Exclusive: Oscar Isaac talks music & his goals for the future

Latina.com Oscar Isaac is a lot of things: a Juilliard School graduate, a ukulele player and a fan of the late, great Puerto Rican theater and film actor Raul Julia. He’s also potentially one of Tinseltown’s next great leading men.

Despite his reluctance to admit it, Isaac would be hard-pressed to deny the evidence: he burnished his bad-guy bona fides as a brainwashed assassin in The Bourne Legacy, showed off his comic timing as ballad-crooning rock singer in Channing Tatum and Rosario Dawson’s 10 Years and tackles drama as a teacher helping transform an inner city school with Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis in Won’t Back Down, out now.

I have a feeling the anxiety of, ‘Oh my gosh! I’m never going to get a job again,’ maybe never goes away, no matter how much it seems the contrary.

Considering his past, that anxiety is understandable. As a child of divorced parents, the actor admits he clung to acting as a way of coping with family drama.

My shyness would go away and certain big emotions that I didn’t understand were given focus. Acting is a way of being able to explore specific parts of myself.

And he’s done plenty of exploring, following in the footsteps of his idol, Julia, as soon as he graduated from Juilliard in 2005, when he landed a leading role in Shakespeare in the Park’s revival of Two Gentlemen of Verona—a role that had earned Julia a Tony nomination in the ’70s.

As in Julia’s case, Isaac’s ethnically ambiguous looks make him a casting director’s dream. Since 2006, after dropping his surname, Hernandez, to avoid being typecast in Hollywood, he’s played Joseph, Jesus’ dad, in Catherine Hardwicke’sThe Nativity Story; an Iraqi in Ridley Scott’s Body of Lies and an English king in Scott’s Robin Hood. He also snagged choice supporting roles in the Ryan Gosling thriller Drive and Madonna’s W.E.

But Isaac’s true breakthrough arrived late last year, with his first starring role—one of the most coveted in Hollywood—as the titular folk singer inInside Llewyn Davis. The drama is written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, who launched Javier Bardem onto Hollywood’s A-list with his Oscar-winning performance in No Country for Old Men.

Not that Isaac spends too much time dreaming of little golden statues. “I can’t anticipate [winning an Oscar], because often you set the bar so high and things don’t happen,” Isaac says. “My goal is to continue doing work that’s inspiring to me. The fact that Inside Llewyn Davis happened is an incredibly rewarding feeling…a feeling that I’m on the right path.”

And that path includes music: Isaac, who as a teen played guitar in a punk-ska band, performed one of his songs in 10 Years and plays the ukulele in Won’t Back Down. He also contributed five songs to Inside Llewyn Davis’s soundtrack. Isaac even uses his tunes as part of his dating repertoire. “I write love songs; those are the best ones to write,” he says. “You play songs for girls—that’s the thing to do. The song, sometimes, seals the deal.”

So does being one of the most talented actors in Hollywood, Oscar. Just a thought.

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