Clive Owen in BMW Films' The Escape (The Hire) directed by Neill Blomkamp

Before The Knick or Children of Men or Inside Man or even The Bourne Identity, Clive Owen was best known to U.S. audiences as The Driver, the nameless and unflappably cool hero of BMW’s short film series The Hire. The projects yielded eight installments in total, released from 2001 to 2002, and attracted a variety of high-profile filmmakers from Ang Lee to Alejandro González Iñárritu.

Now, fifteen years later, the Driver is getting ready to get back on the road. Owen has teamed up with director Neill Blomkamp for another BMW short film, The Escape. This one co-stars Dakota Fanning, Vera Farmiga, and Jon Bernthal, and looks positively jam-packed with big, shiny action. Check out a teaser — and revisit some of our favorite episodes from the past — below the jump. 

Blomkamp gushed about the BMW films to The Hollywood Reporter:

When I was in film school, these films were really groundbreaking. They seemed like the perfect halfway point between commercials and features. I actually emailed the production company as a 20-year-old and was like, ‘I’d really like to make one of these.’ They wrote back, ‘Never contact us again.’ And here I am [laughs].

To help bring his own BMW short film to life, Blomkamp used drones and disposable cameras. BMW apparently spared no expense, as Blomkamp teases, “On a cost-per-minute basis, it was pretty close to major feature-film territory.”

Shooting on The Escape took place over the summer and visual effects were completed this week. The 11-minute short film will finally debut October 23 at 6 PM ET on BMWFilms.com. Returning with Owen are creative director Bruce Bildsten and executive producers Brian DiLorenzo and David Carter (the latter of whom co-wrote The Escape film with Blomkamp). Anonymous Content is producing again.

The Hire films did a lot to establish Owen as the epitome of British badassery in the 2000s, which in turn made him a fan favorite to replace Pierce Brosnan as James Bond. (Not that it did any good — as we all know, the job eventually went to Daniel Craig.) They also helped usher in a new era of branded content. Years before YouTube was even invented, The Hire was garnering international hype for its A-list directorial team and slick, expensive style.

The eight original episodes were directed by John Frankenheimer, Ang Lee, Wong Kar-wai, Guy Ritchie, Alejandro González Iñárritu, John Woo, Joe Carnahan, and Tony Scott, and featured actors like Gary Oldman, James Brown, Madonna, Forest Whitaker, and Mickey Rourke alongside Owen. The installments differed in style, story, and supporting characters, but each one had Owen front and center as a driver-for-hire completing a job. The Jason Statham feature film series The Transporter was reportedly inspired by Owen’s The Hire shorts.

Here’s the teaser for The Escape, the new BMW short film directed by Blomkamp:

And here are a couple of our favorites from the original run. Beat the Devil is directed by Tony Scott and The Follow is directed by Wong Kar-wai.

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