Interview: Adam Driver Talks Breitling, Motorcycles, And Hunter S. Thompson
The star of stage and screen sat down with Watchonista to discuss his partnership with Breitling, his love of motorcycles, and as it turns out, we had a few things in common.
It’s a rare talent when an actor is able to seamlessly transition from screen to stage and back again. Yet, it's something that actor Adam Driver has been doing his whole life.The former Marine turned Juilliard trained thespian has a flair for playing intimidating and volatile characters on screen and stage. Then, last year, Driver joined forces with Brad Pitt, Charlize Theron, and Daniel Wu, forming Breitling's 'Cinema Squad,’ which brings the excitement and drama of the silver screen to a creative new partnership. Now, three of these really, really, ridiculously good looking stars are on a mission to cement Breitling's place in the world of cinema.
During an event at Breitling's Madison Avenue in New York, Driver took a night off from his 'Burn This' Broadway show to indulge in his other passion, motorcycles. Joining Norton Motorcycles CEO Stuart Garner and Breitling USA President Thierry Prissert, Driver was seemingly at home among the gathered watch and motorcycle buffs.
Luckily for Watchonista, we were able to spend a few moments with Driver to talk about his passions. Which as it turns out, are surprisingly similar to this author's. Like me, Driver was raised in Indiana (Mishawaka to be exact), graduated high school in 2001, worked a variety of retail jobs, and surprisingly, has a similar, almost fanatical, love of Hunter S. Thompson.
Breitling Cinema Squad
Breitling's first 'Cinema Squad’ campaign, #SquadOnAMission, seeks to unravel the mysteries from the world of cinema and joining Driver on this journey are Brad Pitt and Charlize Theron and pairs them with Breitling's Premier collection. Surely, for even the most casual observer, the presence of Pitt, Driver, and Theron is certain to amplify the awareness of the newly re-energized Breitling. #SquadOnAMission is the credo and thanks to Georges Kern, the mission is quickly turning out to be a success.
Interview with Adam Driver
Josh Shanks: Adam, a pleasure to meet you! I have to ask, what was your first nice watch?
Adam Driver: Breitling [laughs]. Actually, the first really nice watch was a Breitling. That's 100% true.
JS: How did you end up collaborating with the folks at Breitling?
AD: They reached out to me. They said they were putting this "squad" together and I had a layman's understanding of the history of Breitling. It was one of those things that happen in your life that you actually like or identify with. [This collaboration] opened me up to a culture, or maybe sub-culture, that I had no idea about. That interested me.
It kind of matched the more I learned about it. I was always raised that you need to live an artful life in everything that you do, regardless of what your job is, the clothes you wear or the things that you're interested in. It's good to be surrounded by beauty if you can. Regardless of your budget or your finances.
JS: What do you appreciate about Breitling?
AD: I appreciate when things are dual-purpose. When they are aesthetically beautiful but there is a practicality to it. When you can be rough, you know, you don't have to worry about breaking it. Otherwise, it just seems pretentious to me. So, there is something about things that are multi-functional, beautiful, but also durable. [Breitling] wasn't a part of my world but now it is.
JS: As an artist, there are certainly parallels between art and watchmaking, right?
AD: Oh sure! Attention to detail is always something that I'm interested in. I love when people are good at their jobs. Whether they're waiters, politicians, nuclear physicists, or basketball players. I believe that - maybe this is not right - there is art in all of those things. And, when you're exposed to that attention to detail then it's hard not to be interested in all aspects of it [watchmaking].
JS: Any interesting watch-related stories from the set?
AD: Weird watch stories? No. I mean, other than, I've dropped my Breitling watches a lot and every time I always think it's the end. I'm going to pick it up and it's going to be cracked in 50 places. Now I just kind of want to push the limit, you know? What amount of pressure? What PSI is going to crack this thing? I've dropped it off buildings [laughs].
JS: So, you can attest to the durability.
