Funny man Jason Sudeikis gets serious as Jim Hoffman, a shifty drug smuggler, in the new biopic, Driven, on John DeLorean (played by Lee Pace), the creator of the iconic DeLorean automobile.
Driven tells the story of John DeLorean's passion to keep his dreams alive from the perspective of Hoffman, which I thought was quite unique. After seeing the film, I also found it to be quite funny and serious at the same time. Did that balance attract you to the script?
JASON SUDEIKIS: I mean that was part of it. I also thought it was an interesting way to explore an iconic person. Here's a story told from an unreliable narrator, who disappeared through time because of the witness relocation program. At this point of my life and career, I tend to gravitate towards playing the guy next to the big guy or girl. I feel comfortable in that space. I always liked Han Solo and Luke Skywalker, for some it may mean something, but for me it’s to play next to greatness. I just want to be on the outskirts of the spotlights, you know? I have a really good view, kind of how I felt about my time at SNL. I got to be around in, my opinion, the best seat in the house, and one the greatest generations of that incredible show. This feels like a scripted version of the best moments of my life.
A lot of people still don’t know where Jim Hoffman is, because, as you said, he soon went into the witness protection program after the DeLorean trial. How did that impact the level of research you could do to transform into him?
JS: I mean I didn't do my homework, but it still worked out for me just fine. But it absolutely does impact the research. For people playing someone ripped from the headlines like Freddy Mercury, Elton John or even John DeLorean, there’s a ton of footage to study from. There's no footage of Jim Hoffman. The only picture that I have ever seen of Jim Hoffman is the black and white photograph we show at the end of the film. There’s nothing out there about him. So we’re kind of insulating a little bit.
I have a mustache. Why? I don’t know why. For me, it’s about what the scene I’m being asked to play, versus going through looking like them and sounding like them, that I usually pull on. In a way it’s similar to how I went about doing impressions on SNL. I mean, they have incredible hair and makeup and wardrobe at SNL. I came up with the generation of Bill Hader and Fred Armisen and Darell Hammond, and people that were remarkably good at capturing a person’s voice and mannerisms. I always felt an overall essence about what it was about those people that made me feel connected to them, or to try to detangle what about them, the writer or fellow cast members or yourself, gives them the role. I just thought Jim Hoffman was a guy who looked up to this guy. He was like, when you get to meet him, it’s like meeting the Statue of Liberty. And as he’s hanging out with the Statue of Liberty he realizes, "Oh wow! There’s nothing in this lady’s head! It’s just a statue. It’s full of shit, just like the rest of us." Whether that’s true or not, it doesn’t matter to me because that’s Jim’s point of view, and that story is told from his point of view. One of the luxuries of the nuance of the script, that [writer] Colin Bateman wrote and [director] Nick Hamm was keen on, was being true to this unreliable narrator, because you could literally get away with a bunch in that regard.
Jason Sudeikis and Judy Greer star in Driven, a biopic on John DeLorean.
I think you had great chemistry with Judy Greer in the film, who plays your wife. Are there actors you feel compliment your style the best?
JS: The chemistry with the cast, it was remarkable. It’s a bunch of two-person scenes. It’s me and Lee Pace, me and Corey Stoll, me and Justin Bartha, me and Judy, you know, me and Michael Cudlitz. You can harmonize with anybody as long as you’re singing the same song, and we were.
Is there anything you haven’t done, that you’d still like to go out and do, whether it’s in film or whether it’s personal. Just something that’s been in the back of your mind you haven’t done yet.
JS: All sorts of stuff. Doing a play on Broadway would be great, directing films, at some point be on bingo cards is on my bucket list, outlook on life and death. For me it’s about the story and that’s really about the elements, it’s all about the elements I’m being asked to play that’s important for a story not being consequential.
Driven hits theaters nationwide this weekend.
Photography by: Photography by Universal Pictures Content Group