Drive: Clinical Psychologist Profiles Ryan Gosling’s Driver character

Drive - Ryan Gosling - tooth pick

You loved Drive.

You were somewhat taken aback, however, by Driver, the hero of the piece, played by Ryan Gosling.

Not much of a talker, his acts of violence were literally breathtaking. Yet he loved his neighbours, truly and deeply.

You may have wondered: ‘What the hell was going on inside that noggin?!’ So did we. So we decided we had to know, so we asked a psychologist to draw a personality profile of the character. That’s right. A real life psychologist analyses the character of Driver.

Based on the evidence shown in Nicholas Winding Refn’s Drive, this is bona-fide psychological profile of Ryan Gosling’s character. Below you’ll find a summary followed by a full-scale psychological breakdown of the five major facets of Driver’s personality.

Our psychologist is a trained professional and does not want to be identified as authoring this profile. We understand and respect that, so we won’t reveal his/her identity. Think of the psychologist as mildly pixelated, with a deep, murky voice. Or as one of those mirror-facing dentists in the Oral B ads.

This clinical investigation of a complicated character reveals some particularly chilling insights. We’ll ask director Nicolas Winding Refn to send us his thoughts—if he has the time or inclination while shooting Only God Forgives—and compare and contrast.

In the meantime, enjoy!


Here’s what our psychologist had to say:

‘It’s a toughie. There are strong elements of Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder. But I would also be looking a differential diagnosis of Asperger’s or somewhere on the high functioning autism spectrum.

‘If pressed, I would go with the former. OCPD (which is NOT the same as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). Maybe throw in some social phobia…

‘The narrative I have of him is:

‘Country boy, rural farming area—no kids close by, long walk or bike to school—bus maybe (on which he sat alone).
‘Farm provided interest in mechanical devices from a young age. Critical father, nurturing but somewhat weak mother.
‘Developed insular behaviours around the aesthetics of machinery, function, performance—including that of his own body.
‘Repetitive and rehearsed behaviours: driving when he could do so on the farm. The few things he was good at he repeated ad infinitum.
‘Long evenings and non-school days of solo practice.


‘Highly intelligent, but introverted. Bullied at school until he got taller and stronger than the others and took some quick, carefully calculated revenge that scared people into leaving him alone.

‘Probably left town at age 17 or 18 when he nearly crippled his father in a fight. His mother cried but never asked him not to go.
‘He has minimally variable emotional states and so he has no empathy and struggles to understand the experience of others.
‘He understands weak and strong—cat and mouse.

‘While he doesn’t necessarily understand the motivations of the people, the game is laid out openly for him most of the time—he can see the chess moves in advance, but mechanically and superficially, not deeply and not based on motivations.

‘A lot of the silence in the film comes when he is internally struggling to process emotional or stressful information; it’s like ‘this should be affecting me but it isn’t’. He reverts to what he knows—repetitive, perfectionist behaviours, to deal with it.

‘Morality and conscience is entirely internally coherent and logical but also arbitrary and inflexible as revealed in:

“I just drive”
“One second after the 5 minutes…”

‘A finely tuned sense of justice is internally consistent but externally arbitrary: “It’s okay to break the law if you’re doing it for the right reasons”.
His journey from isolated, careful perfectionist to deliberately assuming the role of hero and casting off his familiar life was not done easily nor with deep reflection. It was a continuation of the rigid “it has to be this way, the die is cast” mentality.’

Tribute to Drive from Tom Haugomat & Bruno Mangyoku on Vimeo.


Big Five Personality Factors: a very very unusual profile.

He would fit the bill of assassin, mercenary, or financial markets trader…

Neuroticism – Very low
Extroversion – Very Low (Introverted)
Openness – Low
Agreeableness – Very Low
Conscientiousness – Very High

One Comment

  1. Bob on

    I once knew a person I will only name as “Mica-Cha”, she was smart, cunning, strong, silent and reminded me a lot like the driver character. Though much shorter and stockier, like a line men for the Dallas Cowboys. I never spoke to her much, but she was brilliant when it came to cars, driving and shockingly so.. violent. This movie reminds me of her so much. There’s something inside her, it’s hard to explain.

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