‘Military training was some of the best acting training I’ve had’: Actor and former Marine Adam Driver
As a former United States Marine, actor Adam Driver has a unique insight into how the military is represented on screen.
The 33-year-old, who shot to international renown on the back of his performance as Kylo Ren in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), starred as a veteran in the 2016 Jim Jarmusch drama Paterson and takes on another veteran role in his most recent movie, Logan Lucky.
“What I appreciated about those films is that just because the characters happen to have been in the military, it is not something that defines them,” he says.
“Neither is walking around wearing his dress blues or doing drills, which is my experience of how the military is represented in films – that the characters are engrossed by their military experience.”
He adds that there is an assumption that if someone was in the military, then they must have post-traumatic stress disorder.
“They are not seen as people outside of their profession, yet in Logan Lucky, the guy is a bartender who just happens to have been in the military. Obviously, he is a transradial amputee because of it, but it is not something that defines him.”
His character, Clyde, is missing his left arm below the elbow. To shoot the sections of the film where he is seen without his prosthetic arm, the actor wore a green sleeve over his arm, which was then digitally removed in post-production.
“Wearing that green sock and the prosthetic was very constraining, but that helped remind me to be quite still,” he says. “We talked about Channing’s character being more of an impulsive person who acts before he thinks, while my character is the opposite.”
Clyde is brother to Channing Tatum’s lead character, Jimmy Logan, and together they recruit a team to rob a race-car track.
Directed by Steven Soderbergh, the film is pitched as a comedy heist movie, though Driver and Tatum play things straight. The characters around them – including a slightly crazed criminal played by James Bond actor Daniel Craig – are the ones providing most of the smiles.
“Everyone thinks it is really surprising to see Daniel in things like this,” notes Driver, “but he did things before he was in Bond and he showed quite a range in those things, too.”
Driver’s own range is also impressive. After leaving the Marines – he was medically discharged before his unit was deployed to Iraq – he attended The Juilliard School to study drama and, in 2012, was cast in HBO hit comedy-drama series Girls (2012-2017), playing show creator Lena Dunham’s unstable boyfriend.
His film career has blossomed, too, with supporting roles in the likes of historical drama Lincoln (2012), acclaimed comedy drama Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) and period drama Silence (2016).
He also won a number of awards for his performances in Italian drama Hungry Hearts (2014) and Paterson.
Much of his success, Driver says, stems from his military training, which he believes has prepared him well for the rigours of Hollywood.
“Military training was some of the best acting training I have had,” he says.
“You are isolated with a group of young men who are in high-stake circumstances and it becomes a real team effort. Likewise, in filmmaking, you are put in a group of people and you have one specific job; it is not about you.”
He left the Marine Corps after breaking his sternum in a mountain biking accident.
“I was looking forward to going to Iraq. In the military, you are not really thinking about the political ramifications. Why I joined wasn’t politically motivated. I joined in a fervour of patriotism.”
Driver trained hard for two years before his intended deployment.
“And then you actually get a chance to be deployed, but you can’t go, and someone else is going to fill your spot. That idea did not really sit well with me.”
Hence, he left the Marines and, having enjoyed performing in plays in high school, he decided to try acting.
“And if it didn’t work out,” Driver says, “then I figured I’d live in Central Park and I would survive.”
With Logan Lucky about to hit cinemas and his second Star Wars film, The Last Jedi, coming at the end of the year, one could say he is thriving.
The Straits Times | Will Lawrence | September 06, 2017