Plus more from the actor's New York Film Festival talk

By Joe McGovern
October 03, 2016 at 08:15 PM EDT
J. Kempin/Getty Images

Adam Driver, his hair styled in a perfect shoulder-length Kylo Ren cut, was feted as the guest of honor at a special dinner during the 54th New York Film Festival on Sunday night. Driver plays the title character, a New Jersey bus driver who is secretly a gifted poet, in Jim Jarmusch’s dreamy Paterson, which is screening in the festival’s main slate at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s annual NYC movie parade.

The event offered a chance for fans to hear Driver talk about Paterson and his life as an actor, while in conversation with NYFF director Kent Jones, two hours before the movie’s premiere at Alice Tully Hall. (On Wednesday, the NYFF will host a similar evening with Kristen Stewart, who appears in three features at this year’s fest.)

Before dinner at the Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse at Lincoln Center, EW spoke to Driver about what drew him to work with Jarmusch — and the challenges of driving a behemoth 45-foot long New Jersey Transit bus.

Amazon Studios / Bleecker Street

 

“There weren’t a lot of cultural outlets in Mishawaka, Indiana, where I grew up,” Driver explained to EW, “But I remember going to Blockbuster in high school and renting Down by Law. I think that was the first Jarmusch movie I saw and after that I just consumed everything by him. And then, to be in a film of his, I don’t want to say it wasn’t work, but it was a real treat to get lost in that world he creates.”

In order to prepare for his role, Driver attended a driving school in Queens, New York, for two months and received his bus-operator license. “I didn’t have to do it, but I just thought that it would open us up to getting some other shots and angles,” Driver told EW. “And I only got to drive the bus for a couple shots but for me it was worth it. It was more about understanding the character and his routine and the physical life that he has. It seemed to me like all the tangible things, like driving the bus, would give me information about his life, so I should know what they are.”

What’s the toughest part of bus driving? “The turning ratio,” he says. “Yeah, parallel parking is also really difficult, as you can imagine, with a bus. And the pre-check inspection. Safety is really important. You have to know all the tire pressure and the PSI and all that.”

So, though you might find a license in his pocket, notebooks full of poetry would be less likely. “I’ve tried to write before and it’s…too bad,” Driver said to Jones during the moderated conversation. “I’ve met really good writers and felt, like, ‘I don’t see the world how you do, I don’t think I should try to do what you do.'” Though, he also added, “I love language. I didn’t really come to love it until later in the life. Not being able to express yourself can make people angry and aggressive, so I’ve realized that language can be more of a tool or a weapon. And I can see what a valuable thing that is.”

 

In a lovely moment, which illustrates that Driver’s base of admiration goes way beyond Girls and Star Wars fans, he was approached by the young Italian director Alice Rohrwacher (Cannes prizewinner The Wonders), who is the 2016 New York Film Festival’s Filmmaker in Residence. The two had met before — Rohrwacher’s sister Alba was Driver’s costar in the intense 2014 drama Hungry Hearts, for which both Rohrwacher and Driver won acting awards at the Venice Film Festival. 

“It’s so wonderful to see you,” Driver told her after a long embrace, “Please tell your sister hello from me. How are you?”

“I’m good,” Rohrwacher said “’I’ve been here one month, thinking and writing and doing everything. And how are you?”

Rohrwacher’s upcoming project, an Italian film which she’s developing now, is about a man who can seemingly travel through time. And Driver, meanwhile, though enjoying an off year between Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the franchise’s upcoming Episode VIII, has Paterson opening on Dec. 28, five days after Martin Scorsese’s Jesuit priest drama Silence, in which he also stars — and which he briefly described to Jones as “the toughest job I ever had to do.”

Amazon Studios / Bleecker Street

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