A galaxy faraway, so close: Adam Driver on the intimacy of 'Star Wars: Episode VII'

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Image Credit: Larry Busacca/Getty Images

We promised him up front: No Jedi mind tricks. But when EW interviewed Adam Driver for our Fall Movie Preview, we couldn’t help but slip him a few questions about his work on Star Wars: Episode VII.

Although he couldn’t confirm this, multiple sources close to the Star Wars follow-up have already told EW that Driver will be playing a villain, a threat to both veteran players (Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, and Carrie Fisher) and the cast’s newcomers.

“Doing Star Wars now—that’s surreal,” Driver volunteers. “I feel like that even with this cast. You start by try to stamp [that feeling] down as much as possible, just focus on what it is that you are there to do… Easier said than done.”

The guy from Girls is in four movies playing next month at the Toronto International Film Festival—including a breakthrough role opposite Tina Fey, Jason Bateman, and Jane Fonda in director Shawn Levy’s This Is Where I Leave You. Driver, 30, co-stars as Phillip, the charismatic, playboy baby-brother of a family in mourning. He wants them to see him as a grown-up, even though he isn’t above using some childish tactics to get attention (and get his way).

After talking about that role and the half-dozen others he has in the pipeline, EW ventured off into galactic territory.

EW: I’m not trying to trick you. You’re shooting Star Wars and I know there’s all this secrecy and you can’t tell me anything. But I’m curious if you could tell me just the entire plot and who plays who.
[Pause]
ADAM DRIVER: [Laughs]

All right, what advice do they give the actors? What are you supposed to say when someone asks you about Star Wars?
There was never a time where someone sat me down and was like, “People are going to do this or say this or ask this.” They never had that conversation with me. Instead, they kind of trusted that I wouldn’t say anything. I’m one of those crazy people, if I’m watching the trailer for a movie and I’m really excited by it, I’ll turn it off because I don’t want to know anything. I want to be surprised because I love that more than knowing anything. I don’t think they felt the need to tell me [to stay quiet].

Is there anything you are free to say about Episode VII?
Uhh, that it’s happening. [Laughs] Yeah, that it’s happening.

Is there a sense of wonder that comes with being on that set? J.J. has shown us that there are actual spaceships there, not just green screen visual effects.
Oh yeah. The thing about Star Wars that’s so good—sure there’s this huge [canvas]. It’s space, it’s a long time ago in a galaxy far away. That’s set up immediately. But in the midst of all those things, what has made those movies last so long is that they’re all grounded, which is something that is not so far off from every movie with huge universal themes of siblings and parents and betrayal and trust. That’s so generic and obvious, but it’s hard to balance those things.

That’s what Star Wars comes down to.
When you break all of those things down, really it’s just because someone wasn’t loved enough or felt betrayed. That’s what makes those movies so universal. I think they can get in your mind in big and sweeping ways.

What did you love about the earlier Star Wars films?
I always think back to the original movies and to those quieter moments where Luke is out in A New Hope, and there are the two suns setting, and it’s just such a quiet moment. It is the equivalent, basically, of a farm boy dying to get out of his small town and do something bigger. It’s those kinds of universal themes that ground this whole thing in space.

So expect cosmic spectacle and microcosmic emotion?
How great is that to get to work on something that has so much humanity in the midst of it? I feel like that’s everyone’s goal, to balance those two. Again, surreal seems to be the word of this interview. It’s exciting to get that to be part of your life. Now you have to contribute something to it—and that’s not something you, personally, or anyone on set takes lightly. I feel like everybody wants to make it good.

George Lucas put a lot about fatherhood into that original trilogy. It turns out his own dad owned an office supply store, built it from the ground up, and wanted his son to, basically, “join me and together we will rule the office supply galaxy.” We don’t often see that kind of intimacy in large-scale Hollywood sci-fi epics.
Friendship, I feel, is something that maybe isn’t investigated as much—or maybe I’m not watching those movies. It was such a huge part of the original three. “I’m going to go save my friend.” Everyone was going to go bail their friends out. “I can’t do this because my friends, everything is at stake because of my friends. I gotta go back. … Yoda, I gotta leave, whatever… I gotta leave.” [Laughs]

We hear George Lucas is fully retired now, but has he been around the set at all—or is he not a presence on this one?
I haven’t seen him. I don’t know.

You have a lot of different projects going. Did the reshuffling of the schedule to compensate for Harrison Ford’s on-set injury cause you havoc?
Oh no, I just stay there a little bit longer. I don’t start anything next until mid-November, end of December, November time.

You’re shooting the next season of Girls in New York at the same time you’re working on Star Wars, which shoots at Pinewood Studios outside of London. How is that commute working out?
I’ll be here [in New York] for a week and then leave for a week and then come back. It’s very much back and forth. Sometimes I’ll be there for two weeks. Sometimes I’ll be here for two weeks. When I’m not there, I’m here basically, doing both at the same time.

Again. Surreal is probably the correct word.
[Laughs] You can confuse the two and I’m like, “Why is everyone naked in space?”

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