By Dan Woburn.
Oscar Isaac, reminiscent of a young Al Pacino, is certainly one to watch. His profile has steadily been rising, with upcoming releases Ex Machina and A Most Violent Year the spark for what is looking to be a most successful year for the 35-year-old Guatemalan-born, Florida-raised actor. The son of a Guatemalan mother and a Cuban father, Oscar Isaac’s been a recognisable face since 2010, where he put forth a superb rendition of Prince John in Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood. Followed by ‘hey-it’s-that-guy’ appearances in Sucker Punch and Drive¸ his biggest break was arguably the titular role in Inside Llewyn Davis. Bringing the right amount of grouchiness and artistic integrity to a role that could have easily been rote, Isaac’s been on the map ever since – his upcoming roles in Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens and X-Men: Apocalypse will attest to that.
Isaac attended the prestigious Juilliard School in New York City, where he was friends with one of his future co-stars, Jessica Chastain. A string of early roles in the 2000s from Joseph in The Nativity Story to a part on Law and Order: Criminal Intent had him picking up steam, and boy are we glad for it. His knack for giving earthy, steely gravitas to bit parts has rightfully given him access to main roles. A predilection towards thrillers, glimpsed in Drive and further in last year’s The Two Faces of January set him up nicely for JC Chandor’s A Most Violent Year; the director himself has admitted his own influence for the film being Scarface, and that Oscar Isaac’s intensity straight from the book of Pacino helped him be the perfect fit for the role. A thriller about an immigrant businessman and his wife trying to stay on the straight and narrow during the most statistically-violent year of NYC history, critical buzz around the film remains at fever pitch.
The fact that he is now attached to two of the biggest franchises on the planet, Star Wars and X-Men, is no surprise. As the villain who gives the X-Men prequel/sequel/prequel again (?) it’s title, Isaac is a fan favourite choice and one expected to do the character of Apocalypse justice when he hits screens in 2016. As for Star Wars, little is known about his character Poe Dameron apart from a) he has a cool name, b) he’s an X-Wing pilot and c) rumours abound that his character may just tilt a little toward the dark side. Whatever the case may be, expect him to be a surly, thought-provoking addition to the film.
Oscar Isaac’s musical talents are nothing to be balked at, either. The one-time lead-guitarist/vocalist of high school band the Blinking Underdogs, Isaac brought his original songs to the soundtrack of underrated high school reunion comedy Ten Years, and again to the aforementioned Inside Llewyn Davis, where he fell prey to the Coen brothers renowned perfectionism. On singing the many songs in the film, Isaac has said “Sometimes [we’d do] like 30 takes of one song. It was an intense process but I love the music, and I’d been playing them 100 times a day, so playing them 30 was fine. I get obsessed with that kind of stuff. Sometimes I would smoke a bunch of cigarettes and drink a bunch of beer before the take.” That right there is proof that Oscar Isaac is a man born out of time – the sort of vintage, gritty method actor whom had he been a rising star in the 70s with the Pacinos and De Niros of the world, we could have very well been seeing him in mediocre Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller family vehicles to this day. Luckily for us, we get him in his prime in 2015.
A Most Violent Year is in UK cinemas from the 23rd January.
Did you know? Isaac partly based the persona of Llewyn Davis on Buster Keaton.