DRIVE TO SUC­CEED

Adam Driver, star of heist com­edy ‘Lo­gan Lucky’, talks to Christo­pher Hooton about work­ing with Steven Soder­bergh, read­ing imag­ist po­etry aloud and cook­ing a good meat­loaf

The Independent - - Culture / Film -

Con­grat­u­la­tions on Lo­gan Lucky. I en­joyed it, par­tic­u­larly your de­liv­ery of the line: “Yep”.

“Yep?” [Laughs] Thank you very much.

I was talk­ing to A Ghost Story di­rec­tor David Lowry re­cently and he said Casey Af­fleck ac­cepted the film be­fore he read the script; he just text him like: “Wanna be in a weird movie?” and Casey replied “Yeah”. Is there an el­e­ment of that for you with some­one like [Lo­gan Lucky di­rec­tor] Steven Soder­bergh, you don’t re­ally need to see the script be­cause you’re just ex­cited to work with them and you trust their cre­ative vi­sion?

Yeah, I mean it’s al­ways good to read a script so you can con­nect with the char­ac­ter and you can help, but yeah, there is a bit of – even if you don’t un­der­stand it and it’s a to­tal fail­ure for your­self, at least it’ll be an in­ter­est­ing fail­ure.

Did he talk about the un­ortho­dox strat­egy for pro­duc­ing and fi­nanc­ing the film early on?

He did, in one of our first meet­ings, which I thought was in­ter­est­ing. It was just an ex­tra layer of in­ter­est though, he was what ini­tially in­ter­ested me about do­ing it – that he had to­tal con­trol over how it was mar­keted and how it was re­leased and who was pay­ing for it just made it all the more in­trigu­ing.

This was the first time you worked with him right? How did you find it, what are his idio­syn­cra­sies on set?

I loved it; I don’t know about idio­syn­cra­sies, but cer­tainly the pace in which he works, where he’s op­er­at­ing the cam­era, he has a gen­eral light­ing idea that’s ba­si­cally just us­ing what’s in the room – and be­cause of this the pace with which he con­trols the set is so fast. Al­most ev­ery day was like, “Let’s break for a lunch and that’s a wrap”. We would fin­ish four or five hours early be­cause he’s so eco­nom­i­cal in the way it works, so there’s not a lot of time wasted, which is good for the ac­tors be­cause there’s a good mo­men­tum cre­ated on set. It’s also just... this is a very bor­ing word but I keep go­ing back to it: eco­nom­i­cal. When you com­pare it to other sets you’ve been on they seem al­most waste­ful in a way.

In terms of mov­ing be­tween the dif­fer­ent set-ups?

There’s a lot of time wasted with peo­ple do­ing dif­fer­ent [things]; you need a crew ob­vi­ously, and his crew is very good. There’s noth­ing in ex­cess, it makes it feel like more of a job and eas­ier to stay fo­cused. You don’t have to do as much work find­ing the groove you went into be­fore lunch or af­ter lunch when ev­ery­one’s full of meat­ball sand­wiches or what­ever and not as fo­cused. He cre­ates a great mo­men­tum and also in the cast, be­cause it’s an en­sem­ble and there’s not a lot of time to get know each other be­fore­hand, ev­ery­one’s al­ready stay­ing on set any­way so the ca­ma­raderie that’s cre­ated on set works its way into the movie.

I guess it helps that he’s so hands-on, like with the cam­era and ev­ery­thing; he’s in­volved in ev­ery as­pect.

Yeah, and he’s weirdly aware of ev­ery­thing that’s go­ing on but ex­tremely fo­cused. He’s one of the few peo­ple I’ve met that can very eas­ily bal­ance both, where there’s so much chaos go­ing on around him but he’s very much like the cen­tre of the storm and at the same time aware of ev­ery­thing that’s go­ing on. Not that it’s a bet­ter way, it’s just an in­ter­est­ing way.

The thing I liked about your char­ac­ter Clyde is that you ex­pect him to be skep­ti­cal of his brother’s plan but he’s just like, “fuck it, let’s do it”. What was it you liked when you were read­ing the script, what drew you to the char­ac­ter?

I liked his thought­ful­ness against Jimmy’s [Chan­ning Ta­tum] im­pul­sive­ness, that was funny. He seemed very much like he needed to think a lot be­fore he could ac­tu­ally do any­thing.

He’s about as close as a Lo­gan Lucky char­ac­ter comes to wise I guess.

Yeah.

And how did it work with the arm [Clyde has a pros­thetic]?

