How new 'Star Wars' star Adam Driver went from a former marine to the Hollywood A-list

Adam Driver GIRLSHBO/’Girls’Adam Driver in ‘Girls.’

Adam Driver is a commanding presence, both on the screen and off of it.

The 32-year-old actor stands at 6’3″, but it’s his background that makes him really stand out.

Driver is a former marine turned Juilliard-trained actor with Midwest charm and an intense discipline that shines through in his performances.

He got his start acting in Broadway and Off-Broadway shows and slowly began the transition to TV and film roles. His portrayal of the sometimes-obnoxious boyfriend to Lena Dunham’s also sometimes-obnoxious Hannah in HBO’s “Girls” put Driver on the Hollywood map.

While he’s taken on roles in major films ranging rom Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” to the Coen brothers’ “Inside Llewyn Davis,” none compares to the hype surrounding his casting as the newest villain in the “Star Wars” universe, Kylo Ren, a Darth Vader enthusiast in “The Force Awakens.”

And that military background and classical training are what gave Driver the “ferocity” for the role, according to director J.J. Abrams.

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” comes out Friday, but before you catch him as the evil Kylo Ren, get to know the actor below:

Adam Douglas Driver was born on November 19, 1983, in San Diego, but when he was seven, he moved to Mishawaka, Indiana, following his parents' divorce. His stepdad was a Baptist minister and Driver sang in the church choir growing up. But he and his friends also created their own 'Fight Club'-inspired group.

Jason Merritt/Getty Images
Adam Driver attends the premiere of 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens.'

(Source: Newsweek)

Driver was involved with school productions at Mishawaka High School and was president of the school choir.

Larry Busacca/Getty Images
Adam Driver poses for a portrait during the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.

(Source: South Bend Tribune)

After graduating from high school, he auditioned for Juilliard but was not accepted, so he sold vacuums and was a telemarketer while trying to figure out what career path to pursue. During this time, he paid $200 in rent to live in the back of his parents' house and was forced to buy his own appliances, including a fridge.

Andrew Goodman/Getty Images for Maui Film Festival

(Source: Rolling Stone)

He attempted to pursue acting once again and set off for California. After some car trouble in Texas, he made it to Santa Monica and stayed for two days before heading back to Indiana.

Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney

(Source: Rolling Stone)

A few months after 9/11, Driver enlisted in the Marine Corps. Two and a half years into his eight-year contract, he broke his sternum in a mountain biking accident. He injured it more as he prepared for his deployment to Iraq and was unable to continue.

He decided to pursue acting once more after a training exercise went wrong and a deadly cloud of white phosphorus forced him and his fellow Marines to run.

'I made up my mind then that I wanted to smoke cigarettes and pursue acting. When you get out of the Marine Corps you think you can do anything,' he told the New York Times.

He didn't turn to cigarettes, but he did follow through with the acting.

(Source: Playbill, New York Times)

He then returned home and attended the University of Indianapolis but shortly thereafter auditioned for Juilliard once again. This time, he got in and began studying drama in 2005.

Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for G-Shock
Adam Driver attends G-Shock Shock The World 2013.

(Source: Newsweek)

Driver told W magazine that he believes the Marine Corps helped train him to act, a sentiment he's echoed in a number of different interviews.

Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney
Adam Driver and Oscar Isaac attend the world premiere of “'Star Wars: The Force Awakens.'

'The Marine Corps is some of the best acting training you could have,' he said. 'Having that responsibility for people's lives, suddenly time becomes a really valuable commodity and you want to make the most of it. And for acting, you just have to do the work, just keep doing it.'

(Source: W)

During his second year at Juilliard, Driver and his classmate Joanne Tucker created Arts in the Armed Forces, a nonprofit that brings theatre performances to current and former military members and their families.

(Source: The Julliard Journal)

Driver and Tucker married in 2013.

Jason Merritt/Getty Images
Joanne Tucker and Adam Driver attend the premiere of 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens.'

(Source: Us Weekly)

Shortly after graduating in 2009, Driver scored his first job, a spot on the ABC TV show 'The Unusuals,' which starred Jeremy Renner, Amber Tamblyn, and Adam Goldberg.

Craig Barritt/Getty Images
Adam Driver attends the opening night of Broadway's 'Look Back In Anger' in 2012.

(Source: Interview)

He then did a play called 'Slipping.' He continued to act in Off-Broadway shows, including 'The Retributionists,' and he replaced Zachary Quinto in 2011 in 'Angels in America.' He made his Broadway debut in 2010 in 'Mrs. Warren's Profession.' He returned to Broadway again in 2011 for 'Man and Boy.'

Mike Coppola/Getty Images
Adam Driver (bottom R) poses with the cast of 'Man and Boy' for a cast photo.

(Source: Playbill, New York Times)

Driver began to transition from Broadway to more TV roles by appearing in episodes of shows including 'Law & Order' and TV movies, like HBO's 'You Don't Know Jack.'

Adam Driver in an episode during 'Law & Order's' 20th season.

He had mainly focused on theatre following his education at Julliard and 'thought that TV was the devil,' but Lena Dunham's 'Girls' changed his mind.

(Source: GQ)

He made his feature film debut in 2011 in Clint Eastwood's 'J. Edgar,' a biopic about J. Edgar Hoover.

Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Lucille Lortel Awards
Adam Driver attends the 27th Annual Lucille Lortel Awards in 2012.

Driver broke out in Hollywood after being cast as Dunham's boyfriend in HBO's 'Girls' in 2012. He has earned three consecutive Emmy nominations for his role, as well as a Critics' Choice nomination in 2015.

In 2012, he briefly appeared as telegraph operator Samuel Beckwith in Steven Spielberg's Academy Award-winning 'Lincoln.'

Adam Driver in 'Lincoln.'

He also appeared in Noah Bambach's 'Frances Ha,' starring Greta Gerwig.

Adam Driver in 'Frances Ha.'

In 2013, he humorously sang in Joel and Ethan Coen's 'Inside Llewyn Davis,' alongside Oscar Isaac and Justin Timberlake.

That same year, he appeared in the films 'Bluebird,' 'What If' (originally called 'The F Word'), and 'Tracks,' in which he portrayed real-life photographer Rick Smolan.

Adam Driver in 'What If.'

In 2014, Driver won the Volpi Cup award for best actor at the 71st Venice International Film Festival for the Italian drama 'Hungry Hearts.'

Adam Driver in 'Hungry Hearts.'

That same year, he reunited with Noah Baumbach for 'While We're Young' and starred in the family dramedy 'This Is Where I Leave You.'

Ben Stiller, Adam Driver, and Amanda Seyfried in 'While We're Young.'

Driver was the first cast member of the new 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' to be announced in 2014. He was cast as the main villain, Kylo Ren, who follows in Darth Vader's steps.

(Source: Variety)

Next year, he'll appear in Jeff Nichols' sci-fi drama 'Midnight Special,' which also stars Michael Shannon and Kirsten Dunst.

Adam Driver in 'Midnight Special.'

Another one of his upcoming projects, and one of his most anticipated to date, is Martin Scorsese's 'Silence,' alongside Liam Neeson and Andrew Garfield, about Jesuit priests.

Christopher Jue/Getty Images for Walt Disney Studios
Adam Driver attends a 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' fan event.

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