This piece originally appeared in print in So It Goes Issue.2, Autumn 2013.
Generations are defined by television. The 80s had Dallas, the 90s Friends, and the Noughties The Sopranos. Generation Y has been gifted Lena Dunham’s Girls, a show that’s defined the cultural zeitgeist over two seasons with its arch depiction of the lives of four twenty-something women trying to ‘make it’ in New York. Ironically enough, the erratic, sexually profane and loveable antics of Lena Dunham’s on-off boyfriend Adam – played by Adam Driver – have resulted in the guy in Girls becoming the breakout star of the hit HBO show. So It Goes talked to Adam about the Marine Corps, Juilliard and a previous life as a vacuum salesman.
LEFT Coat: Dior Homme; T Shirt: Saturdays Surf NYC
RIGHT Jacket: BLK DNM; T Shirt: Saturdays Surf NYC; Trousers: Saturdays Surf NYC; Shoes: Vans
“I always felt itchy you know...restless.” Adam Driver is speaking about his childhood in Mishawaka, a small-ish manufacturing town in Indiana known for being the ‘Peppermint Capital of the World’. Hollywood is awash with stories of humble beginnings and a longing for the bright lights, but this is not one of those stories. Like his character in Girls, Driver acts on instinct and is refreshingly unpredictable.
“Yeah, I’d heard all these people say they’d moved to California with five dollars in their back pocket, so one day I loaded up my old Lincoln with all my shit. I broke down outside Texas, had to walk ten miles and lost all my money. By the time I got to California, I didn’t have a dime, so I was there for two days and drove all the way back.” After an unsuccessful forty-eight hours in Los Angeles, Driver bounced around an assortment of odd jobs, “I was a telemarketer, sold vacuum cleaners badly – nothing was happening.” Then on September 11th, 2001, something did happen. “9/11 changed my life,” Driver says softly. “All my friends wanted to do something – we felt a sense of patriotism, you know?”
After two years’ serving in the Marine Corps – and two months before deployment in Iraq – Driver’s bike veered off into a ditch during a routine training exercise, his handlebars shattering into his chest and breaking his sternum. Driver was medically discharged and, true to form, what happened next was wholly unforeseeable.
Frustrated and lost, Driver found structure and discipline in a different environment, winning a place to study at the prestigious Juilliard School in New York. “It was hard to adjust not only to civilian life because you’re used to a code of ethics, but to acting life. You’re supposed to use your words!” Acting school provided catharsis and a new world of expression. “My friends in the Marine Corps who couldn’t use their language often expressed it physically. Finding language really saved my life in a way.”
T Shirt: BLK DNM
Since Juilliard, Driver has come a long way in a very short time. His list of upcoming projects makes for eye-opening reading. Roles include the Coen brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis (2013), Tracks (2013) with Mia Wasikowska, not to mention Noah Baumbach’s follow up to Frances Ha (which also starred Driver) While We’re Young (2015). It all began with Girls, however, and while Adam is quick to acknowledge his debt to the show and Dunham herself, he never could bring himself to watch past the first episode, “I saw the pilot and I just thought, ‘There’s no fucking way I’m going to watch this show because it’s just too much!’ Lena is a special writer though and I’m so glad to be a part of something that’s started a conversation.”
Amidst all the ticks and nervous energy, there is a deeply considered side to the man from Mishawaka. Using the small windows he has between Girls and other projects, Driver devotes his energies to his non profit, Arts in the Armed Services, personally picking contemporary American plays to showcase at bases, hospitals and theatres at home and abroad. Adam Driver is bound for stardom, there is no doubt, but his past means there’s a rawness to him that sets him apart from his contemporaries. Perhaps that’s why he’ll never fall prey to the affectations of Hollywood. “You have to be an insane person to be totally comfortable with it. During the first season of Girls people used to come up to me in the grocery store and say, ‘You’re a dick but I like you’ or, ‘Hey, you’re a big asshole, but we love the show.’” Uncomfortable though it may be, Adam Driver had better get used to the recognition, because it’s only going to get worse.
Jumper: American Apparel; T Shirt: Saturdays Surf NYC; Trousers: Dior Homme
Photographer: Lauren Dukoff
Photographer’s Assistant: Dan Dealy
Creative Direction: James Wright
Producer: Jamie Burke
Stylist: Danielle Nachmani Grooming: Michael Johnson
Special thanks to Mazdack Rassi and Milk Studios, New York