“A Most Violent Year” star Oscar Isaac talks about his roles in the upcoming blockbusters, “X-Men: Apocalypse” and “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.”
Massive thanks to my friend Jon, Oscar Isaac was on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on January 28th, 2015. If you happened to have missed it, you can watch it below! He shows up at 14:38.
The Golden Globe-nominated actor discusses his role in the crime drama set in New York City during the ’80s.
NYPost.com — In October 2013, Jessica Chastain posted the trailer for “Inside Llewyn Davis” to her Facebook. “Yay Oscar Isaac!!!” she wrote. “When he was in the running for this film, we had dinner and he showed me his first taped audition. It blew me away, just like this trailer does . . . Can someone please put us in a film together?”
A little over a year later, the stars have aligned. Isaac leads this Wednesday’s crime drama “A Most Violent Year” as an immigrant oil man who longs to do business the right way, despite the unethical world around him in 1981 Brooklyn. Chastain plays his morally ambiguous spitfire of a wife.
“This country tells us hustle, hustle, hustle — ambition, man,” Isaac tells The Post. “But the [notion] that that doesn’t happen at a cost, that’s a lie.”
Born in Guatemala, Isaac grew up in Miami before moving to New York to attend Juilliard -— where he met Chastain — in 2001. “We were kind of nerds, that’s why we get along so well,” he says with a laugh.
Isaac had early roles in “10 Years” opposite Channing Tatum and “Drive” with Ryan Gosling. But it was the Coen Brothers’ “Inside Llewyn Davis” that ignited the red-hot run he’s on now.
Next December, Isaac will star in pretty much the most anticipated movie of the decade — “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” — as an X-wing pilot of whom very little else is known. Isaac’s lips are sealed, of course, but he does say he felt like a badass flying the X-wing. “That’s a capital YES,” he says. If that wasn’t enough, he’s also set to play the titular villain in “X-Men: Apocalypse,” out in 2016. “I was a big fan of Apocalypse growing up, I really was. He’s going to bring the X-Men down to their knees,” he says.
Even with the blockbusters coming his way, the Greenpoint resident says life hasn’t changed too much.
“More opportunity for work — that’s definitely there. And sure, I run into other actors and directors that I haven’t met that are aware of me. That’s a nice thing. But there hasn’t been some sort of major shift as far as my day-to-day life,” he says. “I still ride the subway.”
TodaysZaman.com — From playing a struggling folk musician to an ambitious heating oil entrepreneur, actor Oscar Isaac is all about the hustle. After his breakout in 2013’s “Inside Llewyn Davis,” Isaac’s profile is on the rise with roles in the upcoming “Star Wars” and “X-Men” films. Isaac, 35, spoke to Reuters about the notion of ambition in his latest film “A Most Violent Year” and those pesky “Star Wars” questions.
Did Abel Morales’ ambitions in “A Most Violent Year” resonate with your own? These tales of ambition are fascinating, and the rise to power, what power means. For me, I’ve never been interested in that, although ultimately it’d be great to find a story and be able to make it and to some extent, you do need a sense of power to be able to have that happen.
But what I’m trying to do is not be so goal-orientated; Abel is very goal-orientated. For me, it’s less about a goal and more about a state of mind.
Is there an aspect of “selling out” as you become more successful in your own career, and take on bigger roles? Between my Llewyn Davis and Abel Morales, the people tend to admire Abel a lot more, and it’s very telling that they pick the person who’s ambitious, goal-orientated, hyper capitalist.
I think there’s been a shift. I’m in “Star Wars” and going to be in “X-Men,” I believe people can say that I’ve sold out, but I think there’s a different feeling nowadays about ‘hey man, you’ve got to hustle.’ This country is based on the hustle, hustle for your dollar, whatever you’ve got to do, and you give props to the person that hustles the most. There is a sense of whatever you can get away with, more power to you.
How are you planning to dodge “Star Wars” questions for a year? Are you allowed to drop any tidbits to satisfy curiosity? No permission to satisfy curiosity. We finished shooting [in November], and there’s a trailer out already so that’s just a testament to J.J. [Abrams, the director] and how much he loves what we’ve made.
And it’s also how much he loves the fans, that after three weeks being done shooting, he releases a trailer and it’s so representative of what the movie’s going to be, which actually has an intimacy, a vitality to it.
IndieWire.com — Oscar Isaac is perhaps one of the most exciting men in film right now. After showcasing both his singing and acting chops in Inside Llewyn Davis, he’s since landed roles in Mojave opposite Mark Wahlberg and Garrett Hedlund, Apocalypse in X-Men: Apocalypse and then of course that tiny movie no one is excited about: Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
But meanwhile Isaac has also been making quieter, if not more in-depth movies. J.C. Chandor’s (All is Lost) A Most Violent Year showcases Isaac in the title role, playing Abel, an ambitious businessman in 1981 New York City. Jessica Chastain, with whom Isaac attended Juilliard years back, plays his wife Anna, the daughter of a gangster and the Bonnie to Abel’s Clyde. Isaac plays Abel with a precision far different than messy Llewyn who loved cats and twiddled on his guitar. Abel is pristine, determined, and elusive in his motivations.
