Right now, who is the best actor on the planet? Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep, Daniel Day-Lewis, Cate Blanchett, Al Pacino, and Nicole Kidman all come to mind, but narrowing that list to one is nearly impossible. However, if the question changes from “best actor” to “most interesting actor,” there’s only one name that comes to mind and it’s Adam Driver.
Adam Driver is skyrocketing up the charts for best actor on the planet, but for me, he is the clear choice for the most interesting actor right now. For an actor as talented and well-respected as Driver, a career in acting almost never happened. Driver applied to Juilliard after high school but was rejected. After a short stint as a door-to-door vacuum salesperson, he joined the Marines after the 9/11 attacks. In his interview with Howard Stern, Driver emphasized he loved being in the Marines. However, Driver never went to the Middle East because he broke his sternum mountain biking. After being medically discharged, he eventually tried out for Julliard and was accepted. Imagine training as a marine for over two years and having it all end because you fell off a bike. The world is a weird place.
Thankfully, Driver became an actor. After some small roles on television as well as a role alongside Leonardo Dicaprio in J. Edgar, Driver’s first real big break came on Girls. Driver played Adam Sackler, a passionate but standoffish wannabe actor. If I’m being honest, Girls wasn’t for me and I never finished most of it, but Driver was a standout. Driver has this dominant presence where every time he’s onscreen, I’m listening because I know whatever he says will be important. Driver earned three Emmy nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series.
As successful as Driver is on television, I’m absolutely fascinated by his movie career. Driver becoming the most interesting actor on the planet is due to these three components: his range, the roles he takes, and the directors he works with.
Let’s start with his range. If Adam Driver played baseball, he’d be a five-tool prospect. For those not familiar with that phrase, a five-tool player has all five of the components that scouts look for when evaluating a player. They are speed, power, hitting for average, fielding and arm strength. Driver is a five-tool actor with unlimited range. There is not a genre that doesn’t suit Driver’s talents. Action, romance, comedy, drama, thrillers, blockbusters, indies, etc. Driver has done it all. He can help lead a huge franchise like Star Wars that grosses billions of dollars or he can be the star of indie dramas like Patterson and Hungry Heart. Spike Lee described Driver in one word, “Beast.” (Start video at 7:10)
Going off his range, the roles that Driver takes are beyond compelling. There are some actors who can only play the good guy. Some actors can only play bad guys. Few will ever cross over and go against typecasting for fear of negative reception. That problem is nonexistent for Driver. His choices are so ballsy, but 9 times out of 10, they pay off.
Let’s take his role as Kylo Ren in the Star Wars franchise. Driver is evil and manipulative, but he’s so damn captivating as the villain. Now, let’s see Driver be a good guy who has to act like a racist in BlacKkKlansman. A.O. Scott of the NY Times said, “The most shocking thing about Flip’s (Driver’s character) imposture is how easy it seems, how natural he looks and sounds. This unnerving authenticity is partly a testament to Mr. Driver’s ability to tuck one performance inside another…” These roles are both extremely complex, but Driver’s innate ability to immerse himself into any role and give good performance after good performance is why he’s so critically acclaimed.
Last but not least, look at the directors that Driver has worked with over the years. These are not some shmucks who are picking up the camera for the first time. These are some of the most influential and renowned filmmakers of the last 50 years.
This list is unbelievable. Clint Eastwood, Oscar winner. Steven Spielberg, Oscar winner. The Coen Brothers, Oscar winners. Martin Scorsese, Oscar winner. Steven Soderbergh, Oscar Winner. Spike Lee, Oscar winner. Jim Jarmusch is one of the most important independent filmmakers of the last 40 years. J.J. Abrams, Emmy winner and one of the most famous sci-fi directors ever. Rian Johnson directed The Last Jedi and one of the greatest episodes of television of the last 21st century, Breaking Bad’s “Ozymandias.” Noah Baumbach is one of the hottest filmmakers in Hollywood and critics are already predicting that his newest film, Marriage Story, which stars Driver, will be this generation’s Kramer vs. Kramer. It’s no surprise that these esteemed directors want to work with Driver. Simply put, Driver is brilliant.
If you’re into betting, place a wager on Driver winning an Oscar within the next 10 years. You may not even have to wait that long since Driver has three movies coming out later this year that all have Oscar buzz: Marriage Story, The Report, and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. I said that determining the best actor on the planet is a tall task. However, if Driver goes three for three to close out 2019, the debate may be over. Adam Driver is the most interesting actor on the planet and soon, he may be the best actor on the planet.