Both director J.J. Abrams and star Adam Driver have been incredibly secretive about Kylo Ren, Driver’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens character, during the lead-up to the film’s Dec. 18 release. In fact, there are only a select few details known about the villain of the franchise’s latest installment.
However, the 32-year-old actor recently spoke to TIME about where he drew inspiration from to play the bad guy. What follows is a lightly edited transcript of the conversation:
TIME: Did you go back and look at some of the other dark Jedi and how they moved, or how they projected that sense?
Driver: Kind of. Actually, I went to [Akira] Kurosawa’s movies first — J.J. and I were talking about that from the very beginning. Obviously Hidden Fortress and those things influenced [George] Lucas from the beginning, so that’s where I went first and then rewatched them all again and then went, ‘that’s not going to be helpful.’ It’s almost like playing a real person. I’ve done that before, where you have to take the things that open your imagination and pull those things and let the things that aren’t working for you go. And even though the person wants you to inhabit every thing about them and someone has an opinion, eventually you have to divorce yourself from that and what they want and make it yours. I feel Star Wars is kind of like that.
Have you played a villain in a movie?
No, I don’t think so. I mean I don’t think anybody is really a villain…No one believes they’re a villain; I think people think that they’re right.
Did you do any physical fight training?
Oh yeah, lots of it. I trained a couple of months before and then all the way through [the film].
You have a military background right? So fight training isn’t entirely new to you?
We didn’t have lightsabers in the Marine Corps but yeah, I enjoyed the physical part. Plus it’s part of the [Star Wars] world we’re trying to inhabit. Their bodies and the way they inhabit them physically is very much their world, so it didn’t seem so much of a huge undertaking. It’s like the vocabulary of this world.