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Oscar Isaac discussed his role in the crime drama set in New York City during the ’80s for ‘A Most Violent Year’ on The View on January 8th, 2015. Added to our gallery are a few stills from that day, and below you can watch the interview!

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NYDailyNews.com — Stroll into a random café in New York City to watch a live band play and you may just find Oscar Isaac singing and strumming guitar. The Golden Globe-nominated actor gives award-worthy performances in films like 2013’s “Inside Llewyn Davis,” but off-screen he indulges in his other passion — music. But it’s his talent for acting that’s suddenly making film audiences take notice of the Guatemalan-born Isaac, who grew up in Miami to a Guatemalan mother and Cuban father. The Juilliard graduate’s acclaimed performance as a troubled New York businessman alongside Jessica Chastain in the ’80s-set “A Most Violent Year” will be followed with roles as an X-wing fighter pilot in “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens,” as the titular villain in “X-Men: Apocalypse,” and the sci-fi thriller “Ex-Machina.”

Your character in “A Most Violent Year” had some really strong lines throughout the film like, “When it feels scary to jump, that is exactly when you jump. Otherwise you end up staying in the same place your whole life.” Did those lines jump out at you when you first read the script? It did. It definitely spoke to someone who is very confident in their vision, and everything (my character is) doing is exactly that. It’s 1981, one of the most violent years on record, the city’s on the brink of economic collapse, people are leaving in droves, and he decides now is when you grow, now is when you risk it all.

You’ll be appearing in the latest “Star Wars” and “X-Men,” plus “Ex-Machina.” Do you enjoy playing sci-fi roles? The genre is less important to me than the story and the world of it. And, obviously, great directors. Between J.J. Abrams, Bryan Singer and Alex Garland, who’s the writer and director of “Ex-Machina,” those are amazing people to work with and real visionaries. That, for me, is the most exciting thing, and then characters that are really interesting and unique. Things I’ve never done before.

At this rate, you may soon be a geek god. Well, I guess a geek god that’s also a geek. I really do like sci-fi. The really great sci-fi is … never about aliens and mutants and robots, it’s actually about the human condition and us trying to express something about existence and the mystery of it.

Did you decide to go with the name Isaac instead of your birth name of Hernandez in order to expand your appeal in Hollywood? It wasn’t so much Hollywood that I thinking about. This was before I even went to Juilliard, when I was an actor in Miami. Oscar Hernandez is like John Smith down there… so I wanted to differentiate myself.

Casting directors, especially when you’re starting out, there’s not a lot of imagination yet, so they kind of just pigeonhole you as one thing and I was hoping they’d see me for other roles, not just “The Gangster” or whatever.

What do you say to the naysayers in the Latino community who may not support the decision to drop your last name? That’s their prerogative. I feel totally comfortable with my decision. I’m very up front about the fact that I was born in Guatemala and that my father’s Cuban, my mother’s Guatemalan (and) I speak Spanish. I think the idea of show business and names, that’s always been an element of just the nature of show business.

It seems to be working for you, considering you’ve had so many different roles, not just Latino stereotypes. Yeah, it’s great. Also with “A Most Violent Year,” it’s like the very first time that you see a Latin American man portrayed this way. He’s not a gangster; he’s nonviolent, he’s powerful, he’s quintessentially American, and he’s not a sidekick. We get to see a very un-clichéd look at the Latin American immigrant experience and really what the backbone of this country is. A lot of people like this come and work their way to the top, and this is somebody that buys into the American dream — and at the same time he’s very flawed. When you present someone not as a token for the entire community, I think that actually does more for the community than being some sort of poster child.

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NYDailyNews.com The first movie the ‘A Most Violent Year’ actor saw in the movie theater as a child was ‘Return of the Jedi,’ and now he’s flying his own X-Wing Fighter.

At 35, Oscar Isaac is a serious and accomplished actor, but the night before he was due on the set of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” he reverted to the four-year-old who first fell in love with the franchise.

“I remember being in my hotel room and using a shampoo bottle for an X-wing and flying it around my room,” Isaac told the Daily News. “That’s how you tap back into that spirit.” He may not play a Jedi in the movie—while he won’t spill details about the upcoming movie, it’s clear from the trailer that he gets to pilot an X-Wing Fighter bigger than a shampoo bottle—but the Force is strong in Isaac.

