How The Marines Prepared Adam Driver To Become a Better Actor

In the latest Star Wars movie, Adam Driver plays Kylo Sen, the villain who steals the show. Off-screen, Driver is an actor who is focused on giving back.

Growing up in the small town of Mishawaka, Indiana, Driver sang in the choir sang in the choir and acted in high school plays. His interest in theater led him to audition for Julliard during his senior year. He did not get in, but, after graduating from high school, Driver decided to give acting a real shot in Los Angeles.

"I did that Hail Mary L.A. acting odyssey that I always heard stories about, of actors moving to L.A. with, like, seven dollars and finding work and successful careers," he said on stage during a live TED Talk. "I got as far as Amarillo, Texas, before my car broke down."

Driver eventually made it to Santa Monica. But, after two days on the beach, he went back home, where he had been living in his parents’ garage for $200 a month.

However, when 9/11 happened, 17-year-old Driver felt he had to give back to America and he decided to join the Marines. With no job and no direction, it seemed like best decision. And it’s one he’s glad he made.

"I loved being a Marine," he says. "It's one of the things I'm most proud of having done in my life."

Driver served for the USMC for two years but, a few months before he was set to deploy to Iraq, a mountain-biking injury made it impossible for him to continue serving. After leaving the Marines, Driver decided to pursue acting once again.

"I thought all civilian problems are small compared to the military," he says. "I mean, what can you really b---- about now, you know? 'It's hot. Someone should turn on the air conditioner.' 'This coffee line is too long.'"

Driver’s military experience has put his failures into perspective and provided him with a new sense of motivation and determination. "I was a Marine, I knew how to survive," he says. "I'd go to New York and become an actor. If things didn't work out, I'd live in Central Park and dumpster-dive behind Panera Bread."

But Driver did not fail. He auditioned for Julliard again and got in. After graduating in 2009, he started landing roles on- and off-Broadway and in films such as “J. Edgar” before landing his biggest role: He was cast as the troubled for alluring love interest Adam Sackler in HBO’s Girls in 2011, opposite the show’s creator and Lena Dunham.

Adam Driver Star Wars LOS ANGELES - DEC 09: Adam Driver arrives for the 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' World Premiere on December 09, 2017 in Los Angeles, CA (DFree /

After the show, Driver’s career exploded. "If it appears Driver was discovered all at once, that's because he pretty much was," Vulture reports. "In the two-year span of 2012 and 2013, Driver worked with Steven Spielberg ("Lincoln"), the Coen brothers ("Inside Llewyn Davis"), and Noah Baumbach ("Frances Ha"), at the same time he was appearing in the freshman and sophomore seasons of 'Girls.'"

Driver says his time in the military was important. "The Marine Corps is some of the best acting training you could have," he told W. "Having that responsibility for people's lives, suddenly time becomes a really valuable commodity and you want to make the most of it. And for acting, you just have to do the work, just keep doing it."

"The military and theater communities are actually very similar," Driver said during the TED Talk. "You have a group of people trying to accomplish a mission greater than themselves; it's not about you. You have a role, you have to know your role within that team."

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