Compared in Hollywood with Antonio Banderas, despite being born in Guatemala, Oscar Isaac has gradually established his name in the world of cinema, since he appeared with the character of Poe Dameron in Episode VII of “Star Wars.” Having continued with the same character in the next two blockbusters and the television series “Star Wars Resistance,” he has now become one of the most employed Hispanic actors … in English.
Even at the Venice International Film Festival, he broke the record for three different premieres, such as the star of Martin Scorsese’s production “The Card Counter,” as well as another futuristic blockbuster like “Dune” and the new HBO series with Jessica Chastain. “Scenes from a Marriage” (Scenes from a Marriage), in addition to being behind the voice of the main character of Gomez in the second version of the cartoon “The Addams Family 2”. Yes. With four premieres, in less than a month, he shows that he is the most watched actor of the moment.
-In a certain way you competed in triplicate at the International Film Festival in Venice, with three premieres? –
“It was all very strange in Venice, because I was lucky to release it all online, to be able to show so much cinema, one night after another. And it was fun. Of course, it was incredible to come to such a place and find such energy, especially since I am filming another work in Budapest and I was able to recharge my energy, releasing the works that I had saved for so long ”.
-‘The Card Counter ‘is produced by Martin Scorsese but the director is actually the original writer of’ Taxi Driver ‘, Paul Schrader? –
“It’s true. I have wanted to work with him for a long time. After graduating, one of my first auditions had been with Paul (Schrader). It was a time when I was already in California and I heard that he was casting in a small theater in a Los Angeles mall. And I got that role. I even remember that he had sent me a DVD later with all the other casting tests and it seemed very strange but wonderful because I could see who had not gotten the same job as me. But … we never made it to the movies, nothing was ever filmed. We still keep in touch. And when he wrote this script, he wrote me an email saying that I was the first person he was calling, if he was interested. Of course, I replied, saying that I had been waiting for that email for years. It was exciting because I had been filming in front of a green screen with special effects for a long time and I was desperate to act in a more real world (laughs) ”.
-Did you really learn to count cards? Could you win at a casino-
“Actually, I spent about a month with experts trying to learn what I could with the cards, how to do some basic tricks, mix well … and I became good at cutting the cards where I wanted to. I wanted to show something like that, also in the cinema. But later I also leaned more towards the lifestyle that these people have ”.
-Did they teach you to keep the typical ‘poker face’, to bet without them knowing if you are winning? –
“Yes, even for the preparation I used a mask. I went back to my drama school in Julliard and worked with one of my favorite teachers, for three days in a studio, where I put on a neutral mask. And playing cards I tried to see if I could change the direction, in the way that my character changes when he moves with more intention. And I took literally what he says, that these people wear a mask. I wanted to see if I could express myself without you seeing my face ”.
-Did you ever gamble hard in a casino? –
“When it came to gambling in casinos … I played a bit. And it was fun doing it in the middle of the shoot, between scenes, because we filmed in real casinos. In the middle of a lunch break, I would go to the poker table and play with locals, a little bit, no fortune ”.
– Considering that you play a professional player in ‘The Card Counter’, what would you say was the biggest bet you made in your life? –
“In real life, I guess my biggest bet was to raise money to go to New York, looking for auditions on Broadway plays, landing a character. It was there where I was able to enter Juilliard, the only place where I applied and I would tell you that it was a real bet where I went without thinking about what could happen, without a plan B “.
With the full name of Oscar Isaac Hernández Estrada, Óscar, with an accent on the O (just like the famous film award), was born in Guatemala on March 9, 1979, the same year that “Rocky II” was released, “ Kramer vs Kramer ”or“ Apocalypse Now ”. The first episode of “Star Wars” had already been released in 1977 and the second came when he was just beginning to walk. By then, he was already living in the United States, because he had moved with the family, five months after he was born, although he continued to speak the Spanish language at home, with the Guatemalan mother María Eugenia and the Cuban father Óscar Hernandez Cano.
Quite rebellious in adolescence, acting was the best way to express herself, when she began working in a Miami theater company, while playing guitar in the punk band The Blinking Underdogs that opened the concert of the group Green Day. But rock was put aside when it was accepted into the prestigious Julliard school in New York. The success came quite quickly when in the same month of 2010 he appeared in the version of “Robin Hood” with Russell Crowe and “Drive” with Ryan Gosling. With the Coen brothers, he later starred in “Inside Llewyn Davis” which won the Cannes Grand Prix Award, as well as a Golden Globe nomination. With Jessica Chastain they also starred in the 2014 drama “A Most Violent Year” in a role where Óscar agreed to replace Javier Bardem. But nothing compares to the success of Poe Dameron’s character in the last three episodes of “Star Wars.”