“I was a big fan,” says the star of “A Most Violent Year.” “The first movie I remember seeing in a theater was (1983’s) ‘Return of the Jedi.'”

Fast-forward 32-years and Isaac is living a dream shared by many “Star Wars” fanatics. “In fact, I realized that was the key to the character and into the world,” added Isaac, “was reverting back to that childlike feeling.”

Isaac will have plenty of chances in the coming year to tap into that feeling: in addition to the highly anticipated J.J. Abrams-directed “The Force Awakens” that’s set for release on Dec. 18, Isaac is starring in “X-Man: Apocalypse” as the villain Apocalypse, as well as in “Ex-Machina” as a somewhat creepy scientist.

“I really do like Sci-fi,” Isaac said. “It’s never about aliens and mutants and robots (for me), it’s actually about the human condition and us trying to express something about existence and the mystery of it.”

If his string of Sci-fi flicks makes him into a “geek god” of sorts, he’d happily take the mystery out of that. “Well, I guess a geek god that’s also a geek,” the Golden Globe-nominated actor admitted.

There’s nothing geeky about Isaac’s starring role as Abel Morales in “A Most Violent Year” alongside Jessica Chastain. “He is someone who is very confident in their vision and everything that he’s doing is exactly that,” he said of the J.C. Chandor film out this month.

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VanityFair.com The stars of our Hollywood Issue dream cast their own biopics. Some requests are more realistic than others.

Behind the scenes of the cover shoot for the 2015 Hollywood Issue, the stars of the moment told Smith about who they’d choose to star in their personal biopics. Some had requests that might be impossible—Grace Kelly?—while others may have just hand-picked the biggest stars of tomorrow.

 

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StarTribune.com — Declaring Jessica Chastain the “young Meryl Streep” makes for a catchy sound bite, but there is really no need to equate her with anyone else. She stands on her own through her nonstop work with major filmmakers and indie newcomers alike.

She’s been an Oscar nominee as an endearing Marilyn Monroe look-alike in “The Help,” and as a grim CIA agent hunting Osama bin Laden in “Zero Dark Thirty.”

Her latest, “A Most Violent Year,” is a dark drama of family and business set in New York at the beginning of the 1980s. Chastain plays the daughter of a Brooklyn gangster, moving toward a higher social and economic position by keeping the books of a heating oil company owned by her husband. He’s played by Oscar Isaac, Chastain’s pal since they were acting students at Juilliard.

Just as Chastain has flickered between science fiction, period crime tales and romance, Isaac has played a Russian security guard, a secret agent, the king of England in “Robin Hood” and a 1960s folk singer in Joel and Ethan Coen’s “Inside Llewyn Davis.”

“We went to college together, so maybe that’s why we’re similar,” she said in a recent phone conversation. “That’s where I first saw his work and he first saw my work, and we’ve remained friends for 12 years. And I’ve always thought we ought to work together.”

Playing a cadaver

Isaac was the first of the two to score a major role, in “PU-293,” a 2006 film about the Russian black market for plutonium. Directed by longtime screenwriter and Minneapolis native Scott Z. Burns, it went to HBO rather than theatrical release, but Isaac and Chastain celebrated it with a private screening at Burns’ house in Los Angeles.

“The three of us went upstairs, and they grabbed guitars and I grabbed a triangle or something, and we all started playing music,” she said.

Chastain was thrilled for Isaac “because he’s such a wonderful actor, but at the time I was thinking, ‘Oh, my gosh, I want to work, too.’ ”

It didn’t happen instantly. In her early years, the biggest role she got was playing a cadaver in a TV pilot.

“The character I played had a couple lines and then she gets killed,” Chastain said. “The whole episode is about basically my corpse. After we had shot it, we needed to reshoot some things. So they brought me back just to lie there as a corpse.

“I remember it was San Francisco, it was raining, it was cold, and I’m lying on the ground, a dead person. And I’m thinking, ‘Wow, this is the life.’ ”

 

‘The Debt’ pays off

By 2010, though, she had a premiere of her own for Isaac to attend. “The Debt,” her first major film, was a thriller in which she played a Mossad agent hunting a Nazi surgeon in 1965 East Germany. She learned German and Israeli accents, took intense Krav Maga fight training for four months and studied medical experiments to prepare for the role.

“We’ve been very good friends; he’s just wonderful,” she said of Isaac. “He showed me his audition for the Coen brothers film on his iPhone over Thai food.”

