There’s a lot of talk at the moment about the existential crisis facing the film industry. Knocked by the pandemic, threatened by the internet and stalled by the WGA and Sag-Aftra strikes, there have been moments where it has felt like Hollywood would never again experience another normal day.
Well, breathe a sigh of relief, because normality has resumed. The strikes are over, the actors are back at work and Adam Driver just said “Fuck you” to a fan in front of an audience. Hollywood is back, baby.
If you’re yet to see the clip, you should probably brace yourself a little. During a Q&A about his new Ferrari film at the EnergaCamerimage film festival in Poland, an audience member decides to take Driver to task, saying the movie’s crash scenes are “pretty harsh, drastic and, I must say, cheesy for me. What do you think?” As other audience members audibly fret about the lack of etiquette shown, Driver demonstrates no such reserve. “Fuck you, I don’t know,” he mutters, as the crowd gasps and laughs in equal measure. “Next question.”
The outburst caused such a stink that the festival’s director was forced to put out a statement about it, calling the question “completely trivial” and adding that “It was an assessment, lacking deeper reasoning, which is against the spirit of the festival”. So was Adam Driver right? Let’s take a look.
The short answer is “kinda”. Anyone who has ever found themselves doing one of these Q&A events will know that every audience contains at least one jerk; a “this is a statement rather than a question” type who will get dizzy at the prospect of having an entire room listen to them, and then quickly go mad with power. For some reason, the majority of mine lately have all been along the lines of, “You can’t say anything without offending anyone any more, can you?” I’ve watched other Q&As where the interviewee has been reduced to tears by the thoughtless words of the audience jerk.
Driver’s questioner was worse, however, in that he was commenting on a part of Ferrari over which Driver had no control. A crash scene might require the work of hundreds of people – the director, the stunt coordinator, editors, FX teams and countless others – but the actor is not one of them. Unless the Ferrari crash scenes include a long unbroken shot of Adam Driver emoting at broken glass, it is wildly unfair to call him out for them.
So with this in mind, there is a part of me that watched Adam Driver with nothing less than dumbstruck awe. Here is a man who, during a potentially testy moment of promotion, retained the clarity of thought to reach deep down into himself, locate the purest possible version of his personality and say: “Fuck you.” What a superhuman he is. What a better place the world would be if we could all witness incompetence and impoliteness, and react with a shrugged “fuck you”.
That said, though, look what happened when he did it. The clip blew up. It not only overshadowed the event, but the entire festival. There’s a good chance that, when Ferrari is released, the “fuck you” will dominate the press cycle. Michael Mann has been vocal about wanting to make Ferrari for decades, but now all the air has been sucked out because the lead actor was rude to a guy in Poland.
It happens. Moments of anger like this can completely derail entire projects. It took Christian Bale years to remind people that he wasn’t only the guy who lost his cool behind the scenes of his Terminator film, and Jesse Eisenberg has never been able to shake his reputation as petulant and condescending after he belittled a young female interviewer a decade ago.
And this is the path that Adam Driver has unwittingly strayed on to. Whether he likes it or not, he is now the Fuck You Guy. Whenever people talk about him for at least the next few months, they will discuss how likely he is to say “fuck you” at any given moment. Luckily for Driver, his brand fits Fuck You quite neatly – he’s an intense, mature actor as opposed to a sweet teen Disney star – but that doesn’t mean that he should necessarily lean into it. Two more Fuck Yous and he’ll become Sean Penn. God knows nobody wants that.