NEW YORK (AP) — Adam Driver prefers not to see the films and TV shows he's in, a policy that he grants he's taken a little far.
haven't seen 'Lincoln' and I have, like, the smallest part in
'Lincoln,' Driver says, chuckling. "It's not called 'Samuel Beckwith the
Telegraph Operator,' it's called ... 'Lincoln.' I should watch it."
though he stars in two of the better films of the year, Jim Jarmusch's
"Paterson" and Martin Scorsese's "Silence," Driver won't see either.
It's too excruciating.
"I try not to because I've seen things I've
been in before and it's terrible," says Driver. "I think it's bad and
it's film and film is forever. I want to change things. I kind of drive
myself nuts and everyone around me nuts. It's mostly about control. You
really have no control, so I try to surrender it."
attitude isn't uncommon among performers, but it hints at what
distinguishes him as an actor. For him, it's about the experience of
building a role, inhabiting it and then letting it go. To play the
poet-bus driver of "Paterson," he got a bus driver's license. To play a
Jesuit priest in 17th century Japan for "Silence," he lost 51 pounds.
does turn into stunt-sounding because you have to talk about it so
much," Driver says. "But it is part of your job, I think. Why not
investigate as much as you can in the short amount of time that you
have? It's only three or four months."
With his laconic, lanky
presence, staccato line delivery and baritone voice, Driver has quickly
become one of the most electric energies in movies, and possibly the
most arresting actor of his generation. While better known for the
explosive volatility of his Kylo Ren on "The Force Awakens" or on HBO's
"Girls," Driver's underlying sweetness is more on the surface in his
pensive performance in "Paterson."
He plays Paterson, a bus driver
and poet in Paterson, N.J. Jarmusch's film is a quiet marvel, full of
repetition and patterns that steadily accrue quotidian beauty. Paterson
goes about his day-to-day life while composing poetry in his head or
jotting it down in his notebook. "Paterson listens" dots the script.
lot of acting is reacting," Driver says. "You have to listen. It's the
key ingredient. For me, I love having a lot of scenes where I don't have
to talk and I get to listen to other actors."
A former Marine
raised in Mishawaka, Indiana, Driver embodies much of Paterson's
duality. He grimaces whenever he thinks he sounds too much like an actor
and blanches when the phrase "collaborative spirit" accidentally
escapes. Twice during a friendly conversation at a Manhattan hotel he
stood up to close a door to keep the chat private.
Driver shies away from broadcasting his more thoughtful feelings about
making art, he has already assembled a rich and varied gallery of artist
portraits: the poet of "Paterson," his aspiring filmmaker in Noah
Baumbach's "While We're Young," an intrepid photographer in "Tracks," a
cowboy hat-wearing folk singer in the Coen brothers' "Inside Llewyn
Davis," his Broadway actor on "Girls."
Driver also founded the nonprofit Arts in the Armed Forces
, which performs monologues and scenes for members of the military and
veterans. Its stated mission is to bridge the divide between "the world
of the arts and the world of practical action."
"I was very struck
by the idea that he understands both sides," Jarmusch said of Driver
while introducing the film at the Cannes Film Festival. "He has
experience in the military and he went to Julliard. These two things are
kind of impressive to me because it's breaking any kind of cliche of
So in awe of the filmmaker, Driver agreed to do the
film without reading the script. Few experiences could rival the
educations offered by working with Jarmusch or Scorsese, both ardent
aficionados of cinema with wide, compulsive interests. They are, Driver
says, "oddly very similar even though they have completely different
ways of working."
"Jim's not trying to dumb anything down to
anyone or make it palatable," says Driver. "And he sticks to it. It's
not just something he says. He lives his life by it. That's kind of a
rare thing. Now we're oversaturated with everything. Everyone says
everything so much. But these people (Jarmusch and Scorsese) live by
At 33, Driver has already worked with a
startling array of directors: Scorsese, Jarmusch, Steven Spielberg, the
Coen brothers, Clint Eastwood, Jeff Nichols and Baumbach. This fall he
also shot Steven Soderbergh's return to feature filmmaking, "Logan
"He found a way to do it where it's on his terms and he
has the control that he wants," says Driver. "His setups move so fast
that there's no momentum lost. There's no time wasted, so it almost
feels like a protest."
Naturally, Driver won't be seeing "Logan Lucky." He helped make it; the rest is out of his hands.
I start thinking too much, that's when things get stalled," he says.
"The making of it is really fun and beyond that it's not my
responsibility. It's not my story. It's the director's story. I'm there
just to do that part and then peace out."
Driver frowns. "That's a dumb way of saying that."