Cast & Crew
Ohio University basketball star Hector Bloom is leading his team to another victory when his roommate Gabriel stages a mock raid in the arena with his guerrilla-styled revolutionary friends. As Gabriel and the others are taken into custody, Hector proclaims it a successful "happening," but is reluctant to join Gabriel's political efforts. Instead, Hector spends his free hours making love to Olive Calvin, wife of college professor Richard. Days after his release, Gabriel is scheduled to appear at an army medical evaluation for induction into the military and attempts to disqualify himself by doing drugs and going days without sleep before the exam. Convinced that he is living in a "diseased culture," Gabriel chastises Hector for playing basketball, stating that it is "just staying after school in your underwear," and insists that the older Olive is distracting him from real political change. When Hector plays poorly at practice later, Coach Bullion orders him to run laps as punishment, prompting Hector to walk out of practice. Hours later, Olive asks Hector to be monogamous, but he snidely reminds her that she is still sleeping with her husband, who knows about their affair. When Hector then proclaims his love for her, Olive is indifferent to him. After an out-of-town game, Bullion visits Hector and his teammate, Easly Jefferson, at their hotel room to encourage them to put more effort into the game, but finds that the men are getting high with three young women and Gabriel, who is trying to convince them to join his revolutionary cause. After several outbursts of crazy antics during his military medical evaluation later, Gabriel physically attacks the attending psychiatrist and yells that he and all those soldiers conducting the exams should be condemned for assisting the government in sending men to war. Soon after, Hector watches as an increasingly paranoid Gabriel packs his belongings and leaves the apartment, claiming that the military are following him. Hector then meets with the owner of a professional basketball team to negotiate a player's contract. Wary of any "draft," even an athletic one and still struggling with whether to continue playing, Hector makes the absurd condition that the team provide better hot dogs at half the price for the audience. At the next game, Hector is thrown out for fighting on the court, prompting Bullion to publicly ridicule him. Later at the Calvin house, Hector attempts to seek solace and sex with a reluctant Olive, but Richard returns home. Having seen the game and Hector's outburst, Richard advises him to continue playing; however, Olive, weary of both men, advises Hector to quit complaining and blatantly states that Richard is only envious of Hector's youth. Days later at his girl friend Sylvie's apartment, Gabriel deliriously rants about being sterilized by the government and then smashes everything in sight, terrifying Sylvie. Meanwhile, Hector returns to the team after having missed several practices, and Bullion insists the players must vote whether he can return. Furious that he is not immediately accepted, Hector storms out, but Easly chases after him, trying to soothe his fragile ego. Caught between his athletic ambitions and his desire to make some revolutionary change, Hector declines from making any choice. Accidentally meeting Olive in the grocery store, Hector learns that she is pregnant. When Olive refuses to name the father of the child and states that she will remain with Richard, an infuriated Hector announces he has gonorrhea. While Gabriel sleeps outside in cold weather to avoid the demons he imagines are chasing him, Hector rejoins the team with Easly's encouragement. During a televised interview before the next game, Easly tells the audience that far from being inspired by "old-fashioned glory," he plays the game for the money. Meanwhile, Gabriel, having focused his anger on Olive, breaks into her home wearing a stocking mask and attempts to rape her at knife point. Fearing for her life, Olive tries to placate Gabriel and win some time by telling him that he is "right" to be angry at her, then manages to flee the house when he loosens his grip. Richard and Hector arrive just as Olive runs from the house and they watch as Gabriel rants that Olive is using sex to coerce Hector. After Hector flees, both men attempt to comfort Olive and offer to take her with them, but she rejects them both, saying that she is her "own person." The next day, Gabriel, having gone completely mad, runs nude into the college's biology lab and sets loose all the lab animals. As mental health workers escort him to a paddy wagon headed for a mental ward, Hector runs after his friend shouting, "Your mother called."
B. J. Merholz
I. J. Jefferson
H. J. Langtree
Lynn Marie Stewart
John Stafford Smith
Robert L. Wolfe
Because many of the credits on the viewed print were not completely discernable, the credits above do not necessarily reflect onscreen credits. The film was based on the Jeremy Larner novel Drive, He Said, which takes its title from the quote "drive he sd, for/christ's sake, look/out where yr going," excerpted from Robert Creeley's poem "I Know a Man" and paraphrased by the character "Gabriel" in the film.
According to a biography of producer-director Jack Nicholson, in 1967, casting director Fred Roos had read Larner's novel and approached Nicholson, who agreed to the write the script and possibly direct the film. Nicholson also entertained ideas of playing Gabriel, a revolutionary who expressed some of his own resentment about the American political system and culture. When California-based BBS Productions, having garnered success with the popular counter-culture film 1970 Five Easy Pieces (see below), starring Nicholson, offered to let him direct the film of his choice, he chose Drive, He Said. Although Nicholson was an uncredited co-director of the 1963 film The Terror (see below), Drive, He Said marked his first solo directorial debut. He went on to direct only two other films, Goin' South (1978) and The Two Jakes (1990).
Following his choice of Larner's novel, Nicholson then cast many of his longtime friends, including I. J. Jefferson, screenwriter Robert Towne, Harry Gittes, Lynn Bernay and Bruce Dern. Producer Bert Schneider hired Roos as an associate producer for the film. A June 20, 1971 New York Times article stated that Larner and Nicholson significantly altered the plot of the novel for the script. According to his biography, Nicholson did not co-write the script with Larner, but only made script revisions.
Although Drive, He Said was shot primarily in Los Angeles, CA, a modern source speculates that some location shooting took place in Eugene OR. The film marked the first onscreen appearance of actor David Stiers, who previously had been an offscreen voice in THX1138 (see below) and the film debut of star William Tepper. The film also marked the first screen appearance of basketball star Mike Warren, who was also featured in the 1971 film Black Chariot, which was released after Drive, He Said.
According to a May 13, 1971 Los Angeles Times article, Drive, He Said was originally given an X rating. Columbia Pictures, which had not received an X rating yet for any of its productions, protested the decision. On May 26, 1971, Variety reported that the MPAA then assigned the picture an R rating, requesting no scene deletions, noting that, although the film contained explicit sex scenes, they were neither "titillating nor prurient."
Shortly after the film's release, Drive, He Said was pulled from circulation. Several reviews claimed that the film was incoherent and insulting to social protest, which the film portrayed through the increasingly paranoid and unstable Gabriel. Many reviewers, however, praised Nicholson, an avid basketball fan, for the film's many basketball sequences. The Nicholson biography claimed that the critical reviews and the film's poor reception during its May 1971 premiere at the Cannes Film Festival caused Nicholson to withdraw the film from distribution, although it did open in many cities in the U.S. in June 1971.
A June 16, 1971 Hollywood Reporter article stated that WGA West, Inc. filed suit for an injunction and $10,000 in damages against Drive Productions, Inc. and Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc., alleging that advertising for the film did not contain proper screen authorship credits. The outcome of this suit is undetermined.
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1971
Released in United States 1996
Feature directorial debut for Jack Nicholson.
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1971
Released in United States 1996 (Shown in New York City (Film Forum) as part of program "Out of the Seventies: Hollywood's New Wave 1969-1975" May 31 - July 25, 1996.)