2021 Made Us Horny for Adam Driver

Let us explain (with photos).

Photo: InStyle

Adam Driver is running alongside a horse on the beach at sunset. His bare chest is heaving and he's wearing nothing but fitted black pants that accentuate his incredible height. His dark, thick hair bounces in the wind just like the horse's white mane.

Adam Driver is diving into the ocean with the horse, and as he swims freestyle further and further into the sea, the camera begins to alternate between shots of Driver and shots of the horse. And then, right before we see the bottle of Burberry Hero eau de toilette, we see a shadowy figure.

Adam Driver is a centaur, standing on the beach, waves crashing behind him.

The ad shook the internet, because who ever imagined the stoic actor could make the transformation into a mythical creature so ... sexual? It was completely unexpected — but then, so is Adam Driver, both as an actor and as a celebrity.

2021 marks the year that Driver cemented his status as Hollywood's sex symbol by finally accepting it, leaning into it, and giving the people exactly what they want: sexy, shirtless Adam Driver. But it's all been done in a very Adam Driver way, in that he's challenging it all at the same time. Driver accepted his status as sex symbol with the Burberry Hero ad, and leaned further into it with his roles in 2021 films Annette and House of Gucci. And then he challenged his sex symbol status by subverting our expectations and desires with his chilling performance as a manipulative rapist in The Last Duel.

For men in Hollywood, sex symbols have, traditionally, been very attractive magnetic white men with undeniable charisma and an innate sexual verve that is present in all of their work. Examples throughout Hollywood history include: Cary Grant, James Dean, Robert Redford, Harrison Ford, Brad Pitt, and, these days, any MCU guy (or, any Chris but that's almost the same thing). All of these men fit the familiar archetype as conventionally handsome men with irresistible charm. Adam Driver represents the opposite. Yes, he's charismatic and irresistible, but he doesn't fit the Hollywood Hot mold of the sex symbols who came before him. He's a little more inaccessible, with a little bit of bad boy energy. The shift to sex symbol status for someone so like Driver is not only reflective of a progressing culture that pushes against status quo, but also a rejection of the MCU/superhero era in which so many of our movie stars, while hot and talented, have been mostly the same.

To understand what Adam Driver is now, we have to look back at how he got there, and how much our relationship with him has changed in just under a decade. Driver first came onto the scene in 2012 with his breakout role on HBO's Girls as Adam Sackler, an angry, unpredictable millennial living in Brooklyn. Although his performance was highly regarded, and he went on to appear in small roles in like the Coen Brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis, Driver was always synonymous with Adam Sackler.

Then, in April 2014, he was cast as the villain in the Star Wars sequel trilogy. Driver's emotionally raw and surprising performance in 2015's The Force Awakens as the emo Kylo Ren, son of Han Solo and Princess Leia, secured his status as movie star. Driver appeared in more leading roles in films from legendary directors like Martin Scorsese, and eventually received Oscar nominations for his performance in 2018's BlacKkKlansman, directed by Spike Lee, and for his performance in 2019's Marriage Story, directed by Noah Baumbach. But it wasn't until The Last Jedi that whispers of Driver's sex appeal started to flood the internet. The film, directed by Rian Johnson, leans into the sexual tension between Kylo and Rey (Daisy Ridley) and, in doing so, takes advantage of Driver's size and allure in a way we hadn't seen before, particular in a now-relentlessly memed scene in which Kylo is shirtless and wearing high-waisted black pants.

Adam Driver
Adam Driver

Over the summer, whispers of a sex scene in Annette in which Driver sings while simulating oral sex on his co-star Marion Coltillard turned into collective screams that shook the planet, possibly the galaxy, perhaps the universe. In the rock-opera from French director Leos Carax, Driver plays Henry McHenry, a provocative stand-up comedian. There was an oral sex scene, and Driver does sing in it. But as the movie goes on, Driver's character gets darker and darker in ways that might make you wish you never thought he was romantic.

In Ridley Scott's House of Gucci, Driver, who plays Maurizio Gucci, has the most fun he has ever had on screen. He doesn't really try that hard to have an Italian accent, but he does try and succeed at matching Lady Gaga's enthusiastic zeal as Patrizia Reggiani. Early in the film, there's a sex scene that is the steamiest Driver has ever been on film — and I'm including the oral scene in Annette. Maurizio and Patrizia cannot resist each other, and go at it rough in an office at her father's office. The scene is intimate, fun, and feisty. Throughout the House of Gucci press tour, Driver has also let loose alongside Gaga's by hamming up their chemistry on the red carpet and in interviews — a stark contrast to the past, when he's been more serious and guarded. Essentially, Driver's performance in House of Gucci and his performance on its press tour has been a big wink to all of us fools who tweet about how hot he is. He gave us exactly what we wanted.

Adam Driver
Adam Driver
Courtesy Burberry

Driver also challenged our relationship with him as a sex symbol in another Ridley Scott film from 2021, The Last Duel. In the film, which tells the true story of France's last trial by combat in the Middle Ages, Driver's character Jacques Le Gris rapes his former friend's wife, played by Jodie Comer. At the beginning of the film, Driver intentionally pulls you in with an indescribable allure, humor and dominating presence. Then as the tone of the film and his character shift, Driver uses everything you know and love about him against you, in one of his best performances to date that will send chills down your spine.

Adam Driver
Courtesy Netflix

A major part of Driver's sex appeal, apart from his towering presence and explosive talent, is his ambiguity. Driver can portray any emotion from anger to sadness. We see so much of him in his performances, but don't actually know that much about him. Driver is one of a small set of celebrities who is not active on social media. He does not do press or talk about his personal life often, and while he does press for his films and attends events such as awards shows, you probably won't catch him at something he doesn't have to be at, like the People's Choice Awards.

Until 2021, Driver never tried to be a sexy male lead and he never tried to be a movie star. He never tried to be hot, even when he was shirtless in The Last Jedi and soaking wet in The Rise of Skywalker. But now he's trying, but in a very Adam Driver way. Adam Driver knows he's not Brad Pitt, Chris Evans, or Timothée Chalamet. He is not the standard sex symbol, an actor known for his beauty, which is exactly what makes him so sexy. Driver is more seductive and mysterious. His large frame commands you, and his idiosyncratic voice compels you. He's not conventionally attractive, but he is hot. No one looks like Adam Driver, but he also feels like someone you could know.

And that bad boy edge makes him just … irresistible.

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