By his own admission, Adam Driver was path too young when he first saw Arnold Schwarzenegger’s muscleman 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 told Yahoo Entertainment with a laugh. “The whole ending is a fucking masterpiece! From the minute he falls off the waterfall until the very end, [action movies] can’t do better than that.”
Fast forward to 2023, and Driver is headlining his own version of a sci-fi survival action movie, 65. Written and directed by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods — the duo that dreamed up A silent place — the Sam Raimi-produced thread follows Driver’s alien pilot, Mills, whose spacecraft crash-lands on a prehistoric Earth. With all of the ship’s cryogenically frozen passengers dead, Mills must leave the planet before he is eaten by starving dinosaurs or wiped out by a climate-altering comet. The high-concept combination of forest settings, giant reptiles, and a well-armed leading man makes 65 play as a cross between first blood, Land of the Lost and of course, Predator. It’s not that Driver would dream of comparing himself to a genre icon like Ah-nuld.
“That’s a huge compliment, but I think we’re in totally different categories,” he says modestly when the names of Stallone and Schwarzenegger are invoked in connection with his own action hero turn. “I didn’t think, ‘This is where I walk on set and just grind protein bars and bully people.’ It was more exciting to me that this movie had big sets and laser guns, but my character’s anger and aggression comes from a place of real pain. It grounded the character for me.
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The directors, meanwhile, are quick to call Driver one of Hollywood’s last true action heroes. “Adam might as well be Tom Cruise for us,” says Woods. “He is a great action actor. He does all of his own stunts, and he loves to incorporate stunt work into the physicality of what the role demands within the character arc.”
Beck adds that Driver’s 65 The character was also inspired by Sigourney Weaver’s pioneering turn as Ellen Ripley in the Extraterrestrial frankness – especially in James Cameron Aliens, which hit theaters during the height of Schwarzenegger and Stallone’s ’80s run. Much like Ripley in that 1986 film, Mills is revealed to face a future without his beloved daughter, whose illness could kill her before he returns with the funds to pay for much-needed medical treatment.
“There was this quiet undertone that Sigourney managed to convey through the middle of the Stallones [of that time]”, explains the director. “We had that in mind when it came to Mills’ writing. He has to step into the role of someone who can take care of business and take on those dinosaurs, but he’s also dealing with grief and loss. We wanted both of those aspects to be present in his journey and to see him evolve as he tries to survive in this landscape. Beck and Woods even gifted Mills his own newt. It turns out that a young girl, Koa (Araina Greenblatt), survived the crash and follows the pilot on his perilous run through the jungle.
Whether Predator reflects the kinds of action heroes Driver rooted to grow up, 65 reveals the action hero he himself hopes to be. “As you get older, a whole different world of movies enters your diet, and what I love about a movie like this is the diversity and breadth,” he notes. “This movie doesn’t let spectacle get in the way of the characters. These aren’t numbers of human beings — they’re hopefully nuanced people that you root for.”
Driver’s attitude about heroism underwent a pronounced change after his pre-Hollywood stint in the military. The San Diego-born actor enlisted in the Marines following the 9/11 terrorist attacks and served for two years before receiving a medical discharge after a serious ATV injury. To this day, he continues to support military causes and founded the nonprofit group Arts in the Armed Forces in 2006. (The organization disbanded in February.)
Prior to enlisting, Driver’s perception of soldiers was largely shaped by hyper-masculine action heroes like Schwarzenegger. Predator character. But when he himself became a Marine, he discovered that the image of the purely “aggressive” and emotionless soldier is largely inaccurate. “Even the toughest guy, deep down, can be emotionally available,” he says. “The stereotype is that [soldiers] are inaccessible and that is the total myth.”
During his time as a Marine, Driver also came to understand that soldiers are, deep down, just people — something he says civilians don’t always understand. “They decided to do this heroic thing that they wouldn’t consider that,” he explains. “They have exactly the same problems [as everyone else]they’re just people in this extraordinary circumstance.”
“I feel like civilians tend to think of them as these ultra-disciplined guys, 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 are spaces for people after deployment. We live in a world full of acronyms, but these are people just like anyone else who have chosen to do this amazing work, and it’s hard for people not to view them as a stereotype.”
65 playing in theaters now