot what I would like to see," said Refn. "Not always understanding it, but just instinctively knowing that it would be interesting to make it like this. So what would happen is that I had Ryan [Gosling] drive me around a lot at night, showing me where the book would take place. Whenever I felt it was right, the moment between us, that's when I would go back and recreate that emotion. So it was very much like living the character as we were going through the process."

Citing Kenneth Anger's Scorpio Rising as his primary visual influence on Drive (and Pretty Woman as its fairytale-esque predecessor -- "It's a similar story where you take a very dark theme, morbid territory, and you blend it into a Cinderella structure"), Refn placed Drive as the capper to a feature film trilogy begun with his 2008 Tom Hardy starrer Bronson. "It's the end of the trilogy," he explained. "It starts with Bronson, goes into Valhalla Rising, and ends with Drive. It's all about transformation. With Bronson a man transforms in his own fantasy. In Valhalla Rising a man transforms himself through man's evolution. And in Drive, a man transforms himself from human being to hero."

Click map below for more information on each Drive location. (WARNING: Some spoilers follow.)

  • MacArthur Park
    Address: 2230 West 6th Street, Los Angeles CA 90057
    Refn: "Because I didn't have a lot of money to shoot the movie with I decided to come up with these three hubs, where I would shoot the film: One was in Echo Park, one was in the Valley, and one was in downtown L.A. That's how when you do these low budget movies, you always have to think economically. So I decided that those were the places where I would find the locations within."  ↑ 

    MacArthur Park

    Driver meets Cook and Blanche in MacArthur Park. Read more

  • Break-in at the electronic store
    Address: 1710 S. Naomi Ave., Los Angeles CA 90021
    Refn: "That is a huge electronic store. Everything down there is real. That was all authentic. [Did Refn film on the exact streets and intersections mentioned in the film?] Something similar to that, but at the same time I think we used the same three streets over and over again. It's all an illusion!"  ↑ 

    Break-in at the electronic store

    Driver demonstrates his skills in the opening sequence, evading police through the streets of downtown Los Angeles. Read more

  • Driver and Irene's apartment building
    Address: The Park Plaza, 607 S. Park View St., Los Angeles CA 90057
    Refn: "Driver's apartment and Irene's apartment were built in a gutted building that was an old hotel, which was going to be turned into condos. It's frequently used for movies. It was right across from the park, there's a view behind it. That's why I chose it. Then we built his apartment, and her apartment, and the hallway there. [We were able to shoot there] by creating our own environment, because it was completely gutted."  ↑ 

    Driver and Irene's apartment building

    Driver falls for his neighbor Irene, who lives next door in a building overlooking MacArthur Park. Read more

  • Corner market in Echo Park
    Address: Big 6 Market, 550 S. Rampart Boulevard, Los Angeles CA 90057
    Refn: "That's in Echo Park. It's like two or three blocks away from [Driver's apartment]."  ↑ 

    Corner market in Echo Park

    Driver and Irene meet cute at the corner market near their apartment building. Read more

  • Nino's pizzeria
    Address: Vincenzo's Pizza, 11045 Balboa Blvd, Granada Hills CA 91344
    Refn: "That was shot in the valley, and it was difficult to find because I wanted a real 'New York' kind of pizza shop, where you walk in from the street to get a slice. But also a place that basically looks like a front for something else. Most of the places in L.A. were more like restaurant-oriented, where being a New Yorker you're used to just walking in and getting a slice. I wanted that feel more, because Nino (Ron Perlman) is, you know, a Jewish man who wants to be an Italian gangster. That's why Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks) calls him Izzie; that's his real name. It was 100 percent [practical]. I like to find practical locations because it helps the actors a lot, to recreate everything."  ↑ 

    Nino's pizzeria

    Gangsters Nino (Ron Perlman) and Bernie (Albert Brooks) do business at Nino's pizza shop. Read more

  • Shannon's garage
    Address: Picture Car Warehouse, 8400 Reseda Blvd, Northridge, CA 91324
    Refn: "That was also in the valley, and that was the first location I ever chose. It really came by chance; I was out there looking at some of the picture cars that we could use in the movie, and I just loved the location. I said, 'This is where we're shooting the mechanic's! This is going to be Shannon's place.' And there was just one rule to the production team: Do not move a single thing. It was completely, leave it as it is. The only thing I did was I had the production designer paint the wall blue instead of green, because it stood out more in contrast. I'm color-blind, so everything has to be very contrasted for me to see."  ↑ 