Press Play had a chance to sit down with Isaac in LA this week, just a few days after the Star Wars trailer set out to take down computer servers across the planet. But we were interested in getting into the details of Isaac’s incredibly crafted performance in A Most Violent Year. Sporting a mustache, with the charm of Llewyn and the introspection of Abel, Isaac chatted building character and the fine line between morality and pragmatism.
The last thing I saw you in was Inside Llewyn Davis, where you’re playing a character always asking other people for help. Abel is always fighting against that. Are you more like Abel or a bit of both characters? The thing with Llewyn was that he was not happy asking for help. But he’s in a What the hell else am I gonna do? Can I bum a cigarette? kind of situation. With Abel, yes, he’s going to do things on his own, but there’s that constant fear that all of ithis could fall apart at any moment as well. When you’re playing somebody, the guy’s a millionaire, clearly he’s affluent, he’s doing great, got a great little family, moving to a bigger house, it’s kind of hard to find a reason to root for the guy. J.C. said that often, with a lot of these dudes who end up growing so much, there’s at least two or three moments in their life when they just go all in. They risk everything. This movie starts with Abel being like, ‘We’re risking everything right now.’ That intensity, the pull between I’m risking everything, I could lose everything at any minute and at the same time the singularity of vision, I know what our goal is and I know how we can get there, being unflappable. Those two things happening at the same time.
Playing a character with that constant conflict must have required physical work. This man has this anxiety in his gut the entire time. His goal is not to show people that. How did you start building Abel? Did you manifest that anxiety and build on top of that? It was a very dense script. Obviously he’s very formal. He doesn’t use contractions. He speaks very formally. As an actor you have a choice, you’re like I want to make it more human and talk like I do. I chose to lean into the formality in a way almost like a memory of your grandfather. I would ask [J.C.] all these questions–“What’s he feeling here, what’s he going through?”–and he would say, “The hair’s going to be amazing.” And I’d be like, “What?” [Laughs] Then, “What’s going on inside…?” He’s like, “The suits, you got to take a look at the suits!” I would get so frustrated! I even wrote him, “I don’t care about suits. I don’t care about the hair! I need to know what’s going on inside!” And then at one point he said, “The suits are not about fashion, it’s a suit of armor.” Suddenly that hit me in a much different way. As an actor, that’s completely actable.
LATimes.com — Meting up after a triumphant opening-night premiere of “A Most Violent Year” at Los Angeles’ recent AFI Fest, actor Oscar Isaac and director J.C. Chandor didn’t look like the creative team behind one of the most complex, rewarding American films of the year. Rumpled, smiling and blinking in the light of the morning, they looked like two friends who’d gotten away with something. Isaac (“Inside Llewyn Davis”) was unshaven with a mustache for his upcoming part in “Show Me a Hero,” David Simon’s HBO project about Yonkers, N.Y. Chandor (“Margin Call,” “All Is Lost”) was wearing a green baseball cap emblazoned with the logo of the Standard heating-oil company that Isaac’s character, Abel Morales, runs with his wife, Anna (Jessica Chastain), resulting in a struggle that plays out against the chilly background of 1981 New York.
Your first film, “Margin Call,” was set almost entirely in an office building; “All Is Lost” took place on a boat. Was “A Most Violent Year” a deliberate attempt to work with a larger canvas?
Chandor: Kind of, yeah. In this day and age, filmmakers in my position, you don’t get to paint a big canvas like this, a period film. We had 75, 80 locations, something like that, in the movie. I had $18 million to make this movie, which is a lot of money for me. I think about the films I’m making in that way too. What is this? What are we making here? And how does that fit into what’s going to be able to be made? For me, at least, the movie was always about a transition in America. You look back at the recent history of New York City, ’81 is the low point, and the city has been on this climb, which now one might say has been too successful. It’s a little Disney-fied. But it was pretty bad in ’81.
Everyone compares the film to works by Sidney Lumet (“Prince of the City,” “Q & A”). Is that just because he made these urban, adult films?
Chandor: I’m sure Sidney’s in his grave smiling at us. Come on. I’m honored that it’s even being discussed in that light. What I’m trying to do is raise the common guy, who is doing extraordinary things in the most extraordinary time of this couple’s life, right? These 30 days [in which they have to raise money to expand], it’s a pretty fascinating story. I think you kind of make yourself in those normal moments, and also, these high-pressure moments. I hope we’re walking the line and reminding people that there can be real entertainment and experience there.
Your scenes with Jessica Chastain have this real Macbeth and Lady Macbeth feel. You want to succeed, but she knows what that’ll actually take.
Isaac: Yeah, it’s probably the best experience I’ve had working with somebody. We’ve known each other for a long time. We actually went to Juilliard together; we’ve been friends for that long. There is that element — this is a guy who had a reputation for doing things the right way, for being good, but he’s got that ambition and turns a blind eye to certain things. So, those scenes, there was such an immediate intimacy.