ESQ&A: Oscar Isaac

The 'Ex_Machina' actor talks award snubs, the Coen brothers and a galaxy far far away

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Inside Llewyn Davis actor Oscar Isaac is having quite a year.

Starring roles in Ex_Machina and A Most Violent Year – which is out now on Blu-ray – are set to be bookended by a lead role in new Star Wars film, The Force Awakens this December.

We gave the actor the ESQ&A treatment.


What does it mean to be inducted into the Star Wars universe? 
It was wild. It was definitely nothing I could have ever anticipated. It’s pretty cool to be able to add to that continuing story and to be a part of the incredible Star Wars culture.

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Would you say you choose films based on their directors?
Yeah, but maybe that will start changing a bit. I think actors feel like they have more control over their career than they do. You get what you get – sure there’s definitely things that I’ve turned down or actively pursued – but the things that I’ve been in, I’ve been lucky enough to be in them; usually it’s the best thing that I can be involved in.

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Which moment in your career so far are you most proud of?
I think being cast in Inside Llewyn Davis and getting to work with the Coen Brothers. Pride is a good way of describing it, but I was also completely humbled, enthralled and in love with the whole process. It just made everything I had been working for worth it.

What’s your desert island film, book and album?
Film: Dog Day Afternoon, Album: What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye, and book: Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar.

Who’s the closest you’ve ever had to a mentor?
Joel Coen. He’s someone I speak to all the time. He tells me about artists and certain movies, songs and books which I always find incredibly inspiring. We continue to be friends – it’s the same thing with Ethan, as well. They’re definitely people that have made me grow.

Which of your characters has stayed with you for the longest?
They all kind of stick around – I’ll be in the shower and think of something that I should have done in a certain scene three years earlier. I definitely do think about Llewyn often.

A Most Violent Year was left out of this year's Oscar nominations. Do award snubs bother you?
No, they don’t. It’s nice when a movie can get that kind of press bump, but as far as the ins and outs of how award distribution goes, I don’t really get caught up in that.

What was it like working with author-turned-director Alex Garland (The Beach) on Ex_Machina
It was great. The style of the film reminded me of being back on stage. I loved Alex's idea of putting characters in rooms to torture each other with their brains. I loved it. The sets and bunkers were fantastic – there was something very trippy about being in that facility and inhabiting this very dark character’s headspace.

What’s next?
I started shooting X-Men: Apocalypse in April – I'm playing Apocalypse – and in September, there’s a HBO miniseries coming out (from The Wire creator David Simon) called Show Me a Hero, which I’ve finished shooting.

If you could give any advice to your 20-year-old self, what would it be?
To probably have a little more belief in myself, and to be more confident and less worried as to how things will turn out.

A Most Violent Year is out now on Digital, Blu-ray and DVD 

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