Adam Driver on Filmmaking, Horses and His Iconic Burberry Hero Campaign

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Behind the scenesCourtesy Burberry

From temperamental horses to mythological transformations, the actor talks through his role in the latest Burberry fragrance campaign

Earlier this year, in the height of summer, Burberry unveiled its latest perfume campaign. The accompanying visuals – which included Mario Sorrenti-shot images and a surreal, Jonathan Glazer-directed short – were created to promote the brand’s new men’s fragrance, Hero. After they debuted, it took only minutes for the entire internet to erupt in frenzy.

The rapturous reception could be attributed to a number of different factors. There’s the cinematography, which presents an idyllic, polychromatic sunset and crisp coastal waters. There’s the emotive soundtrack, courtesy of FKA Twigs. There’s the magnetic leading man, played by Adam Driver, who storms topless across the sand in peak physical condition. There’s also a horse, who swims, and eventually – it’s implied – merges with Driver (the ending shot shows the blurred outline of a centaur). According to Burberry chief creative officer Riccardo Tisci, the campaign is a perfect encapsulation of the Hero fragrance – a portrait of “modern masculinity,” which plays on the “essence of primal human and animal instincts.”

With this mythical, emblematic notion of masculinity at the heart of the campaign, it was vital to find the right figurehead. For Glazer and Tisci, Driver felt like the natural choice: a striking, versatile actor who oozes star power – whether he’s playing a tyrannical sociopath in Star Wars, or the serenely stylish Maurizio Gucci in the upcoming House of Gucci. “What drew me to this was just the unknown of it all,” Driver tells AnOther. The actor was approached by Glazer and Tisci, who presented him with a “beautiful and ambitious” set of visual references for the campaign. “They said a lot of things like, your body would fuse with the horse’s body,” he recalls. “And Jesus Christ, horses are pretty powerful, it was a lofty goal ... It didn’t seem like something you just show up to, they shoot you and you go home. It required a lot of work and consideration and travel and time.”

Driver was more than up for the challenge. For one thing, he was already a fan of Burberry, praising the brand’s quality and immaculate attention to detail. “I already liked their clothes because they fit, which for me, with my Sasquatch dimensions, is a challenge,” he says with a laugh. There was also the involvement of Jonathan Glazer, an auteur known for his unsettling arthouse features, including Under The Skin, Sexy Beast and Birth. With him at the helm, the project was bound to be much more stirring than your typical fragrance campaign. “Glazer makes an audience work, and I feel like that’s a rare thing now. Or less common, I should say. People [tend to] want things to be spelt out for them,” Driver says. “It’s not a literal approach to filmmaking. It’s ambitious, but also has a sense of humour. So I was excited.”

Like the fragrance, the campaign is centred around the idea of heroism. It follows Driver as he takes a figurative leap into the unknown – the depths of the ocean – emerging renewed, and empowered to embrace who he truly is. The centaur finale, while mysterious, serves as a vivid mythological metaphor for this extreme, psychic metamorphosis. That said, physicality played a major role, too. “I had a conversation with Jonathan about the images and this idea of mirroring a horse’s physicality which, in my face, is fine. But in my body seemed really ambitious,” jokes Driver. “I started training pretty soon after that, to get in shape and to try to be as sinewy as a horse, which is exhausting and interesting, and definitely peppered with moments of ‘what the hell am I doing?’”

Thankfully, the dedication to his training paid off. On the day of the shoot, Driver worked hard to bring Glazer and Tisci’s epic vision to life; swimming in the sea with kettlebells, sprinting across sand, and manoeuvering around temperamental (but immaculately cared for) horses. “They’re big and they’re primadonnas,” says Driver of his equine co-stars. “It’s nerve-racking when you’re treading water in the ocean and they pull this horse out, and he turns around and just stares you down with his mouth open. Having to [swim with him], latch on and ride him to shore is definitely something I don’t think I’ll repeat in my life.”

For Driver, the main goal was to support Glazer’s vision, and that meant being physically ready for whatever was required. “The images did the work itself, and there wasn’t anything for me to add on top of it other than show up and not get bitten by a horse, and be physically ready,” he says. “My body is a huge part of the storytelling, so that’s more what I was focused on.” Thankfully, those efforts paid off. “It was all ambitious and really difficult. But I think, hopefully, really beautiful.”

Burberry Hero is available now.