Oscar Isaac on Developing His Character for ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’: “You’re trying to make an actual human being, so you take from everything”
Joel and Ethan Coen are known for their character-driven work for creating several unforgettable characters in their films. Who could forget Barton Fink, Marge Gunderson, and (of course) The Dude? Destined to join their ranks is Llewyn Davis, the transient folk musician portrayed by Oscar Isaac in the Coens’ latest film, Inside Llewyn Davis. Isaac spoke about his audition and how he developed his memorable character with the Coens with Moviefone.
Isaac reveals that the casting for the film was normal, albeit time consuming when it came to recording his music demo. He explains, “The casting process was pretty traditional. Ellen Chenoweth, the casting director, had a couple scenes and I did those. I had to record a song, and I did about 30 takes of the song. I sent in take 27.”
Once he was cast in the role he was given a lot of freedom by the Coens to develop his character. He says, “Nothing was dictated to me. It would just be a conversation. Basically, we would go over the entire script and we would talk about each scene, but that really was coming from me, saying, ‘Hey, can we do this?,’ and they, of course, were happy to do it.”
From there, Isaac drew from his personal experiences and other unique areas to flesh out Llewyn Davis. He points out, “You’re trying to make an actual human being, so you take from everything. I have a feeling originality is just a lack of information, so you just steal from wherever you can — a little bit of this, a little bit of that. I’ve got a buddy of mine, lives on MacDougal Street, [and he’s] in his late 60s. He’s been doing it forever, and struggling, so I used a lot of his story. Then you go to random places, places where you wouldn’t necessarily think were a direct link. Buster Keaton for me was a big inspiration, he’s resilient in a comic way, someone who strives and struggles and has this melancholic impasse for a face and we root for them. I like that idea. I also thought of the Charles Bukowski poem called ‘Bluebird’ for inspiration.”