“I don’t take doing a play or making a movie for granted: We’re here, right now, and we’re never going to get a chance to do this again.” – Adam Driver
Adam Driver has appeared in a wide variety of films over the past several years — from the highest-grossing blockbuster in U.S. box office history (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) to low-budget indie arthouse dramas. In an interview with Vulture, Driver speaks about his approach to his work and how his youth, military background, and work with many different types of directors inform his performances.
Driver recalls that both his military and education experience taught him the importance of timing. He explains, “As you change, your relationship to your job changes. At school [Juilliard] I learned the value of time. Well, I learned that in the military, but I transferred it into making movies. I don’t take doing a play or making a movie for granted: We’re here, right now, and we’re never going to get a chance to do this again. It always seems like a miracle when someone is willing to pay for us to do that.”
Reflecting on his Midwestern roots, Driver believes it helped develop his work ethic. However, that doesn’t mean he needs every role to be draining. He says, “Some roles are more challenging than others. Silence, for example, was physically exhausting. but that’s what was required. I do like to work hard, though. I don’t know if that’s because I’m from the Midwest and was raised with ‘you work from nine-to-five and you come home exhausted.’ But I don’t need work to be any more difficult than it needs to be. I’m always trying to find a way to work more economically.”
In addition, Driver has learned to adapt to the different styles of the directors that he works with — including ones that encourage him to follow his instincts. He says, “Also, this is another frustrating thing: You’re at a table read and you’re reading the script for the first time and in a way it’ll never be that good again. You weren’t thinking about it. You weren’t over-analyzing. You were just doing what was instinctual. I’ve been lucky to work on jobs that required me to trust my instincts and move on. [Steven] Soderbergh is one of those people who will only give you one or two takes no matter how much you’ve prepared. Spike Lee is another. Then you have Noah Baumbach, who’ll do 50 takes and that’s 50 opportunities to do the same scene in a completely different way.”
Though Driver is often cited for intense performances, he explains that it’s a product of his on-set focusing. He says, “I’m not a method actor. I like to stay focused on set but it’s not because I have a process that I’m imposing on everybody else. Sometimes you have to be more focused in between scenes because what’s happening is that, on something like Star Wars, it’s pure comedy in between takes. It’s stormtroopers running into walls because they can’t see through their helmets. So I don’t know where the intense thing came from.”
Driver also recognizes that he is still improving as an actor — and it feeds into his desire to be a more economical actor. He reveals, “I’ve had the experience at the end of a play’s run of wishing I could go back and start with what I’d learned from doing it for four months — instead of having wasted energy on things that didn’t work. If I can start from an economical, efficient place then the performance is going to be better.”
Ultimately, Driver is still awed that he gets paid to be an actor. He reflects, “It was a miracle to be making a living as an actor. Nothing else mattered. What I get to do, it still feels like a fucking miracle.”