By his own admission, Adam Driver was way too young when he first saw Arnold Schwarzenegger’s muscle-bound military man battle an intergalactic bounty hunter in John McTiernan’s 1987 action classic, Predator. “Predator was part of my DNA when it shouldn’t have been,” the 39-year-old actor tells Yahoo Entertainment with a laugh. “The whole ending is a f***ing masterpiece! From the moment he falls off the waterfall to the end, (action movies) can’t get any better than that.”
Fast forward to 2023 and Driver is headlining his own version of a sci-fi survival action film, 65. Written and directed by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods – the duo that dreamed of A quiet place — The Sam Raimi-produced yarn follows Driver’s alien pilot, Mills, whose spacecraft crashes on a prehistoric Earth. With all of the ship’s cryogenically frozen passengers dead, Mills must get off the planet before he is eaten by hungry dinosaurs or obliterated by a climate-changing comet. The high-concept combination of forest-based sets, giant reptiles and a well-armed leading man does 65 play as an intermediary First Blood, Land of the Lost and of course, Predator. Not that Driver would ever dream of comparing himself to a genre icon like Ah-nuld.
“It’s a massive compliment, but I think we’re in completely different categories,” he says modestly when the names of Stallone and Schwarzenegger are invoked in relation to his own action hero ride. “I wasn’t thinking like, ‘This is where I go on set and just crush protein bars and scare people.’ It was more exciting for me that this movie had big sets and laser guns, but my character’s anger and aggression comes from a place of real pain. That grounded the character for me.”
Watch our interview with Adam Driver on YouTube
The directors, on the other hand, have no qualms about branding Driver as one of Hollywood’s last real action heroes. “Adam might as well be Tom Cruise for us,” says Woods. “He is a large action actor. He does all his own stunts and he loves to incorporate stunt work into the physicality of what the role requires as part of the character’s arc.”
Beck adds that Driver’s 65 character was equally inspired by Sigourney Weaver’s groundbreaking turn as Ellen Ripley in the Alien franchise – especially in James Cameron’s Foreigners, which hit theaters at the height of Schwarzenegger and Stallone’s ’80s run. Like Ripley in that 1986 film, Mills is revealed to face a future without his beloved daughter whose illness may kill her before he returns with the funds to pay for much-needed medical care.
“There was this quiet nuance that Sigourney was able to funnel through in the midst of Stallone’s (at the time),” the director explains. “We had that in the back of our minds in terms of writing Mills. He has to play someone who can take care of business and go toe-to-toe with these dinosaurs, but he also struggles with grief and loss. We wanted both. these aspects must be present in his journey and see him evolve as he tries to survive against this landscape.” Beck and Woods even gave Mills his own Newt. It turns out that a young girl, Koa (Araina Greenblatt), survived the crash and follows the pilot on his perilous jungle run.
If Predator reflects the kind of action hero Driver rooted in growing up, 65 reveals the action hero he hopes to be himself. “As you get older, a whole different world of movies comes into your diet, and what I love about a movie like this is the diversity and scope,” he notes. “This movie doesn’t let the acting get in the way of the characters. They’re not ciphers of people — they’re hopefully nuanced people that you root for.”
Driver’s attitude to heroism underwent a marked shift after his pre-Hollywood stint in the military. The San Diego-born actor enlisted in the Marines in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and served for two years before receiving a medical discharge following a serious injury while mountain biking. To this day, he continues to support military causes and founded the non-profit group, Arts in the Armed Forces, in 2006. (The organization disbanded in February).
Before enlisting, Driver’s perception of soldiers was largely shaped by hypermasculine action heroes like Schwarzenegger’s Predator Grade. But when he became a Marine himself, he discovered that the image of the purely “aggressive” and emotionless soldier is largely inaccurate. “Even the toughest guy, when you really get down to it, can be emotionally available,” he says. “The stereotype is that (soldiers) are inaccessible, and that’s a total myth.”
During his time as a Marine, Driver also came to understand that soldiers are, at heart, just human — something he says civilians don’t always understand. “They’ve decided to do this heroic thing that they didn’t want to see as that,” he explains. “They have exactly the same problems (as everyone else), they’re just human beings in this extraordinary situation.”
“I feel like civilians tend to look at them as these uber-disciplined types, and there’s that element, but they’re also capable of more emotion than that,” Driver continues. “That’s why it’s even more important that there’s room for people after the broadcast. We live in an acronym-heavy world, but they’re people like everyone else who have chosen to do this extraordinary work, and it’s hard for people not to.” look at them as a stereotype.”
65 playing in theaters now