Mike Fleming

This is a seminal year for Albert Brooks. After completing an ambitious science fiction novel 2030: The Real Story of What Happens To America and setting it to be published next May by St. Martin’s Press, Brooks has signed on for his first screen turn as a truly dangerous badass.

Brooks has joined the cast of Drive, the Nicolas Winding Refn-directed adaptation of the James Sallis novel that stars Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan and Bryan Cranston. Gosling plays a stunt driver who moonlights as a getaway driver and gets in over his head. Brooks will play Bernie Rose, a transplanted New York mobster who comes to L.A. and is not to be messed with. Now, Brooks played on the wrong side of the law in Out of Sight, but let’s face it, he was a wimp. Had Bernie Rose been the screenwriter issued a “walk on” pass to meet Steven Spielberg in The Muse? Had Julie Hagerty gambled away Bernie Rose’s nest egg in Lost in America? Fuggedaboutit.

Brooks, who last directed 2005’s Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World, will jump into the Drive role after spending the better part of two years working on his debut novel. It takes a serious look at what might be happening 20 years in the future, when cancer has been eradicated and life expectancies have been pushed up to 110, making 70 the new middle age. That creates overpopulation and a simmering resentment among 20somethings who aren’t getting the career opportunities they once did because the older crowd won’t get out of the way. Throw in a cataclysmic natural disaster, and the complications of reaching out to the global community for help, and Brooks has created a storyline much different from any of his movie scripts. The film crowd began calling Brooks’ WME reps and manager Herb Nanas when the galleys made the publishing rounds. But Brooks has to first decide the best course for the book—he might write but not direct—before the novel is auctioned.

Drive’s being financed by Odd Lot Entertainment and Bold Films, and the picture goes into production this fall.