Adam Driver is probably the only Juilliard grad who was also once a Marine.
Still, acting and serving in the military aren’t as different as one might think.
“The biggest things that transfer over are discipline and collaborating,” says Driver, who enlisted shortly after 9/11 and received an honorable discharge after an injury in 2004. “In both you kind of get a contact high from working as a team to accomplish something.”
No amount of training, though, prepared the actor — a “Girls” breakout as Lena Dunham’s oft-shirtless onscreen boyfriend — for overnight fame.
“I’m so tall and weird-looking that people are like, ‘Hey, I know you!’ says the former Mishawaka, Ind., resident who recently wrapped filming on the HBO comedy’s second season. “They usually reference a really sexually deviant thing that happened (on the show), which leads to a very awkward few moments of silence.”
He doesn’t have many free moments these days. Thanks in part to his “Girls” exposure, Driver’s film career is gaining momentum.
This winter, he’ll share the screen with Daniel Day-Lewis in “Lincoln” (he has a small role as telegraph operator Samuel Beckwith), and he recently played a naive aspiring musician in the Coen brothers’ forthcoming “Inside Llewyn Davis.”
“I sing in it,” says the actor, who’s just begun filming “Tracks,” opposite Mia Wasikowska, in the Australian outback. “Singing is one of the scariest things in my mind that you can do, just because it’s so open and vulnerable. It was nerve-wracking.”
So, too, was working Steven Spielberg, who he had grown up admiring.
“When my parents were breaking the bank to buy a big TV for the first time, the first movie we watched on it was ‘Jurassic Park.’ I’ve probably seen it 200 times since.” On the set, Driver admits, “Inside I was shaking, but on the outside you try to have a good game face.”
It’s times like those that the former vacuum salesman can’t help but marvel at his unconventional career path.
“I’m very fortunate,” says Driver, who also runs a nonprofit called Arts in the Armed Forces, “and I’m just trying not to screw it up.”
Lucky break: “Getting into Juilliard. I had a rough time transferring from the military to civilian life, and that gave me all these tools. I changed into someone who was less aggressive because I found a means to articulate myself.”
Favorite film: “I actually have two that I watch a couple times a year: ‘Ordinary People’ and ‘Kramer vs. Kramer.’ I always empathize with family dramas and those are so well done.”
Career I’d like to emulate: “Someone who’s had a big influence on me is Paul Sparks. The things I’ve seen him do in the theater are pretty incredible, and his taste is so good that I’m interested in anything he does.”