ADAM DRIVER IS THE MYSTERIOUS KYLO REN, AS PLAYED BY ADAM DRIVER
“THERE’S SOMETHING EMPOWERING FOR SOMEONE TO COMPLETELY HIDE THEMSELVES IN A MASK THAT IS SO INTIMIDATING.”
Star Wars Insider: How did you get involved with The Force Awakens?
Adam Driver: I think it was the last day of shooting Girls and I got a phone call to see if I was interested in meeting J.J. Abrams to talk about Star Wars. I thought that it would be interesting to do, so I said “yes.” A month later, I left for LA and I met J.J. to talk about the role. Then I met with Kathleen Kennedy, who talked more about it. I was very excited. It’s such a big thing and I’ve never done anything quite like this with this many moving pieces. Wearing a mask is quite a challenging thing. It was very scary and terrifying, so it wasn’t something that immediately seemed like a “yes.” Actually, I thought about it quite a bit, even though it was kind of a no-brainer, but I didn’t want to take it lightly.
How much was J.J. Abrams able to share with you after you signed on?
J.J. Abrams pretty much walked me through the whole thing. He talked about how he wanted to start it and the themes that he was going with. He talked about things that inspired him that he and Lawrence Kasdan were already working on. There have been small changes since then, but it’s all pretty much the same. J.J. had ideas that were very clear in his mind about the conventions that he wanted to upturn and things that grounded Kylo Ren as a character. Character was something that he talked about the most. I feel like some of the movies are so heavy on special effects or visuals and lot of things get lost as far as two people talking to one another. And that was something that J.J. stressed from the beginning; It was all character— there was hardly any talk of special effects. When we originally met and talked, it was all about grounding these people in a reality, even though it’s a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. If no one cares about what’s happening or no one believes that these people are real, then you won’t care about any of it.
What sense did you have of taking on such a role?
The idea of doing it is a scary thing. Even though J.J. mapped out what that character does, he left out a lot of things for us to discover. He wanted to get my input, which was a huge thing also in a movie of this scale. Suddenly you have a director who wants you to be involved in making it, and given the history of these movies, that’s very exciting. I was a fan of the Star Wars movies when I was younger, so suddenly to work on it in my adult life and have input seems unbelievable. Did you enjoy working on practical sets? Everything is so real. I think grounding everything in a reality is more effective. Not to get on a high horse about technology, but sometimes it’s in place of something that’s real and tactile and I think that people take it for granted.
Star Wars, and learning how all those people were doing things out of this need to do something different. The conventional way of making a movie at that time and special effects were very important, but it was all about people collaborating in a room together trying to fi gure out a way to make it real. As an actor, is it freeing or limiting to wear the mask? It’s both. I get here for three or four days to shoot, and I put all this stuff on, the mask and the costume, then I put it away for a few weeks. Then I come back to it. It was such an evolving thing up until the days we started working on it. Then you’re thrown into it, and boom! Then suddenly I can’t see the ground. They are all good challenges. As we’ve been shooting, I find it more freeing. The physical life is really important. There are so many layers to him anyway. It’s interesting to fi nd out who he is with the mask on or with the mask off, and that was part of our initial conversations. There’s something empowering for someone to completely hide themselves in a mask that is so intimidating.
Did you talk to J.J. Abrams and costume designer Michael Kaplan about the look of Kylo Ren at all?
It was such an evolving thing. I’d fl y in to see what they were coming up with and see nods to Akira Kurosawa, and his jacket that bows out just a little bit, like a samurai, and all those references. Then I’d leave for two weeks and come back to see how it was shaped a little more. My only input was whether it felt good or bad. I was involved in making it functional, which was great. They were all about how they could make it more effi cient and something that someone could wear. It looks great, but if you can’t move in it or breathe in it, then it doesn’t make sense for the audience or the actor.
How did you go about conveying the character’s physicality?
Trying to convey someone whose physical life is very much about combat and fi ghting in a short amount of time is a challenging thing. One of the first things I wanted to do, as soon as everything was all scheduled, was to start drilling daily and making it part of my daily life. I had three months to prepare, so I wanted to immerse myself in the training as much as possible. The first week was like four hours a day of fight training; just stretching and going over the training with sticks and slowly building up to the lightsaber. Then I went to New York and worked with people they sent there. Whenever we’re not on set, I’m always with the fight guys. It’s almost like a play in a way, the dancing part of fighting. There’s a structure and it’s important to know where everything’s going. You always learn new things about it, and for me this has been a process where a lot of the external things have been formed that gave me more information. Usually I feel like I try to work internally and try to think about how it feels from the inside out, but for this there are so many tactile things that I can actually hold on to that give me a lot of information. The fi ght choreography was one of them.
Was the table read a surreal experience?
Seeing everybody all in one room for the table read was surreal; I just wanted to sit back as an audience member and listen to them. I remember in the read-through that things would just come to life when the original characters read their parts. Suddenly I just wanted to sit back and watch and enjoy the movie, but then I realized I had lines to say and a part to play. I got to act across from people who have no idea that they are very much a part of my youth. What makes Star Wars great? At the end of it, I think the great thing about Star Wars is that, yes, it’s a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away and there are spaceships and lightsabers, but the family story and the friendship and sacrifice elements are really big, human themes that make it enduring. All those human things are what connected people to those movies in the first place. It’s never been taken lightly, and there’s always been a conversation that starts with putting the humanity in it.