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written by Ray on December 11, 2014

Interview : Oscar Isaac — There’s a lot of buzz on Oscar Isaac, he just won Best Actor, along with Michael Keaton (Birdman), he’s starring in the new Star Wars film, and he’s playing the wild Apocalypse in X-Men. Jazz Tangcay sat down with Isaac to talk about this exciting time for him and to discuss his latest film, A Most Violent Year. Directed by JC Chandor and starring Jessica Chastain, A Most Violent Year tells the tale of an immigrant family trying to make it in the oil industry during the worst year on record for crime in the history of New York. The brilliant Isaac centers the film with his studied performance, another versatile turn by Isaac.

Congratulations on the NBR Award.  Thank you.

What was it like seeing the reaction at the World Premiere for A Most Violent Year at AFI Fest?  That was my first time seeing it too. That was a pretty crazy experience because that was the first time I’d ever seen a movie that I’d been in with such a huge audience. It felt great, it felt that by the end, people were getting a sense of who these people really were. It was really rewarding, and it was great to see people laughing as much as they did.

Like the deer scene, people were clapping and I was like, “What!” (laughs). You and Jessica have such great chemistry, you went to Julliard together, tell us how you become friends? We saw each other in plays, and we just really appreciated each other’s work. We had mutual friends, we hung out and it was great. We kept in touch and we were looking for something to do together for a long time. She told me about it, then she told JC (Chandor) about it, and it happened. I couldn’t believe she had sent that email to JC, she just said that recently, and I didn’t evne know about it.I have to say it was one of the best experiences I’ve had of working with someone.

What was it like to work with JC Chandor? It was great. He’s intense, he talks a mile a minute and has a very expansive mind and covers so many topics. When it came to the shoot, he was just so focused, it’s like he harnesses all that energy and lasers it in . He gave me great notes and great direction. Like he was telling me so much about the suits, and I asked, “Why are you telling me so much about the suits?” and he said, “It’s not about fashion, they’re suits of armor.” It totally influenced the way I would move and walk around, and suddenly I felt. He was like a knight, going to war.

You once said, It was how important the right pair of desert boots were needed to getting into character for Inside Llewyn Davis, did you need a similar piece of clothing or item to get into character for Abel? Oh yes, not only the actual suits, but the camel coat, that coat is like his suit of armor.

Did you model Abel Morales on anyone? There were a few influences, Emperor Hadrian. Marvin Gaye, R.F.K and a little bit of my grandfather.

What was the greatest challenge for you in the role? The cold, it was so cold. So, I had to wear dri suits, it was freezing, so physically that part was very hard. On a more internal level, the fact that he’s such a closed off individual, and seemingly so calculating, but the challenge was being able to make him someone that’s almost sociopathically focused on his goal and ambitious, but at the same time, passionate and vital. Between those two things, that was a challenge.

Is that what makes him a great character? Yes, that’s why he’s fascinating, I think it’s because you see the workings of someone and what they go through to try to project this persona, and yet this persona is not fake. He earns that persona.

What do you think the appeal is of A Most Violent Year? I think the way it harkens back to the older movies that all of us remember seeing and being so moved by. I think that it’s a very interesting grey study of a character, it’s not so black and white. It’s something all of us are curious about, how do you navigate ethically , through this hyper-capitalist society where everything is about hustling and making a dollar. Is there a way of doing that without losing your soul?

What’s your first love, stage, music or film? I love them all so much. I’m really curious and energized about acting, the curious thing about bottling the subconscious and trapping that for a moment, that battle for me is what I’m interested in, which for me is acting.

You’ve got some exciting things ahead, you’re playing Apocalypse in X-Men and that’s you in Star Wars. The (Star Wars) trailer was amazing when it came out, it was fun to see the reactions of that. I think it’s going to be really special, really really special. J.J (Abrams) has done something remarkable with it. J.J has both made it a real tribute to the original and a whole new original take. With X-Men, he’s a character I’ve loved for a really long time. Apocalypse is such a wild character and to try to bring that to the screen. What a challenge. I’m very excited. The First comic I collected was X-Factor, the first comic I collected was X-Factor. There was X-Men, then X-Factor and then it went back to X-Men. I was first introduced to these characters in the X-Factor back in the 80’s.

Do you get wrapped up in Awards Season? I wouldn’t say get wrapped up, but for one, it’s wonderful to get recognition for your work, and two it’s a great way to promote your movie that otherwise don’t really get out there that much with all these other huge films. It’s a way for people to see your movie, and that’s greatly appreciated.

A Most Violent Year is released on December 31.

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