By Clark Collis
September 04, 2014 at 10:15 PM EDT

There’s only one director who can claim to have introduced the world to Nicole Kidman (in 1983’s BMX Bandits) and directed two Leprechaun films (1995’s Leprechaun 3 and 1997’s Leprechaun 4: In Space). That director’s name? Brian Trenchard-Smith.

The latest film from the prolific auteur and Tarantino favorite is the action-comedy Drive Hard, which stars John Cusack as a criminal who robs a bank run by criminals and Thomas Jane as an ex-race car driver he coerces into becoming his reluctant wheelman. How did the project come about? “Well, I’ve never met a green light I didn’t like,” Trenchard-Smith deadpans. Ha! More seriously? “The script was originally written for Jean-Claude Van Damme. He dropped out and my casting director pointed out that John Cusack had a short window of availability.”

Well, at least Cusack has the same initials. “Yes, although not quite the same amount,” Trenchard-Smith says. “We met at John Cusack’s house and we got along. I thought the bank robber character would be even more interesting with John Cusack’s own political world view, which I suppose would be best summarized as ‘the game is rigged.’ He liked the idea and was up for it. He liked the idea of Thomas Jane, and when we put the two of them together in a room, the chemistry between them was immediately apparent. I thought it was a marriage made in heaven. Three weeks later we were shooting.”

Drive Hard cruises into cinemas on Oct. 3 but is available to watch on VOD today. To mark the occasion, we asked the director (who is also one of the “gurus” on Joe Dante’s essential-for-cinephiles website Trailers From Hell) to choose his top three heist films.

Rififi (1955)

“That was the first heist movie I ever saw. Black-and-white with some great French actors. It’s the story of a bank robbery: they tunnel into a place, and there’s a classic break-in sequence, about 15 minutes long, and there is no music, and they’re trying to be very quiet. It’s almost a silent movie sequence. The gang that pulls off the robbery in the middle of the film then starts to come apart — and lots of people die. It’s a really good classic French crime movie.”

Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

“It’s a classic Al Pacino performance and every member of the supporting cast is superb. As I was watching it and I thought, This really happened?  The truth can indeed be stranger than fiction.”

Inception (2010)

“Inception, it seemed to me, was actually a heist movie. They’re trying to steal from his mind, or alter it. And there were wonderful suspense sequences, all utilizing the same devices that robbery movies have. I thought it was a truly extraordinary film.”

You can check out the trailer for Drive Hard below.