Academy Award, Emmy and Tony Award nominee Adam Driver, who first broke out in the HBO series Girls, has gone on to roles in films like Frances Ha, Inside Llewyn Davis, BlacKkKlansman and Marriage Story. He has also played antagonist Kylo Ren in three installments of the Star Wars franchise, beginning with 2015’s Star Wars: Episode VII—The Force Awakens. But the next two years will be even busier for the actor as he prepares to play head of the Gucci fashion house Maurizio Gucci in the new Ridley Scott crime drama Gucci. Scott is clearly a big fan of the actor, who also stars in his upcoming film The Last Duel, a reteaming of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck (who star and co-wrote the script with Nicole Holofcener) in an epic tale of betrayal and justice set in 14th-century France. “It was great,” says Driver of the opportunity. “It was a dream job. I love [Scott’s] movies and working with him. It’s such an incredible group of writers and actors, including Matt Damon and Ben Affleck and the incredible Jodie Comer. They’re unprecious about their material and so trusting and collaborative. All of the dream things that you hope for.”
When he’s not in production on new film, theater or television projects, the former Marine spends time with his longtime partner, wife Joanne Tucker, and their young son in Brooklyn. Driver and Tucker have another project together: the nonprofit Arts in the Armed Forces that the couple co-founded to bring theatrical productions to the military. After 9/11, Driver enlisted in the Marine Corps and was a rifleman and mortar man at Camp Pendleton, California, for three years, but was never deployed. A mountain bike accident and serious injury ended his military career and he was discharged shortly thereafter, but Driver loved the kinship and support he found in the Marines. He decided to follow his high school passion for acting and enrolled at Juilliard in New York City to see if there was something there. “When I got out of the military, I went to acting school at Juilliard and I realized how powerful it was to have access to language from writers who were so much smarter than me,” explains Driver. “How powerful and empowering it was to be able to label a feeling. I didn’t grow up with theater as part of my daily diet.”
Driver also found similarities between the theater community and the armed forces that could be harnessed. “How they work cohesively as this team unit, for example,” he shares. “You have to know yourself and work improvisationally. They’re very much one and the same; the process is the same.” Arts in the Armed Forces started with one event, an approachable, unpretentious, non-produced performance with no sets and no costumes by an ensemble cast staged at Camp Pendleton. The energy in the room was so encouraging to the couple that they wanted to expand on it. “We started with one performance,” says Driver. “We would pick a great play. Not Shakespeare’s Henry V, something more digestible and contemporary. We would have to convince actors to come to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and perform a play. No one knew what it was that we were doing.” Now, the organization travels around the world putting on plays, hosts an annual fundraiser and offers screenwriting awards and film screening series. And people in the armed services are seeking out the organization to get involved. “A lot of people in the military were interested in the arts before they entered the military,” says Driver. Because COVID-19 has placed travel on hold, the nonprofit has taken to hosting a virtual film screening series for which they ask famous actors and directors to pick their favorite film. “We screen it for a military audience and then interview a panel of people about the process so there’s always a dialog afterwards.” For the series, Driver has wrangled Tom Hanks, who chose 2001: A Space Odyssey, Danny Glover (Pelle the Conqueror), and Laura Linney (Slap Shot).
Now that Driver has some time on his hands, we caught up about another role he finds rewarding: as a brand ambassador for luxury watchmaker Breitling and a member of its Cinema Squad alongside Charlize Theron and Brad Pitt. “I liked the idea of squads and doing this as a group,” explains Driver. “I liked that it wasn’t just actors, and I was interested in the history of the watch in aviation.” Driver wasn’t much of a watch guy beyond the basic Timex or a Michael Jordan watch he was given as a child. “I liked that these Breitling watches were simple and durable, but they’re the nicest watches I own,” he explains of his new Breitling Premier Chronograph 42. “But, also, [I like] that I don’t have to look at my phone.”
Adam Driver is primarily interested in the concept of time and timing when it comes to acting. “Working as a group over the individual,” he explains. “In acting, you have one rule: You have to show up and do the best you can. You’re not acting in a vacuum.” But timing is everything onstage and on a film set. “It’s kind of a weird thing that you’re expected to perform and do it at this certain time. It’s all based on time, which is exciting and annoying. With theater, it’s live and it exists and then you can never do it again.” So, having been in the armed forces and being an actor, what’s Driver’s relationship with time? “I am a pretty punctual person and I’m respectful of people’s time. If you’re not 15 minutes early, you’re late.”