What a difference a year has made for Adam Driver. This time last year, the San Diego native was engulfed by the force of promoting his work in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” where his role as Kylo Ren became infamous for killing Han solo.
Fast forward to now and Driver is just as busy promoting his new film, “Silence.” He’s gone from a story in a galaxy far, far away to a tale centuries, centuries ago playing one of two Jesuit priests who travel in the seventeenth century to Japan to locate their mentor and propagate Catholicism.
“Last year was very different. I love that job and working on ‘Star Wars.’ Most movies don’t come with that kind of experience and something like that can be an overwhelming thing,” Driver says. “‘Star Wars’ changed my life in some ways. It’s made travel more complicated because wherever I go I am more visible. But, I am still the same person with the same problems. Nothing has changed that way.”
Before all of the attention of “Star Wars,” Driver worked in a variety of theater, film and TV roles that include “Lincoln,” “Inside Llewyn Davis,” “Hungry Hearts” and HBO’s “Girls.”
“Silence” won’t add to Driver’s pop culture status, but he was eager to do the film because the movie was written and directed by Martin Scorsese. “Silence” is a production Scorsese has been trying to get made for decades.
Driver has been a fan of Scorsese’s work for years and loves how his movies continue to entertain years and decades after their initial release. That’s one thing Scorsese has in common with the “Star Wars” franchise.
“Silence” is based on the 1966 novel by Shūsaku Endō about two Jesuit priests make the long trip from Portugal to Nagasaki, Japan. Local officials are torturing and killing anyone practicing Catholicism.
“I really liked the story about faith and the anguish that can come with practicing your faith,” Driver says. “I understood this character’s commitment right away. The real bonus was getting to work with Marty.”
Despite the director’s legendary career, Driver felt comfortable immediately – a feeling he had from their initial conversations at Scorsese’s home all the way through working on the film.
Driver describes Scorsese as having a real skill at making an actor feel at ease because he’s so personable and generous with his time.
The connection between the actor and director was so strong, the already lithe Driver was willing to lose 30 pounds before filming started and an additional 20 during the shoot to show the struggles of the priests. His co-star, Andrew Garfield, also went on the controlled diet to lose the weight.
“They hired a person to help us lose the weight the healthiest way possible,” Driver says. “We had just enough energy to play the part but it was very tiring.”
There were people monitoring the weight of the actors, but there was one scary moment for Driver. In one scene, his character dives into a river when a caged Japanese woman is thrown into the river as punishment for her beliefs. The fact Driver had no body fat made hypothermia a real possibility. The tricky moment didn’t stop Driver, who had so much faith in Scorsese.
“Silence” is also part of Driver’s acting plan to do a variety of roles.
“You always want not to be put into a box of any kind. I have been lucky because all my projects been very different. There is value in each thing,” Driver says. “My way of working is similar. I still have to solve problems. I have to make the performance as personal as possible. The scale of the movie, even if it has more special effects, doesn’t let you off the hook.”