Adam Driver's Version of Kylo Ren's Backstory Is Realistic and Depressing

Adam Driver as Kylo Ren.
Adam Driver as Kylo Ren.
Image: Disney/Lucasfilm

Kylo Ren has an official backstory, which involves him being shipped off to Luke’s Jedi Academy, his angst and frustration at trying to live up to his large legacy, and more than a little bit of big Dark Side intervention from the baddies of the Star Wars sequel trilogy. In Adam Driver’s mind, that story was a bit more simple and grounded.

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In a live Instagram interview for Inverse (shared by IndieWire) Lev Grossman, The Magicians author and the writer of one of the early big previews of The Rise of Skywalker, was fascinated by Kylo Ren’s backstory, and particularly interested in Adam Driver’s ideas of it. Actors, doing their work, often invent backstories and scenarios for the characters that go beyond and inform the script. It helps them do their job better. For Driver, that meant imagining Kylo Ren’s upbringing. And it wasn’t a great one.

“This is actually something Adam Driver said,” Grossman said. “He said that both Han Solo and Leia were way too self-absorbed and into this idea of themselves as heroes to really be attentive parents in the way a young and tender Kylo Ren really needed. There wasn’t really that much of it in the movie so I just think we have to assume his childhood sucked.”

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There are hints of this in the Star Wars expanded canon, about Han Solo’s drifting back to his old life and Leia being absorbed by the pull of her role as a famous rebel and senator and then rebel again. But as Driver envisioned it, their failings were less sympathetic and more just, well, bad parenting. Kylo Ren, in this framing, is obsessed with legacies because maybe his family always was, too. And him being shipped off to Luke was maybe less an expression of worry about his dark impulses and more an abdication of responsibility from the two people he needed most. It’s a subtle emotional territory and is a part of why Driver’s acting is likely as subtle as it is, even when the movies around him are as unsubtle as can possibly be.

If you want the official version of Ben Solo’s backstory, check out The Rise of Kylo Ren, released by Marvel Comics. If you want to see Ben being sad about his parents, any movie in the new trilogy will do.

Correction: 6/23/2020, 10:00 a.m. ET: A previous version of this story did not cite the original source for the interview, Inverse.

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io9 Weekend Editor. Videogame writer at other places. Queer nerd girl.

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DISCUSSION

This series should have just committed to it being “We Need to talk about Kylo.” No excuses, no whiny backwalking, no pretending a 30-year-old man can blame his problems on his parents working too hard. He chased a “glorious past” and wound up with a bunch of fascists then took out all his angst on innocent people.

There are two heroes in the film who came from worse backgrounds than Kylo and turned out heroic and selfless. The movie should have focused on THEM and used HIM as the antagonist to show how truly good they are. Instead, it tried to make everyone forget how evil he is by removing the new characters he was cruelest to — Poe and Finn — from ever interacting with him directly after that first movie.

It was inconsistent because the third movie didn’t want to pay off what the first two set up — that Kylo was in it for himself and him trying to use Luke as an excuse to get you to feel sorry for him was an incredibly effective act of manipulation that only failed because Rey was motivated by her love of her friends more than her need to be someone. Basically, the opposite of him.