Adam Driver Takes His Place Among ‘SNL’s Dead-Serious All-Stars

Driver is one of our most intense dramatic actors — until he gets to play on ‘SNL’
Adam Driver Takes His Place Among ‘SNL’s Dead-Serious All-Stars

Adam Driver returned to Saturday Night Live this week for the fourth time with another comically deranged performance. The “deranged” part is no surprise — from his debut in Girls as passionate weirdo Adam Sackler to The Last Jedi’s tortured Kylo Ren to his Oscar-nominated turn as the damaged Charlie in Marriage Story, Driver has built a career out of playing intensely serious oddballs. But put Driver on Saturday Night Live, and he turns into this guy:

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There’s a reason Driver is knocking on the door of the show’s Five-Timers Club — he’s among an elite group of actors primarily known for their fierce turns in dramatic movies who become surprisingly winning when they’re allowed to unleash their inner clown. Here are four more actors primarily known for their dark dramatic prowess who killed it on SNL

Christopher Walken

Walken’s Oscar-winning role as a PTSD-stricken soldier in The Deer Hunter didn’t exactly forecast a career as a comic hambone. Neither did his haunted performances in The Dead Zone or At Close Range. But it turned out that Walken had a few comic curveballs hidden up his sleeve. 

That’s how you get to host the show seven times. Late-career Walken has taken on more movie comedy roles, built on the strength of SNL goofs like The Continental and Colonel Angus

Sean Penn

Mystic River. Milk. The guy who punched the Church Lady.

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Sure, Penn was hilarious in Fast Times at Ridgemont High but 1980s Penn was severely serious — Taps, The Falcon and the Snowman, etc. That brooding intensity bled into his public persona as well. Carvey confessed that he was terrified after Penn, who’s been known to slug a paparazzi or two, came dangerously close to actually hitting him.


Jake Gyllenhaal

When you become famous for playing Donnie Darko and the sleazy journalist in Nightcrawler, people might not expect that you also possess some fine comic chops. But Gyllenhaal has crushed in his multiple appearances as SNL host, highlighted by this hilariously uncomfortable dinner party sketch with Cecily Strong.

Alec Baldwin

Because the guy has hosted SNL so many times — the most of anyone, ever — it might be difficult to remember pre-comedy Alec Baldwin. But before he first appeared on the SNL stage in 1990, Baldwin was known for overwrought roles in prime-time soap operas like Knots Landing. That 1990 hosting appearance was tied to Baldwin’s starring role in The Hunt for Red October, a submarine spy thriller short on laughs. By the time he delivered his blistering turn in 1992’s Glengarry Glenn Ross, Baldwin had established himself as a dramatic actor to reckon with. That is, when he wasn’t doing this:

Baldwin’s comedic abilities have since been acknowledged, most notably with two Emmy wins for 30 Rock, a show in which he’s essentially playing Lorne Michaels.  

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