Remember the scene in Inside Llewyn Davis with Oscar Isaac and Justin Timberlake singing “P-P-P-Please, Mr Kennedy”? There was a third musician, wearing a massive stetson, playing the guitar and getting very old fashioned looks from Isaac. This being a Coen Brothers movie, I assumed he was just a session musician spotted by Joel and Ethan. It’s kinda the way they make films, after all.
Was I ever wrong! When I checked out the cast list, I found the “session musician” was one Adam Driver. I was sold. If an actor could fool me to that extent, he had to be something special. And in the years since then he’s proved me absolutely right.
After dipping his toe into blockbusterland as Kylo Ren, he returns this week to more familiar indie territory in Paterson as the bus driver-come-poet of the title in Jim Jarmusch’s delicate little comedy. You can read our review of Paterson right here.
Here’s some reminders of why he’s one of the most talented young actors around – he turned 33 at the end of last month – and why he’s destined for even bigger things. It’s only a matter of time.
While We’re Young (2014)
Noah Baumbach’s comedy about a middle aged couple trying to hold on to their youth through a younger one was the best thing Ben Stiller had done in ages. As the forty-something in denial about a touch of arthritis, he still lost out in the acting stakes to Driver, the male half of the young couple. His boho lifestyle, vinyl collection and all-round cool attitude to life impress the older couple – he charms the socks off Naomi Watts as Stiller’s wife. But right from the moment we set eyes on him, there’s something that doesn’t quite ring true about him, something ever so slightly artificial. Putting your finger on it is almost impossible but, as the film progresses, it becomes clear that our instincts are right and he’s not all he appears to be. All of which demanded subtlety, understatement and a pin-point sense of timing from the actor.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
For an actor with a default setting of indie, venturing into one of the biggest franchises in movie history was a huge leap for Driver. His Kylo Ren brought him to a whole new audience, many of whom refer to him by his Star Wars name. A combination of a great performance and being a less familiar face, no doubt, but it can’t be too much longer before everybody knows exactly who Adam Driver is. Once out of his mask, his black garb was a perfect match for his own dark features, but there was more to him than just an out-and-out baddie. His struggle with his own demons made him unexpectedly complex, adding a fascinating dimension to the film.
Midnight Special (2016)
Driver temporarily joined the expanding Jeff Nichols repertory company of Michael Shannon and Joel Edgerton in the story of a young boy with extraordinary powers, pursued by the police, the military and the FBI. Driver was Savier, the Federal agent, a walking enigma yet the only person, aside from his own father, that the boy would speak to. He was always one step ahead of the military, always turning up at the right time and in the right place and seemed to have an instinctive understanding of what the boy was all about. He didn’t have any powers of his own, so how or why was always a mystery and he kept it firmly under wraps. But his connection with the boy was powerful and you hung on his every word in the hope of unlocking his mystery.
After Paterson, we next see Driver in the New Year, when he swops his bus driver’s uniform for priestly robes, joining forces with Liam Neeson and Andrew Garfield for Martin Scorsese’s much-awaited Silence. This time he’s a Jesuit in seventeenth century Japan, searching for his missing mentor – and facing the ultimate test of faith, as Christianity was outlawed in the country at the time. He co-stars with Daniel Craig and Channing Tatum in Stephen Soderbergh’s heist movie, Logan Lucky, although no release date has been announced yet. And then, of course, he’s due for re-appearance as Kylo Ren in December 2017.
It’s hard to believe that Driver’s career in front of the camera started just seven years ago on TV. In that time, his rise from small roles more major parts and his first lead in Paterson has been, in acting terms, close to meteoric. The future can only be stellar.
Paterson is released in cinemas on Friday, 25th November.