The M Interview: Adam Driver on playing new Star Wars baddie Kylo Ren
"He's very unpolished and there's nothing kind of perfect or manicured about him"
Adam Driver took an unusual path to stardom.
After the events of 9/11, the 32-year-old US actor joined the Marines and was honourably discharged after three years.
He was accepted into the prestigious Juilliard School in New York City and started working after graduation.
His breakout role was as Lena Dunham's carpenter-actor boyfriend in the HBO series Girls, for which he has been Emmy-nominated.
Now he is the new baddie Kylo Ren in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which opens here on Dec 17.
We are at the Los Angeles Convention Center for our interview, and if he feels pressure from impending stardom, Driver, who will have a part in Martin Scorsese's historical drama Silence, doesn't show it.
Unlike his more exuberant co-stars, he seems more serious. He is the kind of person who is more comfortable doing his job than talking about it.
What can you tell us about Kylo Ren?
He's very unpolished would be a good way to describe him. Even the costume is banged up and it has a history to it. There's nothing kind of perfect or manicured about him. The lightsaber is not really quite right, the helmet is not really quite polished, and that says a lot about where that character starts.
How important was the costume?
It told me a lot about who my character is - it being unfinished and unpolished and kind of home-made.
And then, just physically, it's uncomfortable.
Throughout the day, it's very hot and also because you're very nervous and you can't see anything... but maybe that's good information for me because the character is uncomfortable. He doesn't rest in his skin very easily.
How long did it take to put on?
I think when we first started, it took, like, 30, 40 minutes to get into it.
By the last week, I think it took 10, 15 minutes... because we figured out a lot of zippers. It was, like, four layers of black leather, basically.
Is it true that you didn't remove your mask between takes and stayed in character?
Yeah, snitches (laughs). I probably didn't want to talk to people sometimes and wanted to hide the fear that was going on underneath the mask, so there's lots of different reasons I kept it on.
You weren't born when the first Star Wars movie came out in 1977. Which was your first?
Very much like my friends' kids now, they kind of know everything about the movies and they haven't seen any of the movies and I think that's what it was like for me.
I had not seen any of them but somehow knew all about them through the action figures.
My dad had a Stormtrooper helmet he would put on and chase us around the house. He would always have models of the Millennium Falcon around, so it was always kind of around, but I don't remember the moment I sat down and first watched it. But it was always just kind of in our DNA from very early on.
Who is your favourite Star Wars character?
Darth Vader, hands down, I'd say. His aesthetic is great (laughs).
Did the new cast bond and band together?
Yeah, it was definitely kind of all of us holding hands and jumping into it together, especially at first. We had a dinner the night before the first table read and we're sitting across from Harrison (Ford) and Carrie (Fisher) and Anthony Daniels. It's very surreal. I knew Oscar (Isaac) from before. We went to the same school but at different times. So there was, like, a bonding over how lost we all were, I would say. This continues until right now (laughs).
Do you feel at all overwhelmed being part of this whole production?
I just take it and break it up into moments. I remember calling J.J. before we started, kind of having that thought that this is kind of not my world and it seems very big.
I remember him saying, "We'll break it all into moments and then we'll solve this moment and that'll go to this moment, then by the end, hopefully, we'll have a movie."
So that's I guess how I've been approaching all this - just break it up into pieces and try to not feel the pressure. Take it moment by moment and not overthink it.
I had not seen any of them but somehow knew all about them through the action figures. My dad had a Stormtrooper helmet that he would put on and chase us around the house...
- Adam Driver, who plays Star Wars baddie Kylo Ren