“There are 100,000 streets in this city …” begins Ryan Gosling’s getaway-car driver in his new L.A. noir, “Drive,” and over the course of the film, he explores a good number of them.
But forget Sunset Boulevard, Rodeo Drive and Mulholland — “Drive” isn’t going there. Starting near MacArthur Park and ending on Sherman Way in the San Fernando Valley — and cruising in-between through colorful locations downtown and along the concrete banks of the L.A. River — “Drive” finds beauty in unlikely places. Gosling’s character may live on the fringe of glamour (he’s a part-time stunt driver for the movies) but his reality is the gritty side of the city, with its greasy garages, seedy strip malls and grimy grocery stores. The film does feature the Pacific Ocean, but mainly as an accessory to a crime.
Multimedia: L.A. through the eyes of "Drive" director Nicolas Winding Refn
It’s no accident that the movie shows an L.A. that’s well off the tourist map. Gosling, whose drives around the city with director Nicolas Winding Refn helped inspire the story, used to live at 4th and Main streets downtown. He said he “fell in love” with the neighborhood and hasn't “seen it represented properly in films before.”
The city depicted in “Drive” is one that some viewers will find completely alien; others will regard it as hauntingly familiar. Whether you’re in the former group (and wondering just where this strange L.A. is), or the latter (and have gotten an odd twinge of recognition at seeing your local pizzeria pop up on the silver screen), here’s a look at some of the key locations:
View 'Drive' map in a larger map
Real place: corner of W. 6th Street and S. Park View Street, Los Angeles
Driver (Gosling) and Irene (Carey Mulligan) live at the Park Plaza apartments on S. Park View Street, across from the park. She’s in #408, he’s in #405. Driver’s window affords him a view stretching from the Westlake Theatre east to downtown. No hipsters and gentrifiers here—it’s the park where Driver later meets Irene’s husband, a thug and a female accomplice (Christina Hendricks) in one of the movie’s many menacing moments.
Echo Park market
Real place: Big 6 Market, 500 block of S. Rampart Boulevard, Los Angeles
Driver’s trip to the grocery turns serendipitous when he spots Irene and her son Benicio shopping in the cereal aisle. In the parking lot, her car breaks down, and Driver offers them a ride home. It pays, apparently, to shop local.
Real place: Picture Car Warehouse, 8400 block of Reseda Boulevard, Northridge
When he’s not doing stunts for the movies, Driver is often under the hood at a garage owned by the weathered Shannon (Bryan Cranston). When Irene has her car towed to the garage, Shannon urges Driver to give Irene and Benicio a lift back to the apartment, as a tentative hint of romance begins to bloom.
Real place: L.A. River near Reseda and Victory boulevards, Reseda
On the way home from the garage to MacArthur Park, Driver, Irene and Benicio take a detour, driving along the concrete banks of the river, and finding a little oasis of sorts. Gosling, it turns out, had his own idyllic moment here. “Nic wanted something different and romantic for [Driver and Irene] to do. I’d heard that you can actually drive up the L.A. River,” Gosling recalled. “So we tried it, and it worked—until we got to this one spot where out of nowhere there was this patch of shrubs and trees and you couldn’t go any further. There was no reason for it to be there. It was kind of magical.”
Real place: Vincenzo’s Pizza, 11000 block of Balboa Boulevard, Granada Hills
When we first see it, Shannon comes to Nino’s Pizzeria to ask Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks) for $430,000 so Driver can have a race car. The restaurant is more an office for the menacing Nino (Ron Perlman) than a real eatery (they snack on Chinese food, not pizza). It’s also the site of one of the movie’s most graphic scenes. Let’s just say that local restaurateurs might want to stock plastic forks from now on.
Real Place: Santa Clarita Elks Lodge, 17700 block of Sierra Highway, Santa Clarita
Driver idles in the parking lot as he waits for a criminal to finish a robbery. (He’s lending a hand to help Irene’s husband get out of trouble.) But Driver’s good intentions go all wrong in a matter of minutes.
Point Mugu State Park and beaches
When things go bad at the pawn shop, a car chase ensues near Malibu and Driver is set on a collision course with Bernie and Nino. Later, on a deserted, foggy crag, Driver and Nino have a late-night run-in that ends in the surf. A car is the weapon and the Pacific Ocean, so often in cinema a symbol of peaceful respite or lofty dreams, becomes something far more sinister.
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Top photo: Ryan Gosling in "Drive."
Middle photo: A "Drive" scene filmed in MacArthur Park.
Bottom photo: Ryan Gosling in "Drive."
Photographs by Richard Foreman Jr. / FilmDistrict