Former Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Adam Driver landed the role of the newest franchise villain in Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens, which will premiere Dec. 18.

The character played by Driver is named Kylo Ren. Though little is known about Ren, he carries the same red lightsaber typically used by the Sith, and his ensemble bears a resemblance to beloved villain Darth Vader.

Driver — who has steadily risen to fame through his role on HBO’s Girls, and in movies like J. Edgar and Lincoln, began his adult life with a very different career — enlisting as a Marine in 2001, soon after the September 11 attacks.

He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 1st Marine as an 81mm mortarman in Camp Pendleton, California.

Though he fell comfortably into his role in the military, Driver’s Marine Corps career was cut short due to a mountain biking accident. After breaking his sternum, he was medically discharged two years into his enlistment — a major blow to the young lance corporal who loved being a Marine. He had to stay home while his battalion deployed to Iraq without him.

In an interview with GQ, Driver said, “To not get to go with that group of people I had been training with was … painful.”


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Depressed after being discharged, he sought to become an actor.

Though he was rejected from the Juilliard School in New York once before, he applied again and was accepted. And before breaking into television and movies, he acted in several Broadway productions.

Despite his rise to fame, the idea of service instilled in him by his time in the military stuck with him. He and his wife Joanne Tucker started an organization called Arts in the Armed Forces, which provides thought-provoking performances aimed at the military community, including traveling to military bases to perform.

Watch Driver explain the power of the performing arts in this trailer for Vice News: