Adam Driver is perhaps best known for his roles in the Star Wars movies, and more recently starred in Marriage Story alongside Scarlett Johansson. However, before his acting career, the star had an entirely different occupation.
Joining in 2001, Adam Driver served for more than two years in the U.S. Marines. He was discharged for medical reasons after a biking incident and has since spoken of his time in the military.
Find out more below about Driver’s military career, from the reasons he signed up to his subsequent rise to stardom as an actor.
Joining the Marines
Just months after the devastation of September 11th, 2001, Driver took the decision to join the Marines. Aged just 17 at the time, he had dabbled in theatre at high school but had yet to truly flourish as an actor.
Speaking in a TED Talk, he explains that he “Wasn’t doing anything,” at the time, and lived in his home town of Mishawaka, Indiana. When the horrific events of 9/11 took place, he was “filled with patriotism and retribution and the desire to do something.”
Driver served in 1/1 Weapons Company based out of Camp Pendleton, California.
He speaks of his “overwhelming sense of duty,” which led him to the Marines, a career he enjoyed. “I loved it,” he says. “Firing weapons was cool, driving and detonating expensive things was great.”
You can see his TED Talk, where he discusses his time in the military in the YouTube video below.
Beyond his enjoyment of weaponry was something far deeper for Driver. “The Marine corps became synonymous with my friends,” he says.
Though his comrades came to hold huge importance for him, this came as quite the surprise. These were friends with whom, “On the surface [he] had nothing in common with.”
The end of his military career was caused by a mountain biking accident, where Driver suffered a dislocated sternum. He was just a few months away from being deployed to Iraq.
“Suddenly I was a civilian again,” he says. “Being told I wasn’t getting deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan was very devastating for me,” he explains, a feeling that he accepts may be hard for non-veterans to understand.
The change to civilian life did not come easy to him, despite being in reasonably good health. “I was surprised by how complex the transition was…I can’t imagine going through that process on top of a mental or physical injury.”
Journey into Acting
In an interview with The Guardian in 2017, Driver speaks of the mental clarity that followed his time in the Marines.
“There’s something about going into the military and having all of your identity and possessions stripped away…It becomes very clear to you, when you get your freedom back, that there’s stuff you want to do.”
Returning to civilian life, Driver studied at the University of Indianapolis, before applying to Juilliard, the same school he applied to when he was 17. This time, he was accepted.
He graduated in 2009 and has enjoyed a successful acting career since, having been nominated for two Academy Awards.
Despite his success as an actor, Driver has not forgotten his military roots. In 2006, he founded Arts in the Armed Forces alongside his wife Joanne.
Arts in the Armed Forces (AITAF) is a not for profit organization which aims to bring entertainment to military personnel.
One of their values, AITAF’s website states, is accessibility, as they strive to “bring free artistic experiences to military communities.” Their mission, they say, is to “use the powerful shared experience of the arts to start a conversation between military and civilian, service member and family member, the world of the arts and the world of practical action.”
Reported on by US Veteran’s Magazine, Driver speaks of his passion for the arts. “Self expression is just as valuable a tool as a rifle on your shoulder.”
He explains that he became aware of his own mortality during his time in the military. “Time is precious,” he says, “And you don’t want to waste it.”