Working with him is a gift, and not just because of their friendship, she said. “When I watch a performance he’s giving, he just makes me want to be better. And I knew that working with him would bring out the best in me. Because it really forces me to be present.”

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LatinPost.com — The last year has been quite the year for Guatemalan-born actor Oscar Isaac. Isaac, who gained tremendous repute for his phenomenal turn in the Coen brothers’ “Inside Llewyn Davis,” continued to establish himself as one of the most fiercely talented actors of his generation. In 2014 alone, he worked on the hotly anticipated “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” as Poe Dameron and then managed to land the part of the villain Apocalypse in the upcoming “X-Men: Apocalypse.”

But he also continued his work on smaller and more intimate pictures including the thriller “Two Faces of January” opposite Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst before jumping into awards discussion for his turn in “A Most Violent Year.” For that film he was awarded the National Board of Review’s award for Best Actor.

Recently, the actor spoke with Latin Post about working alongside his close friend Jessica Chastain (who did her utmost to help him land the lead role), why this film portrays Latin American men in a new light and how it feels to work on big action films such as “Star Wars” and “X-Men.”

You recently won the award for Best Actor from the National Board of Review. When did you hear the news and how did it make you feel? I heard the day that it was announced and it was great. It’s very nice to get recognized for your work, especially this year when there are so many fantastic performances out there.

What drew you most to “A Most Violent Year?” I really appreciated the character and the way that J.C. [Chandor] wrote it. It is rare that you see Latin American men presented this way. It is not cliché and very individual to this person. I cannot remember the last time I saw someone presented this way and I love that it was about this moderately wealthy man that completely buys into the American dream and the myth of the self-made man. And has severed all ties to his past and is committed to growing his business and put it all out on the line. I love how gray of a character he is. One side of the spectrum he is trying to be ethical and be proud of not cheating or being a gangster. But on the other hand, he is a red blooded capitalist and is not afraid of seeing people as commodities. He also has a bit of self delusion as well. I just thought that it was such a complex and complicated figure.

Why does he deny his past? He doesn’t really talk to his brother, who one would assume he would take care of, and he also refuses to speak Spanish with Julian in one scene. Because his strategy is one of other growths. I think he severs his past, just like many do, to recreate himself. He is not interested in meshing his culture. He left when he was a young boy and was probably was alone for most of his life. He started as a truck driver, quickly saw that it was a criminal organization but also realized that if you could do the business legitimately, you could make a ton of money. This is a very needed commodity. What is the last bill that people stop paying when it is cold out? Everyone needs heat.

J.C. told me this story from a documentary on Henry Ford. It was literally a big pot and people would wear their finest Sunday clothes. They would jump into the pot and would literally come out in business suits. And that was the new them. That was the new America. Your culture is capitalism.

Abel is someone that has that believe. It is strange and questionable. And that moment when he does speak Spanish, he is completely fluent. It is a strategy. Because in the world that they are living in, he is not just interested in servicing Queens, Brooklyn and Green Point. He wants to service Manhattan. He wants to go to every neighborhood. And to do that, guess who he hires? Blond hair, blue-eyed guys, because those are the neighborhoods he is going to. And for his drivers he wants them to speak English. Especially with Julian, I think he is trying to train him. He sees a bit of his past in that character. In a way that character represents who he was and who he could have turned into had he not made different choices. It is harsh because Julian is not a hustler. He is a sensitive and vulnerable guy. I love that it is a meditation on the system and it questions whether it is even possible to operate within the system with some sense of ethics and integrity.

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HuffingtonPost.com — At the height of his struggle to survive in the lucrative but cutthroat heating oil industry during the most violent year in New York City history, Abel Morales exclaims: “I’ve spent my whole life trying not to become a gangster.”

Morales, the lead character in J.C. Chandor’s “A Most Violent Year,” is a Latino immigrant who makes the comment as his family life and business spiral out of control. Oscar Isaac, 35, (“Inside Llewyn Davis) portrays the righteous Morales, who faces the dark side of the American dream as his moral compass is set against his own ambition.

The Guatemalan-born, Miami-raised Isaac has been busy with a diverse array of roles, including X-wing pilot Poe Dameron in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” a young artificial intelligence programmer in Alex Garland’s “Ex Machina,” and a powerful villain in “X-Men: Apocalypse.” “A Most Violent Year” is the first to hit theaters, with a nationwide release on Friday.

