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Adam Driver: Auditions ‘Set up for the Actor to Fail’

This year’s Los Cabos Festival hosted two iconic directors in Terry Gilliam and Spike Lee, and the actor who most recently ties the two together, “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” and “BlacKkKlansman” star, Adam Driver. On Friday evening, overlooking the famous coastal rock formations at the Resort at Pedregal, Driver engaged in a career-spanning conversation with top Mexican film critic Arturo Aguilar, before fielding questions from a group of local and international press.

Aguilar’s first questions on the day were about Driver’s time in the Marines, and what lessons learned there that he applies to his career today.

“It was post Sept. 11, I was the right age and like you said I felt a sense of patriotism and wanted to be involved,” Driver started. “That coupled with the fact I wasn’t really doing anything. I was living in the back of my parent’s house working odd jobs as a telemarketer and vacuum salesman.”

Following up, he recalled learning the importance of being a part of a larger unit. Referring to both roles as “communal things,” he pointed out that knowing he is part of a unit takes the pressure off him as an actor. “It’s not all about you. You do the best you can at your role, and you are supported by those around you to tell a story bigger than any one person. It takes the ego out of it.”

Before joining the Marines, Driver had auditioned at the renowned New York school of performing arts, the Julliard School, but with unfavorable results. Following his service he applied a second time and got in. After emphasizing he couldn’t say definitively why his second audition was better received, he did have an idea.

“The second time I felt I had an opinion about what I was saying. I had a bit of life experience before auditioning the second time, and I feel maybe that’s what carried through the second audition.”

It wasn’t the last time the subject of auditions came up. It’s a part of the industry that Driver sees as a necessary evil. He went as far as to say that the dynamics of auditions are set up for the actor to fail, and that most often what an actor delivers in an audition ends up a far cry from the character they embody on-screen.

After revisiting a number of early-career highlights, Driver discussed what he has often referred to as the most physically demanding of his roles, when he lost 50 lbs. for Martin Scorsese’s “Silence.”

“It was great because I worked with Scorsese, and he is the tip of the spear as far as directors go. But losing the weight sucked,” he said, adding one caveat. “The good thing about it is you are so tired you don’t put anything on top of it (the performance). You just have enough energy to say the lines and listen.”

Not overthinking roles seemed to be one of Driver’s main bugaboos, at least in his opinion. When discussing his two films screening at Los Cabos, he explained that Lee’s and Gilliam’s directing styles really helped him with his performance.

“It forces you to get out of your head and not overthink. I tend to overanalyze and overthink everything, and you can’t do that in Terry’s movies. It’s (the set) filled with conversations about what the story is, but you can’t overanalyze. It’s similar to Spike in a way. I’m very much in my brain.”

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