There was a lot of dif­fer­ent ver­sions of it. When it was just the out­sized hand then it was my hand un­der­neath it and they had to take a cast – ev­ery­thing is hard plas­tic on top then a la­tex hand that they put on top that you just have to pre­tend is solid. Then there’s an­other for the ac­tual arm when I take it off; they have a green sleeve which I wear all the way up to my shoul­der and then there’s a pros­thetic that bends at the el­bow that ex­tends from where my el­bow would be, be­cause he’s a tran­sra­dial am­putee. So it’s like a green sock, then a sleeve that goes over that’s like a pros­thetic. You have to act with this big tu­mour-feel­ing thing hang­ing out.

It must be hard to work around and make it look au­then­tic that you’re miss­ing an arm?

Yeah, you have to make it look like you don’t just have one hand ran­domly in the air, but it’s all good it was very help­ful.

I was think­ing about your act­ing style which I think is very de­fined and feels quite spon­ta­neous – which is ob­vi­ously a qual­ity at the core of act­ing re­ally. Your char­ac­ters of­ten seem kind of sur­prised by the lines they’re be­ing hit with and look some­what dazed. I won­der if that’s some­thing you’ve honed or is just hard­wired in you?

I don’t know, I al­ways feel that with act­ing – this sounds like ac­tor school me say­ing this – but it’s a lot of re­act­ing. If you’re work­ing with a lot of great peo­ple then for me the most fun thing is not do­ing as much work as you can, and then get­ting on set and try­ing to for­get ev­ery­thing and be sur­prised. Even take-to­take you have to flush out all thoughts, all re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, ev­ery­thing has to be drained – and then it’s an­other take and you have to drain that. So yeah, I don’t know, it’s al­ways good to be sur­prised on set and I al­ways like when ac­tors seem to be dis­cov­er­ing it for the first time in front of me.

To that end, do you do a lot of your prepa­ra­tion long be­fore, so when you’re lit­er­ally in your trailer com­ing out onto set you’re al­low­ing your mind to wan­der?

It kind of varies from thing to thing, but yeah I al­ways do try to do as much home­work as I pos­si­bly can to know as much as I pos­si­bly can; if any­thing just to calm down my nerves so I show up on set pre­pared and avail­able for ev­ery­body else. You can have an idea of how a scene is go­ing to go but it’s not usu­ally not just

a scene by your­self and they have their ideas and they could be even bet­ter, so I feel like I can’t come onto set think­ing how it’s sup­posed to be and try­ing to push ev­ery­body else into my di­rec­tion. You can only know so much and then you have to be will­ing to let it go, even if all the home­work you have done is use­less. You have to be pre­pared for that, you’ve done all this work, you know how to make a Mar­tini with one hand, in this in­stance, but then you didn’t take into con­sid­er­a­tion that the bar is a dif­fer­ent height. All that work you did at one level you just have to be com­fort­able to let go of.

Did you spend a lot of time prac­tis­ing mak­ing Mar­ti­nis so it felt nat­u­ral when you were do­ing it?

Yeah, he’s been a bar­tender with one hand for a while. We had to tell a lot of his­tory in that two months we had to shoot.

I was lis­ten­ing to an in­ter­view re­cently with Edie Falco from The So­pra­nos – amaz­ing ac­tress.

Yeah.

Re­cently and she was talk­ing about prepa­ra­tion, and how some­times there can be too much prepa­ra­tion with a scene part­ner and that she doesn’t ac­tu­ally want to talk about all their mo­ti­va­tions and “how did they get here?” and stuff. What’s your re­la­tion­ship with that?

Again, it de­pends on the thing. I like both and I try to do what­ever ev­ery­body else is do­ing – I’m very much a fol­lower in that sense, along with the idea of – just be­cause I’ve done a lot of work doesn’t mean I can im­pose that on some­body else. If they like to work a dif­fer­ent way then I adapt to it.

In this in­stance, there was hardly any talk about how we were do­ing it, even take to take there’s not a lot of talk. Ev­ery­one just does their job and then goes home, there’s not a “what’s my mo­ti­va­tion?”. Ev­ery­one was very pre­pared and pro­fes­sional, but there wasn’t a lot of di­a­logue sur­round­ing it – even lead­ing up to it. The first time we heard our­selves talk as our char­ac­ters re­ally was on set. There was lit­tle re­hearsal at all be­fore­hand. I like both ver­sions.

