Adam Driver, until recently best known for his work on the HBO hit series Girls, was a U.S. Marine before becoming an actor and eventually becoming The Force Awakens primary villain, the masked Kylo Ren. He briefly recounted this crazy journey on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon last week.

Although Driver wanted to go to college for acting after graduating from High School in 2001, his grades kept him from getting into the schools he wanted. He even began a journey to L.A. to pursue his dream without any money in his pocket, when his car broke down and he had to return to his hometown in Indiana.

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After doing a series of not so glamorous jobs, Driver was looking for something more in life. Then the events of 9/11 unfolded, and he was compelled to join the Marine Corps.

The now famous actor finally got to California, albeit via the completion of boot camp and getting orders to be stationed at Camp Pendleton. There he became an 81mm mortar man with the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines.

Driver said he enjoyed being part of grunt life in the USMC, and his unit was training for war as America’s response to the 9/11 attacks remained a fluid affair. Then he was involved in a mountain-bike accident that left his sternum shattered. He tried to stay in but was medically discharged before reaching his third year with the Marines. He felt as if he had let his unit down and the Marine Corps, not staying in for four years and not going into combat, but there was nothing he could do about it.

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He then attended the University of Indianapolis to build up his academics so that he could apply to the prestigious Julliard School of the performing arts. He got accepted and found that his military service greatly helped with his ability to excel at acting.

Read the entire story of how he went from an acting student with no money living in New York to a star in what will be one of the biggest blockbusters of all time, and how it all related back to his experience as a Marine in this fascinating piece from the Military Times.

Top shot of Kylo Ren via StarWars.com

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Contact the author at Tyler@jalopnik.com.