Adam Driver can now add his name to that list of dedicated actors who sacrificed their bodies — and sometimes their health — to create a memorable performance.
“He asked us to lose weight,” Driver said of Scorsese. The film tells the story of two 17th century Portuguese Jesuit priests (Driver and Andrew Garfield), who travel to a hostile Japan to locate their mentor (Liam Neeson).
“When the movie begins, the characters have been traveling for two years, from Portugal to Macau, sailed around Africa. There’s disease and shortage of food,” Driver explained. “They’re already kind of depleted when they get to Macau before their last leg to Japan. There’s a lot of storytelling happening off camera.”
Although the characters are introduced while they are thin, Driver said he and Garfield “continue to lose weight” as the film progresses. “He wanted to see that physically. He asked us to lose a lot of weight. I didn’t know how much that was going to be,” Driver said of the director.
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While losing the weight was a difficult experience, Driver said he enjoyed having a physical measure of control over his performance. “I can’t control what’s happening in scenes, but I could control when I ate food,” he explained. “And that visual part of the storytelling, I don’t think I’ve ever taken it to the extreme before. It’s an interesting thing.”
Sometimes, the actor said his overwhelming hunger helped him to deliver a more raw performance. “You’re so hungry and so tired at some points that there’s nothing you can do –you’re not adding anything on top of what you’re doing. You only have enough energy to convey what you’re doing, so it’s great.”
However, he said, “There are other times where a scene’s not working and you don’t have the energy to figure out why it’s not working.”
The historical drama, considered a passion project for Scorsese, hits theaters in a limited release on Dec. 23 before going wide in January.