Then there’s some­one like Noah Baum­bach, he’s the first per­son who comes to mind, where it’s take af­ter take and you can do 40 takes of a scene. There’s also im­mense free­dom in that, where there’s a very strong struc­ture but you still have a lot of room to in­ter­pret the lines. The lines are the lines, but how you mean them, there’s in­fi­nite ways, there’s no right an­swer and it’s not my de­ci­sion what the fi­nal call is. But this is very much like first im­pulses, first takes. I’m not sure if it made it in but there’s a scene where I’m talk­ing to Jimmy when the money goes ev­ery­where in the cave and there’s a bunch of on­ers in that – driv­ing the car through the con­ve­nience store, that was one take. First im­pulses are also an in­ter­est­ing way to work. I have no set way, I guess.

I love that movie you made with Noam Baum­bach, While We’re Young, I try and watch it pe­ri­od­i­cally, it puts me in a good cre­ative mind­set.

Oh good. He’s re­ally great. A lot of his movies are very much process driven, he doesn’t sac­ri­fice his ideas for re­ally great char­ac­ters and story but there’s a lot of cre­ative process in his movies. Even While We’re Young I thought was very sub­tle.

The themes of grow­ing up and com­ing to re­al­i­sa­tions are strong in his movies.

That, and also – I guess we’re talk­ing about a pre­cious­ness of an older gen­er­a­tion or not even an older gen­er­a­tion but a way of work­ing where you can get – in Josh’s case in that movie with Ben Stiller’s char­ac­ter – you over­anal­yse the shit out of ev­ery­thing you’re work­ing on. You’re al­most hand­i­capped by it, you’re work­ing on the same fuck­ing thing, you’re stuck in the same rut be­cause you’re mak­ing it too pre­cious. Then there’s the Jamie as­pect [Driver’s char­ac­ter] which is maybe less au­then­tic, where he ap­pro­pri­ates ev­ery­body else’s hard work but at the same time is able to churn out work faster. There’s still tal­ent but is there an au­then­tic way to work on some­thing or is there not? I think about that all the time.

Yeah. Talk­ing about get­ting stuck in the process, that’s ob­vi­ously some­thing that hap­pened a lit­tle to Steven [Soder­bergh] be­cause he a few years ago was say­ing “I can’t get in the van and scout lo­ca­tions any­more”, he’d just hit a wall with it and re­tired.

Right.

But then he got past that. Ob­vi­ously, you’re still rel­a­tively early in your ca­reer but is that some­thing you worry about or you try to pre­vent so you stay ex­cited about act­ing?

Tak­ing time off is al­ways good. I’m in the mid­dle of time off from set right now and it’s re­ally great. It’s valu­able for me – it’s maybe a bougie prob­lem to have be­cause maybe peo­ple don’t get to have fuck­ing months off work – but tak­ing time away and be­ing a per­son again is valu­able. On set there’s an il­lu­sion of re­al­ity, it’s peo­ple get­ting you things you need, you can fo­cus on what it is you’re do­ing, kind of, but then there’s a lot ba­si­cally di­rectly work­ing against you to do your job. It’s strange but I think time away from it is good.

I was go­ing to ask you about that ac­tu­ally, it sounds like a bit of a Marie Claire ques­tion on the sur­face of it but, how do you re­lax? What do you en­joy do­ing when you’re not on set? I find I have to spend so much time around the in­ter­net for work that I like to get away and do car­pen­try or some­thing...

[Laughs] Sure.

What does time away look like for you, I guess?

I don’t know. I get out of the city as much as pos­si­ble. I don’t know what I do; right now it’s cook­ing be­cause I’m try­ing to learn as I feel I should know how to cook cer­tain things – I don’t know, like meat­loaf. That’s my new thing.

Ev­ery­one should be able to make a good meat­loaf. I don’t have that skill yet but I in­tend to get there.

You should give it a shot, It’s sur­pris­ingly very sim­ple and in­volves a lot of ketchup, which I didn’t re­alise! So cook­ing lately, but all sorts of shit – same stuff that you prob­a­bly do.

Steven re­li­giously keeps a list of ev­ery­thing he watches, I’d like to do that but I think I’d be ashamed

be­cause there’d be so much trash in there I wouldn’t wanna make that pub­lic.

[Laughs] Right right.

If you did one of those what would be on it? In your view­ing habits is it about watch­ing the work of peo­ple you might want to be in­volved with, or is it an ed­u­ca­tion thing – what are you look­ing for?

