Oscar Isaac on Going from Indies to ‘Star Wars’ and ‘X-Men’: “I definitely like a good challenge, so I look for stuff that I haven’t done before”

"You can't really plan that stuff out. I don’t know how you could, especially not me" - Oscar Isaac on his career

Oscar Isaac in Show Me a Hero

Even when Oscar Isaac starred in the Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis just two years ago, few would’ve predicted that he would be starring in both Star Wars Episode VII and and X-Men: Apocalypse. Most would have expect Isaac to continue starring in indie films, but despite his upcoming blockbuster Isaac has continued to star in indie movies and smaller projects like Show Me a Hero, the HBO miniseries about controversial Yonkers mayor Nick Wasicsko. Speaking with IndieWire, Isaac spoke about spending time with his characters and whether or not his balance of small films and blockbusters is intentional.

Though Isaac played Wasicsko in a six-hour miniseries, he says it isn’t the longest he had spent playing one character. He explains, “I’ve been with film characters longer. We shot this in under four months. It’s like a six hour movie, so the work load was far greater, but the amount of time was the same. It wasn’t a character I lived with for a long time, it was concentrated. But I had to figure out an arc over that length of time, be absolutely secure in what part of the story I’m in at in any given moment when we’re shooting it so wildly out of order, and build it very incrementally. Because we knew where we were going, we had more room to be light in the beginning. And just by the nature of the script you know how Nick much you cares about [the housing fight], and there is an energy to Nick in the beginning, a lightness, an optimism and playfulness, that we could actually let breathe for a while, knowing that things were going to take a turn, and we didn’t have to telegraph it in the performance.

Though Isaac has been floating between small projects and blockbusters like Star Wars and X-Men, he admits his career isn’t following any sort of grand plan. He says, “You can’t really plan that stuff out. I don’t know how you could, especially not me. I was just fortunate enough that things came around when they did, and they seemed cool enough for me to want to get involved with them. I like acting, so it was just fun to try different styles, and I definitely like a good challenge, so I look for stuff that I haven’t done before.

On how performing in huge films like Star Wars changes his approach to acting, Isaac says, “You use different tools, different approaches. With X-Men it was great because there’s an embodiment of such big ideas, you’re not working in the realm of naturalism. And just because something’s natural doesn’t mean that it’s interesting — and I think Kubrick knew that very well. Sometimes it’s fun to push performance into other places that is not just about the same kind of verité thing. You can go to heightened places in a Greek tragedy or kabuki kind of way. You have these forms that express more than just an individual’s personality. And that’s been really fun to play with in X-Men. With Star Wars it’s similar things, you’re playing in such a heightened reality that in that regard sometimes simplicity is your strength. Instead of getting out all the colors, you focus on the primary colors, and keep it simple and direct.”

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