AD: Yeah, I can, actually. And not in a kind of company-man kind of way, that's what I like about it. Drop it on marble and it still works. (Note, Watchonista do NOT advise this)
JS: Another reason we're here is because of Norton Motorcycles. I heard you're also quite a motorcycle buff. How'd that come about?
AD: Well, I'm a buff as in I ride motorcycles and I like doing it. I could tell you now the history of Norton because they cram it into you, so I don't look like an a-hole during these interviews [laughs]. I'm half kidding, but I'm not. And I knew Norton bikes, but they were out of my price range. Same thing with Breitling. That's why it was the first nice watch I had. It wasn't part of my upbringing, you know. Motorcycles are just something that I found through Hunter S. Thompson's writing.
[Josh goes speechless]
AD: [Hunter S. Thompson] did that article about riding a motorcycle [Song of the Sausage Creature, READ HERE] and I read it. I was working the night shift as a security guard at a Target distribution warehouse and I was going to school full-time during the day. It was great to read this thick article by Thompson about motorcycles. Do you know Hunter S. Thompson at all?
JS: Do I ever?! He's my favorite author, I even have a Gonzo tattoo.
AD: No shit! That's cool! Anyway, so he wrote that thing about motorcycles and I'm like, "Oh my god, that sounds amazing!"
JS: Thompson romanticized it [motorcycle riding].
AD: Totally! And he was, of course, with the Hell's Angels, and all that. So when I moved to New York and was living upstate during the summer, it seemed like an easy place – a safer place – to learn how to ride a motorcycle. So, I went to Hudson, New York and got my motorcycle license and did work for a guy in the Adirondacks later that summer. I helped him in construction and outdoor work, and as payment, he gave me his Honda CB400. And I decided to ride it for four hours through all kinds of bad weather back to New York, which I would never do now. But, at the time, I felt very indestructible. Thinking back, it was very scary.
JS: That's very cool, what other bikes have you owned?
AD: So, I had the CB400 for a while in the city. Then, my Honda VT700 or 750, I think that's right, my wife made me get rid of it. And, keeping it in the city was a pain. It was stored in DUMBO - Sorry, I'm rambling now [laughs].
JS: No, it's great [laughs].
AD: So, I got a storage space in DUMBO which flooded during Hurricane Sandy, so it's [the bike] is a nightmare to keep in the city. But now we have a place upstate, so it's perfect to house a motorcycle.
JS: Last question, I grew up in a military family and your work in the Arts in the Armed Forces means a lot to me. How can the general public either partake or help the cause?
AD: Donations are always helpful! Raising money for non-profits is always hard, but especially for arts non-profits. Trying to explain to people who are not in the arts the value of the arts, especially to a community that seems to be dealing with - you know, Guns and Ammo and very tactile, practical things. I think being able to express a feeling, even if abstractly, is not really put on the same par [in the sense] of value as flak jackets.
But I think that they should be. I think to be able to express yourself, especially for people who pride themselves for having acronyms for acronyms, communication is key in everything. And to say that articulating a feeling isn't as important as a rifle, you know, I think it's just as [important].
AD: And I know from just the experience of [the military] where language was not often used to express feelings or thought and how this could make people violent because they lose the words. And then suddenly, I was exposed to all these playwrights and characters in plays that have nothing to do with the military but were somehow articulating that experience in a way that calmed me down. Being back in the civilian world, I thought, what better community of people to share that with than those whom we are asking to protect our country.
We perform contemporary American plays for a military audience. No sets, no costumes, no lights. Just reading the material to show that theater can be performed anywhere and it's the best response you can ask for as an actor. It's demystifying for the actors who think that the military is just the F Troop and it's demystifying for the military community that they can understand plays or that theater is only for the highly educated, or for a higher class of people. I think that's bullshit.
[We need] funding so we can travel to as many places as we can. For civilians, that's a good way to support it. Whether that's a donation of $2 or $200,000. We'll take any support. Moral support even! We'll take an email if it's able to inspire our very limited and small staff.
JS: Thank you very much Adam, it's been a pleasure to see a fellow Hoosier thrive.
AD: Absolutely man! Have a good one!
(Photography by Liam O'Donnell)