I think it’s an in­ter­est thing. If it’s a di­rec­tor I’m in­ter­ested in then I’ll con­sume ev­ery­thing, like Michael Pow­ell, I’m on a Michael Pow­ell kick right now. I hadn’t seen any of his movies and then I worked with Thelma Schoon­maker – she was mar­ried to Michael Pow­ell, she’s Scors­ese’s editor – and she gave me all these Pow­ell movies to watch. I’ve seen a lot of movies but there’s some clas­sic di­rec­tors that I don’t know much about their films, so that’s been re­ally fun to ad­dress. There’s a whole list, there’s like 60-some­thing movies of his I haven’t seen. I just watched The Red Shoes, that’s an amaz­ing movie if you’ve never seen it.

It is kind of ran­dom. I’ll fol­low one per­son and that’ll lead me to some­body else, maybe an ac­tor and then I’ll fol­low them for a while.

There’s some­thing quite nice about watch­ing an en­tire ou­vere and see­ing how the di­rec­tor or ac­tor de­vel­ops and changes and where their in­ter­ests lead them.

Right, and I came at it in­di­rectly with [Pow­ell’s] Age of Con­sent, I was talk­ing to a friend of mine and he was like: “That’s like dis­cov­er­ing The Bea­tles through a lat­ter Paul McCart­ney al­bum”, it’s a weird way to come into some­one’s body of work but it’s still been re­ally in­ter­est­ing. Start­ing from that and then go­ing to The Red Shoes is – it’s what you’re say­ing, it’s in­ter­est­ing to see how some­one’s de­vel­oped over time.

I just fi­nally just wanted to talk a lit­tle about Pater­son which was one of my favourite movies last year. It was quite medic­i­nal for me and I think for a lot of peo­ple I speak to who like it – with ev­ery­thing in the world and the way we live at the mo­ment be­ing so over­whelm­ing, the film was like a cool glass of beer...

Oh good!

Was that part of the at­trac­tion for you, apart from the fact it’s work­ing with Jim fuck­ing Jar­musch?

That was it, He [Jar­musch] sent me the script as kind of a for­mal­ity but when we first met I was like “what­ever it is I’m to­tally on board”. He said “just read first and tell me what you think about it”. He sent it to my house and I read it as soon as I got it then I called him like “yeah let’s do it”.

Were you fa­mil­iar with Wil­liam Car­los Wil­liams and Ron Pad­gett’s po­etry?

Only “This is Just to Say”, but not Ron Pad­gett or po­etry over­all – I think I got the col­lege ver­sion of po­etry where ev­ery­one reads it very earnestly and is very self-aware that it’s po­etry and so it has to be read with some kind of rev­er­ence, or slam po­etry ses­sions where it’s all about a mole on an ass cheek that is the shape of Texas or some­thing. I think I got that part of it.

Read­ing po­etry aloud is hard.

It is, yeah. It’s hard to lis­ten to some­times as it is of­ten read with that tone of “as you know this is a poem and it’s very im­por­tant”. For me, ev­ery time I hear sen­ti­ment it’s like an al­lergy. I don’t be­lieve it or I don’t buy it when some­one tells me it’s sup­posed to be pre­cious. They don’t let me have the ex­pe­ri­ence of it, they’re telling me how to feel about it... What was your ques­tion? I feel like I’ve gone on a tan­gent about po­etry! Oh, I wasn’t fa­mil­iar with his po­ems, no no, not un­til that point.

Those kind of imag­ist po­ems shouldn’t be read all grandiose and solemn any­way, I guess, be­cause they’re just about the small, sim­ple mo­ments in life and it’s not about read­ing too much into them but just ac­cept­ing them -

Yea, it’s the same thing with act­ing, when­ever an ac­tor tells me how I should feel about it it takes me out of the equa­tion as an au­di­ence mem­ber. They’re telling me how I should be feel­ing, at least that’s my fucked up idea of things that I like watch­ing. What I re­mind my­self of as an ac­tor is that I’m here but it’s not re­ally about me or my feel­ings about it, it’s about telling the di­rec­tor’s story – so it’s not my job to feel it, it’s the au­di­ence’s to feel it, so hope­fully that comes across. But Jim is a bril­liant film­maker.

For sure. Al­right thanks so much Adam.

Thank you! I’ll think of more things to do, I have no life out­side of this job!

I should cook more I can get on board with that.

Yeah, bring a meat­loaf next time!

Will do.

Cal­i­for­nia-born Driver has ap­peared in film and TV and on Broad­way

(Rex)

Driver in Soder­bergh’s new film ‘Lo­gan Lucky’

(Rex)

The ac­tor ap­peared in Scorcese’s 2016 film ‘Si­lence’

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