The first big sale out of the American Film Market is for Drive, the first big American film directed by the creator of Pusher, Bronson and Valhalla Rising, Nicolas Winding Refn.

Deadline reports that FilmDistrict picked up distribution rights for a late summer or early fall 2011 release. What is FilmDistrict? That’s the new company put together by Graham King and Tim Headington of GK Films and run by Peter Schlessel and Bob Berney, who exited Appartition right before Cannes this year. The idea behind FilmDistrict, says Deadline, is to pick up and distribute well-cast films that can play runs of 1500 to 2000 screens.

Drive certainly has a great cast. Ryan Gosling stars as a stuntman by day, getaway driver by night who has to flee for his life after a heist goes wrong. The supporting cast features Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks and Christina Hendricks.

If you’re confused and thinking, “hey, wasn’t this a Universal film?” don’t worry. It was at one point, when Neil Marshall was going to direct. But it is being shot as an indie right now. And that’s where FilmDistrict comes in. Hopefully this company will prove to be more stable than Apparition was; this is a great pickup and a film that we’ve been excited to see.

James Sallis wrote the original novel, the synopsis of which is below, and Hossein Amini wrote the script draft that got Nicolas Refn on board; the director has done rewrites.

“I drive. That’s what I do. All I do.” So declares the enigmatic Driver in this masterfully convoluted neo-noir, which ranges from the dive bars and flyblown motels of Los Angeles to seedy strip malls dotting the Arizona desert. A stunt driver for movies, Driver finds more excitement as a wheelman during robberies, but when a heist goes sour, a contract is put on his head and his survival skills burn up the pavement.

In Drive, [Sallis] combines murder, treachery, and payback in a sinister plot resembling 1940s pulp fiction and film noir. Told through a complex, cinematic narrative that weaves back and forth through time and place, the story explores Driver’s near-existential moral foundations while revisiting its root cause: his hardscrabble, troubled childhood.

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