Drivers and chauffeurs tend to represent very interesting characters in the world of film largely because they embody some of the restlessness and flux that is at the very heart of the American psyche. The American love affair with the open road led to a new genre of film – the road movie – but the urban landscape in modern cinema is also characterised by life on a different kind of road.
Here I’ve decided to take a look at some of the urban drivers and chauffeurs who have made a real imprint on the American movie scene.
Travis Bickle – Taxi Driver (1976)
Perhaps the most iconic motorist in American movie history is Travis Bickle. Robert De Niro’s portrayal of the New York cabbie won him legendary status even at an early stage of his career thanks to some unforgettable scenes and lines. Bickle’s fragile mental state in the wake of the Vietnam War is exacerbated by the night time scenery he is exposed to on the road.
Argyle – Die Hard (1988)
Die Hard signalled a new dawn in the action movie genre largely because of a great script and landmark performances by Alan Rickman and Bruce Willis, but limousine chauffeur Argyle has a cameo that threatens to steal the show. He spends most of the film locked in the car park blaring out tunes, chatting up women on the car phone and chilling with a giant teddy bear, until he gets the chance to be a hero by mowing down one of Rickman’s terrorists and wrecking his limo in the process.
Max – Collateral (2004)
Collateral is another ode to the streets of the metropolis as seen by a taxi driver after hours, but this time the action takes place in L.A. Max is the unfortunate cabbie on shift when Tom Cruise comes calling, hiring his cab as transport all over the city enabling him to carry out a number of ruthless hits on people who have fallen foul of his employer. Things get hairy when it turns out Max’s lady is on the hit list.
Driver – Drive (2011)
Perhaps the most memorable performance on the road in recent times is that provided by Ryan Gosling in Drive – a highly stylised film crime in Hollywood. A stuntman by day, Gosling’s nameless driver lines his pockets providing hasty getaways for the various good for nothings in town, until he falls for Carey Mulligan who is left counting the cost of her former beau’s misgivings. Drive is also responsible for turning the driving soundtrack on its head.
Alex Patterson is a bit of a movie buff, this article looks at famous chauffeurs in film history, writing for Millennium Chauffeurs