-Can you compare the solitary character of ‘The Card Counter’ with that of ‘Star Wars’? –
“I don’t know … The characters that tend to attract the most are those who belong to very strange universes. And William’s is probably one of the most mysterious I’ve ever had. When I read the script I didn’t even understand where I wanted to go or who I was. At one point I threw the script on the ground, because I couldn’t believe what was happening. It made me mad … maybe because the character goes to a place that I would never go. And as I kept reading, over and over again, I came to understand how the body processes trauma. That was the key to knowing what he was doing ”.
-The HBO series ‘Scenes from a Marriage’ is based on a Swedish miniseries directed by Ingmar Bergman in the 70s, which even doubled divorces in Sweden.How familiar were you with Scandinavian culture? –
“I love Bergman’s cinema. I grew up watching that style of cinema and I was also fortunate to work with Max Von Sydow, on the first Star Wars production, with whom I even kept in touch. What’s more: I am married to a Scandinavian woman and I have half-Scandinavian children, who spend a lot of time there. And I guess I understand their dry and cold sense of humor (laughs). But yes, it is exciting to be able to honor an original work by Bergman, with the series ”.
-How do you think Bergman would react today, if he saw your new version? –
“Well, during filming, his family was always very involved and they seemed happy because I think we were very loyal to the original version. We try to do it, because of the respect we have for him. We also have the Ingmar Berman Foundation who know everything and have been sharing it with us ”.
-For those who did not see the original Bergman series then, what reaction do you expect people to have when they see the end of the series? –
“I hope everything feels very honest and real, with a certain catharsis of seeing these two people in a relationship, with what it means to be together, what it means to love another person and what it means to allow the idea of love to also die , hoping to find another true one. We all come from going through very difficult times where we need strength or we were forced to be together, at home. And I think it’s interesting to know that sometimes that situation is sublime and other times we want to commit suicide or go crazy if we have to talk to that person, again. That is why I hope that people can identify themselves, more than ever ”.
-Have you worked with Jessica Chastain in 2014 with ‘A Most Violent Year’, before the HBO series ‘Scenes of a Marriage’? –
“Yes. And it was the best, because knowing someone so well when you need to work on something like that is wonderful because as Jessica says, we did not have to worry about whether we were going to get along. But in something that is so intense, you care more because you appreciate the other person. Of course we had our challenges, as in any family, where there were no problems if each one wanted to have their space, during certain episodes “.
-Did you ever raise the level of intimacy to show in the series without showing too much sex just by filming scenes with a sexual tone? –
“It’s funny because we talk specifically about the intimate scenes. We all saw a certain cinema where the intimate scenes are really very good, but we didn’t want to do that. And we saw ‘The Postman Calls Twice’, to try to do something like that, something intense, with nothing free, trying to find the line where it felt true and raw.
-Did the fact that you met Jessica Chastain help you before? –
“And yes, it is the beauty of having worked together before, without having to pretend that we have a certain chemistry between us or the intimacy that often demands a lot of energy when trying to find the dynamics that can work with the other person. She was great, without intellectual exercises, but trying to build the relationship that we were going to refer to during the filming, from the beginning ”.
-And outside of HBO, do you continue to maintain a good relationship with Jessica Chastain or did you say goodbye as soon as you finished filming the series? –
“The question is interesting because we never said goodbye … we have like a small group of parents, with our children and that is why we were able to continue seeing each other. We’ve been friends for a long time and we don’t need a goodbye ”.
-Did the pandemic affect you in any way, for the filming of the series? –
“We filmed it during the pandemic, when the whole world was also reconsidering their relationships, at home. And we also worked from home, watching the world from the window, until we were able to escape to work together. In a way we create our own closed shelter like a prison (laughs). It was funny to see that it was snowing outside, at a time when there was a fake snow machine in the studio, inside. Not to mention the scenes in which we had to recreate a bit what was also happening in the outside world ”.
-To finish, the blockbuster ‘Dune’ has a certain futuristic ‘Star Wars’ style full of superstars like Javier Bardem, Jason Momoa, Josh Brolin or Zendaya and Timothee Chalamet. How would you tell your story with the character of Leto? –
“Well, my character of Duke Leto is much more specific in Dune, he is the most recognizable human being, without special powers. He has no power … and the funny thing is that it is not known how he is going to continue, although he knows that he is going to die. But it is an example for the protagonist, for his son, trying to show a certain humanity and nobility, without the blue blood style, but in terms of seeking the highest level of being the leader of a nation. It is what he tries to give his son, beyond the profession of becoming a messiah or something similar.