In a Q&A session with Director Nicholas Winding Refn on the Drive DVD, he explains that the film rights were originally obtained by Universal Studios years ago, the script was apparently a $60 million film reminiscent of the high octane Fast and Furious franchise with Hugh Jackman said to be in the crosshairs for a starring role. The script however was rejected by all the studios and was left lying in a Universal Studios vault somewhere..that is until Nicholas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling found it. They tore the script apart and put it back together with a different sens ability and a significantly lower budget as studios also passed on this script.
As much as we love the Fast and Furious films it would appear Refn definitely made a good call on taking a different approach to the film, which could have otherwise turned out as a disaster. To adapt Drive in this mainstream mentality way would have crushed the story and we would have no doubt been left with strings of one liners and constant CGI explosions/car crashes filling in for the noir vibed silences and tense getaway sequences that Drive features.
Refn has also explained how he has deliberatly changed a few things from the book by James Sallis, usually a bad idea to do that with adaptations, but in this case I think it has worked brilliantly. This is one of the precious few films that are actually preferable to the book, because of the mystery that has been incorporated by cutting out Driver’s (Ryan Gosling) background, which resulted in a brilliant Crime fiction that resonated with 80’s style electronica (thanks to Kavinsky who Refn stuck to his guns with, even as the studio started requesting a more ‘radio friendly’ soundtrack).