Adam Driver Walks Out of NPR ‘Fresh Air’ Interview Over ‘Marriage Story’ Clip

Maxwell Tani

In the midst of promoting three of his latest starring turns, Adam Driver sat for an interview with NPR’s highly influential talk show Fresh Air. But listeners will never hear it.

Sources at NPR told The Daily Beast that Driver walked out of an interview earlier this month with Fresh Air host Terry Gross after expressing displeasure at the idea of listening to a clip of himself singing “Being Alive” from the musical Company. Driver’s character sings the song late in Noah Baumbach’s new Netflix film Marriage Story.

According to one source, Gross’ team was aware that Driver prefers not to listen to recordings of himself and encouraged him to remove his headphones while any clips played back.

Danny Miller, Fresh Air’s executive producer, confirmed that Driver left during a break in the interview “while we were playing back a clip from the film.” The star actor recorded his end of the interview from NPR’s New York studios, while Gross was in Fresh Air’s base at WHYY-FM in Philadelphia.

“We don’t really understand why he left,” Miller said in an email. “We were looking forward to the interview—Terry thinks he’s a terrific actor, he was a great guest when he was on [Fresh Air] in 2015—so we were disappointed that we didn’t have a new interview to share with our listeners about Marriage Story.”

Gary Gershoff
Gary Gershoff

Before airing a rerun last week of an earlier interview with TBS late-night host Conan O’Brien, Gross briefly mentioned that the show “had promised you an interview with actor Adam Driver today, but unfortunately, we weren’t able to do it as planned.”

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While his abrupt exit from this month’s chat may seem odd, Driver has routinely expressed displeasure with listening to or watching his own performances—including on Fresh Air in 2015.

In that interview, more than four years ago, Gross and Driver had a fairly cordial exchange, but at one point, Driver declined to listen to an audio clip of himself—a point Gross inquired about.

“I don’t want to hear the bad acting that probably was happening during that clip,” Driver joked in response at the time.

“Does it throw you off to hear yourself?” Gross asked.

“Yeah, no, I’ve watched myself or listened to myself before, then always hate it,” Driver said. “And then wish I could change it, but you can’t. And I think I have, like, a tendency to try to make things better or drive myself and the other people around me crazy with the things I wanted to change or I wish I could change.”

And in a New Yorker profile in October 2019, interlocutor Michael Schulman described Driver’s reluctance to watch himself as a “phobia.” The actor himself recalled feeling nauseous during a première of Star Wars: The Force Awakens; and hiding out in a greenroom during a screening of BlacKkKlansmen.

Marriage Story, which was released on Netflix earlier this month, follows a young married couple (Driver and Scarlett Johansson) as they navigate an increasingly contentious divorce. The release of the latest Baumbach film on the streaming platform has fueled praise for Driver and interest in some of the film’s key moments: Critics have analyzed and lauded the actor’s performance of “Being Alive,” while clips of a major blow-up between the two leads have become a popular meme format.

Driver has been on a press binge promoting three major, nearly simultaneous movie releases: On Friday, he’s set to close out the Star Wars sequel trilogy as the villain Kylo Ren in The Rise of Skywalker; and he’s received overwhelmingly positive reviews for his starring role in Marriage Story and as a dogged investigator in the re-telling of the U.S. Senate report on Bush-era torture in Amazon’s The Report.

In walking out on Gross, the actor joins an eclectic group of famous (and occasionally prickly) celebrities who have spurned the iconic Philadelphia-based radio host, who has long held the reputation as one of the most renowned U.S. radio journalists and interviewers.

Gross recalled in the early 2000s that rock icon Lou Reed stormed out of an interview after just a few questions. Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner didn’t like what Gross asked about magazine subscriptions, while former Fox News host and accused sexual harasser Bill O’Reilly famously hung up on Gross during a 2003 interview, arguing that her tough questions were unfair.

Lloyd Grove and Marlow Stern contributed to this story.

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