    Shannon's garage

    Driver works by day as a mechanic for his friend Shannon (Bryan Cranston) at a car shop "on Reseda." Read more

  • The L.A. River
    Address: The L.A. River, from Reseda Blvd. to the Sepulveda Catch Basin
    Refn: "I was trying to figure out what kind of places [Driver] would take Irene and Benicio, and Ryan told me that the L.A. River was an interesting arena. So we went there, and then he told me about the oasis of green. I found one, and it was perfect. [How did Gosling know to take Refn to just the right spot?] He knows L.A. extremely well."  ↑ 

    The L.A. River

    Driver takes Irene and her son Benicio on a drive along the L.A. River. Read more

  • The pawn shop in the Valley
    Address: Santa Clarita Elks Lodge, 17766 Sierra Highway, Santa Clarita CA 91351
    Refn: "That was location, again. I had to shoot in the valley area because my hub was there. Also, we had to do some stunt driving there. So I had to be on the outskirts of the city, and I wanted that kind of hillside, blue sky, almost a Western feel to it. Not an urban environment. That was, I think, some kind of lodge. We added a sign."  ↑ 

    The pawn shop in the Valley

    Driver helps Standard (Oscar Isaac) carry out one last job. Read more

  • Racetrack
    Address: Saugus Speedway, 22500 Soledad Canyon Road, Santa Clarita CA 91350
    Refn: "It's out in the valley, where he meets Bernie. It was an abandoned go-kart and race car kind of area, which was gutted. It was going to be shut down or something. [Shut down locations], they're so easy to shoot in! [Laughs] When you don't have a lot of money, you try to make it very easy for yourself."  ↑ 


    Shannon introduces Driver to Bernie after Driver takes their prospective race car for a spin. Read more

  • The motel
    Address: Pink Motel, 9457 San Fernando Road, Sun Valley CA 91352
    Refn: "The motel was hard, because so much action goes on. It was called the Pink Motel, which has been used in a lot of movies. But I really liked the motel rooms, so I decided not to do any exterior shots so nobody could know where we were actually shooting. It's a very classic old hotel, it looks like something from the '50s or '60s. The day we shot there, which was the first time we shot anything, was the hottest day in L.A., so it was pretty unbearable. I was told afterwards [that the Valley is hot], nobody told me about it!"  ↑ 

    The motel

    Driver and Blanche (Christina Hendricks) lay low after the pawn shop job goes south. Read more

  • The elevator
    Address: L.A. Center Studios, 1201 W. 5th Street, Los Angeles CA 90017
    Refn: "The elevator sequence, of course, shot in the L.A. City Center Studios. That's where the production was at. It's also the same place where they shoot Mad Men. We shot in the basement. And actually, that scene in the elevator was a scene I came up with like a week before we started principal photography, so it tied in very late to the game. It was because I was struggling to figure out which scene was going to be the heart of the movie, and I couldn't find one until I came up with that. [What scene would have taken its place otherwise?] Nothing. The original idea was something more conventional, like a shoot-out in the parking lot. But I just couldn't get it to work, so I was very irritated and frustrated. I also wanted them to kiss, so the idea of putting it all in an elevator and then smashing his head in was much purer because it's basically the whole movie in one little movie."  ↑ 

    The elevator

    Driver and Irene share an elevator ride with a mysterious stranger. Read more

  • "China Belle" restaurant
    Address: The Great Wall, 18331 Sherman Way, Reseda CA 91335
    Refn: "In the Valley. I wanted a New York-style Chinese restaurant, which is hard to find in L.A., especially in that area. But I was lucky. I liked the whole red velvet walls, the authentic Chinese artifacts. Once I saw it I was like, 'This is it -- we're shooting here.' It was completely functional. We had lunch there; it was very greasy, so you knew you were in China. [Laughs]"  ↑ 

    "China Belle" restaurant

    Driver meets Bernie at the China Belle restaurant. Read more

  • Also see:

  • L.A. Convention Center
    Address: Pico & Cherry St., Los Angeles  ↑ 

    L.A. Convention Center

    Driver makes his way to the Staples Center to lose the cops. Read more

  • Bernie's apartment
    Address: The Talmadge, 3278 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles CA 90010 ↑ 

    Bernie's apartment

    The home of producer-turned-gangster Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks). Read more

  • Pacific Coast Highway
    Address: Point Mugu State Park & Beaches  ↑ 

    Pacific Coast Highway

    Driver engages an enemy on the beach by moonlight. Read more

[Special thanks to Nicolas Winding Refn and Jeffrey Stott.]

To read more on Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive, click here.