When all is said and done Adam Driver will likely be remembered for playing Kylo Ren, grandson of villain Darth Vader, in the Star Wars movies. The thirty-three-year-old may be best known for the blockbuster role but it does not define his career. For the star of this weekend’s Logan Lucky, it’s all about a love of acting.
“For me the doing of it is the best,” he told me at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival. “The things surrounding it don’t matter. Trailers, money, they don’t matter if you get to work with really great people. Hopefully what you’re making is bigger than any one person and it feels relevant, as much as you can attach meaning to your job. The love of collaborating with people who are on the same page is really exciting.”
Perhaps his collaborative spirit came from his time in the United States Marine Corps. Driver, like many young people in the aftermath of 9/11, joined the marines but an injury during a training exercise ended his military career after just three years.
“With the military I grew up very fast,” he says. “Suddenly I was responsible for things that aren’t typical for eighteen or nineteen year olds. Other people’s lives and things like that. It ages you. I loved being in the military but when I got my freedom and could be a civilian again I was interested in perusing acting. I had tunnel vision and there was a big learning curve of learning to be a civilian again; it’s not appropriate to yell at people, people are people and I can’t force my military way of thinking on them. There were a lot of things going on. I am better adjusted now.”
Post marines Driver studied at Julliard—“Believe it or not being in the military,” he laughs, “is very different than being in an acting school.”—became one of the breakout stars of HBO’s Girls and worked on the big screen with luminaries like Steven Spielberg, the Coen Brothers, Martin Scorsese and Logan Lucky director Steven Soderbergh.
“It’s a director’s medium so if I get lucky enough to work with great directors, that’s the only thing as far as a game plan I have,” he says. “I have gotten to do that with really great people and it feels good. I’m lucky in that I get to choose things now, but choose things from what I’m offered. The scale doesn’t matter.”
Since his professional debut in 2009 Driver, who his This Is Where I Leave You co-star Jane Fonda calls, “our next Robert De Niro plus Robert Redford,” has carefully curated a career. From multiplex fare like Star Wars to art house offerings like Paterson and Frances Ha he is driven by artistic demands more than box office returns and immediate satisfaction.
“Really great movies have a longer shelf life,” he says. “You come back to them later and find new things in them. So many times you watch a movie and you’re not ready for it and you come back to it later because you’re a different person and suddenly it speaks to you in a different way. When they are well crafted they have that shelf life whereas a lot of things are made for one weekend.”