Please now enjoy this awed appreciation of Adam Driver’s simultaneous plausibility as a Jesuit priest, a working-class hobbyist of poetry, and a Star Wars villain, among other dissimilar characters. Heir to the mantle of so-called “unlikely” leading men including Jean-Paul Belmondo, Humphrey Bogart, and Dustin Hoffman, Driver is one of those stars whose stardom seems almost defiant, albeit rather politely in his case.
To be cast by directors as artistically disparate as J.J. Abrams, Noah Baumbach, Leos Carax, the Coen brothers, Lena Dunham, Clint Eastwood, Terry Gilliam, Jim Jarmusch, Steven Soderbergh, and Martin Scorsese, takes more than a good agent. Certainly Driver is a top-notch actor: He makes surprising and specific choices, listens well, shares his scenes, doesn’t seem fake. But there’s something else, something to do with presence and self-possession. He knows he’s got the magic, and he wears it well. (The SNL spoof of his Star Wars character Kylo Ren is bliss.)
Having served in the U.S. Marine Corps and later founded a nonprofit called Arts in the Armed Forces, Driver has a rare manner of groundedness. Comments like “Self-expression is just as valuable a tool as a rifle on your shoulder” somehow don’t sound like utter horseshit coming from him. “I’m like a sight gag,” he once said. “I have this really big face…I don’t totally get it. I mean, when I read for Girls I was, like, the script says ‘Handsome Carpenter,’ so someone else is going to get the part. They’ll have someone handsome, not me. I mean, I’m not in any danger of getting leading-man parts.”