Isaac spoke with The Huffington Post this week about the importance of portraying emotionally complex Latinos on the big screen and how he thinks “Star Wars” fans will react to J.J. Abrams’ upcoming installment of the franchise.

“A Most Violent Year” starts without much context on the characters or what’s going on. For most of the film, I couldn’t really figure out if Abel was as righteous as he pretended to be or not. What are your thoughts on Abel? Is he truly the same man he sets out to be in the beginning?

I kind of don’t want to spoil it for you. It’s the kind of movie where you bring a lot to it as an audience member. In a way, I don’t want to limit it by interpretation of it. I think, that’s exactly the right question. That means I think the movie succeeded for you because that’s exactly what the whole movie is about. It’s about how do you navigate this system, this capitalist system. We’re all told, ‘In this country you gotta hustle to make it.’ So there’s hustling, cutting corners, doing things the other guy, your competitor, won’t do. And what you’re trying to do is navigate this crazy train particularly in a troubled time in New York’s history — it was one of most violent years on record. So he does have this sickening ethical dilemma, where he wants to do things in certain way. He doesn’t want to be seen as a gangster, but I think that you’re right to question whether it’s really a moral thing or whether it’s actually just pragmatic.

I also spoke with J.C. Chandor, who directed and wrote the film, about Abel and his American dream. He mentioned that Abel made it a point to “sand away” his heritage to achieve his dream. He perfected his accent and changed his clothes, for example.

That’s an interesting thing. I remember J.C. told me that with Henry Ford’s workers, one of the things that they would do is they would come in their Sunday’s finest, which was their ethnic clothes. They would come into this little melting pot and they would come out with a suit. And it was a way of [saying], ‘And now you are an American.’ You wear a suit and you go after the American dream.

I think it’s a very good thing and it’s a modern thing that we try now to incorporate our culture. We try to make that just as much a part of America, as opposed to totally hiding it or denying it or turning your back on it.

On that note, I recently saw in your interview with Vogue UK that you changed your last name from Hernández to Isaac because you wanted to avoid being typecast in stereotypical roles?

That was my given name: Oscar Isaac Hernández. I felt that was little long for the marquee. [laughs] In Miami, that is an incredibly common name, Oscar Hernández. There are like 10 pages of Oscar Hernándezs in the phone book. And I was starting off in theater, there were actually a couple of other Oscars auditioning for parts as well. That was more of a differentiation from the people that were down there.

At the same time, in Miami starting out it is difficult. You do get cast if you’re a Latin man, because you look a certain way. Casting directors, often — it’s easy just to see people of a certain ethnicity as just one thing. For me it was important to be an actor, first and foremost. To me it was the most important thing, I wanted to be able to play anybody, and where I’m actually from to be secondary.

There’s actually been a lot of contention in recent weeks in terms of diversity in Hollywood, and it was triggered by the fact that no actors of color were nominated for an Oscar this year. What are your thoughts on the subject?

As far as awards distribution and why people get some and why they don’t — for me, it’s just not something that I’m interested in pontificating about. I don’t really know or how you rectify that, other than people that make movies should make more of them. That’s one of the things that I loved about what J.C. did with this film, which is he made his hero an American of Latin American descent who is completely idiosyncratic, who is not a cliche, whose identity although much made up of where he comes from is just as much made up of who he is emotionally and psychologically and spiritually. The fact that he presented a Latin man not as a gangster, not as a sidekick, not as a villain, but as a powerful, flawed individual — that’s a great thing. That helps audiences look at Latinos as more than just one thing.

And switching gears completely, congratulations are in order. You’re going to have a huge role in the upcoming “X-Men: Apocalypse” and you’ll be playing an X-wing pilot Poe Dameron in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

Thank you.

There is a lot of mystery surrounding the new “Star Wars” film. You’ve said you’ve “signed your organs away” and aren’t allowed to reveal any details.

[laughs] Yeah, I can’t.

So I won’t ask you details about the movie, but I will ask you one thing: The last three films weren’t received with as much fervor as the first three. So is “The Force Awakens” a movie that fans of the original 1980s trilogy will be happy with?

Abso-frickin-lutely. Without question. I think particularly fans of the universe will just be in ecstasy. But I think that even people that haven’t — there are believe it or not still people that haven’t seen or are not fans. I think this will win a lot of new fans. I just think it’s been done with such love, such energy, that it’ll be really compelling for everybody.

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