Playing Star Wars villain opened up Adam Driver's imagination
US actor Adam Driver on the changes his Star Wars character has gone through leading up to the saga's final instalment, The Rise Of Skywalker
Adam Driver continues his rise in Hollywood by breaking bad for the final time as Kylo Ren, one of the most complex and conflicted yet charismatic movie villains in recent history.
In Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker, which opened with US$374 million (S$506 million) globally and is currently showing here, the Supreme Leader of the First Order who wields the fearsome red crossguard lightsaber will continue to play a crucial role in the last instalment of the saga as he hunts down heroine Rey (Daisy Ridley) and seeks to destroy the Resistance.
Here, the 36-year-old US actor wraps up his experience of getting in touch with his Dark Side.
How has Kylo evolved over these three different films?
(Writer-director) J.J. Abrams said to me when we met for the first time that I should imagine a journey of a character where it is almost the opposite of Darth Vader, where Vader starts off as confident and experienced and over the course of three films is chipped away until he is at his most vulnerable.
Abrams had the idea of starting Kylo at his most vulnerable and his most susceptible and gradually having him become more and more hardened with experience and going deeper and deeper into the Dark Side.
I liked that idea, and the character has evolved that way. The way J.J. explained it, I really liked playing with someone who starts as a child almost and becomes a man over the course of three movies.
He becomes closer to his convictions, becomes more assured about his choices, but has metaphorically and physically killed his father to become his own person. That is where we start the third movie.
I think Kylo's overall journey is interesting because it is so opposite of what an audience is used to seeing on the Dark Side. It really opened my imagination as an actor.
Where do we find Kylo mentally in this film?
J.J.'s good at threading the needle of whether or not Kylo's re-identifying with his history as a tool to get what he wants, or he actually genuinely finds solace in the past. But I feel like at the start of the movie that is where he is at. He hasn't been sitting at a desk managing things. You find him at his most comfortable place with the Knights of Ren. That is where he is most at home. It is diplomacy that he always has trouble with.
Do you ever have an "a-ha" moment when you realise that you actually are in a Star Wars film?
You do have a lot of moments on Star Wars. Inevitably, something happens that makes you get hit percussively, like the first time you see the Millennium Falcon, or the first time you see Chewie, or the first time you see Harrison (Ford) or Carrie (Fisher) or Mark (Hamill) or R2-D2.
You get on set and you can't help but get hit reliving these movies live, which is a pretty rare thing to have happen. You get to act with almost a memory, which was really exciting.
How was it to go to Jordan and film those desert scenes?
One of the great things about being an actor is that someone pays for you to go to a place that you'll probably never go to, and you are not going to the tourist parts that people normally see.
It was great to shoot in the desert there. It obviously adds to the epic quality of the film. It is hard to be in a place of that scale and not have it affect you. And the language of Star Wars against that backdrop is what makes these movies so beautiful. It is a speeder fight in the desert but it so fits into the world of Star Wars. It is what makes these movies visually captivating.
What can you say about the duel with Ridley in the Death Star wreckage?
It was really physically exhausting but exciting. We were wet and soaked and cold and on wires, and I loved it. How many times are you going to get a chance to fight on a slanted slippery bridge in a Star Wars movie? Huge water cannons are shooting thousands of gallons at you, which you try not to think about. You are exhausted, you are tired but it is great. That is what you hope work is.
What are some of the themes that run through Star Wars?
There are huge themes of redemption, and found family and lost family, or acquired family. There are lots of reasons why these movies have such longevity, or touch so many different people from different cultures. One is its specificity with a story, but at the same time, keeping it so relatable. Also being able to create a specific world, but make it applicable to different cultures, and not sacrificing character for spectacle, even though spectacle is a huge part of that world.
It is the theme of a boy from a small town who feels like he is destined for something else, and he knows it. And he finally gets out of there. I can relate to that. Many people can.
Or, someone who is so obsessed with their faith in something that they sacrifice their family for what they believe in, whether it be good or bad.
These are huge themes, and both George Lucas and subsequent writers and directors keep them going. It is all cyclical. We repeat the same problems, the same conflicts, even though it is a long time ago in a galaxy far away. It is almost inevitable that people are going to be human.
You find Han (Solo) at the beginning of The Force Awakens doing the exact same thing he was doing years before.
He hasn't evolved into some Rebellion politician. He can't help but be himself. I could talk ad nauseam about all the characters and how love is a huge theme in these movies, but it is those human elements that make the movies relevant and timeless.