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You Probably Don’t Know The Real Adam Driver

Photo: CBS Films

Adam Driver used to be in the United States Marine Corps. It’s a bit of personal trivia about the “Girls” star that has been brought up before, as far back as 2011 when Driver was starring in a new stage revival of “Angels In America.”

When I tweeted that tidbit about Driver back in September, what followed was a handful of replies assuming it was some sort of a weird joke. It wasn’t: Driver joined the military shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. It’s an interesting fact about the 30-year-old, because, for whatever reason, Adam Driver and the United States Marine Corps don’t seem like two things that would be associated with each other. As Driver explains below, this is the way he likes it.

To further that point about confounding expectations, look no further than Driver’s recent film resume. Sure, he’s still probably best know for his role as Adam Sackler in “Girls,” but with memorable performances in Noah Baumbach’s “Frances Ha,” his upcoming role in John Curran’s “Tracks” and, this week, in the Coen brothers’ “Inside Llewyn Davis,” that’s all changing. (Even though Driver says he doesn’t have foresight into the roles he’s taking, I went on the record telling him that I don’t believe him because he’s accepting some quite good roles as of late.)

In “Inside Llewyn Davis,” Driver plays early ‘60s-era folk musician Al Cody. It’s a smaller part, but yet it just might be the most memorable, as Driver’s sound effects on the ludicrous “Please Mr. Kennedy,” performed by Justin Timberlake and Oscar Isaac, stand out as a movie highlight. (Read about the making of “Please Mr. Kennedy” right here.) When you talk to Driver, he’s extremely polite and humble (again, he was a Marine), but he does take notice of the fact that everyone is so quick to want to label an actor, people might not take the time to realize that an actor may have, say, at one point had entire different life in the Marine Corps.

I wish there was more Al Cody in this movie.
Yeah! That’s what they told me it was about. They said it was “Inside Al Cody” and that’s what I prepared for.

Especially after hearing the parts you sing on “Please Mr. Kennedy,” I now want to hear the entire Al Cody album.
[Laughs] I’ve been trying to get that album, actually.

You don’t have it?
We did it, and I was like, “Oh, man, I need to ask them for this?” I keep forgetting to ask them.

What’s it like to shoot a fake album cover?
That was awesome!

Is there a conscious effort to look “stoic”?
Yeah, they had a lot of inspiration of like specific things that they were kind of looking at. So we hopped in a car and drove upstate and shot this album cover.

Did the Coens call you for this role?
I got the call from my agent, “Do you want to audition for a Coen brothers movie?” And I obviously answered yes.

Who says “no” to that?
Yeah, right. “I’m really busy.”

“Sorry, never heard of them.”
“Who? The Coen sisters? I don’t understand.” So, I was like, “Yes, of course I will.” I don’t really have foresight as an actor as far as career trajectory — I just stick to no-brainer situations.

I agree this is a no-brainer, but I don’t believe that you don’t have foresight because you seem to pick your roles carefully.
Yeah [pauses] …. yeah, yeah. I’ve also been given a lot of great opportunities that I feel were kind of like, “Just choose things that seem to make sense.” And, also, try to pick things that don’t make sense — just to surprise myself. That’s also kind of important.

What’s an example of that?
You know, I don’t know. It hasn’t happened yet. You don’t see yourself doing this — but I think that’s also a good thing to ignore every once in awhile.

I saw “Tracks” at the Toronto International Film Festival and that seemed like a different role for you.
Oh, yeah, totally. But with the people involved, that’s also kind of a no-brainer for me. I don’t know, I guess I just have an impulse. Obviously I have foresight to have, you know, just have seen a lot of projects and you develop a game plan, I guess, is the better way of saying it — of not having a game plan. I had these opportunities to work with these people and they have a work ethic that’s like this. Or they are different work ethics, but they’re clear with the story they are trying to tell. So, I’ll just work with those people.

A guy like Noah Baumbach in “Frances Ha” is another example.
I love him. We just finished something else like two weeks ago. We did something else called “While We’re Young” and he is so smart and specific and collaborative that you’re just like, “OK, I just want to work with people who are like that.” Now I’m doing this movie with an Italian director, Saverio Costanzo, and he’s completely different — but he’s just as valid and just as specific. I really just kind of lucked out a lot.

I feel for people who don’t watch “Girls,” there seems to be a misconception or almost fair or unfair stigma about that show. With all of these different types of roles, you seem to be becoming more known for other things than yourself from what you were first known for.
You know, to be honest with you, I haven’t really quite thought about it. Like, I haven’t thought about consciously distancing myself. It’s just that work has come up and I’m lucky to kind of be there and get a chance to do it. I mean, I’m kind of fortunate I got to do a lot of things that are different from each other — which is also important to do things that are scary and not get too comfortable. I guess I was just lucky to get those opportunities and just lucky to get to do characters that are different. I mean, “Tracks” is something really kind of different than Adam Sackler is — and that’s a really fun world to live in. [Laughs] I know that’s a very vague answer to your question.

I’ve tweeted before that you used to be in the Marines and people think I’m making a joke. I don’t think many people realize that.
No, that’s fun — that people subvert expectations, I guess [laughs]. I think people are very quick to want to like, “Oh, he’s this.” You know, with everybody. Not just myself, but with everybody. They’re like, “Oh, we just want to label this really quickly.” And to be able to live a couple of different lives is fun. I don’t know if I can really process it or try to put it into words, that’s not really important for me to do. But I think it’s always kind of fun to be able to surprise yourself or surprise others — but it’s nothing I’ve consciously thought about.

I hope you get your Al Cody album.
Yeah! Ask somebody and tell them to call me! I need to find that.

That will be my new project, to find that album cover for you.
[Laughs] Then they need to make the album!

HuffPost | Mike Ryan | December 5, 2013

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