It’s safe to say that Oscar Isaac is one of the most acclaimed movie stars of today. Whether he’s appeared in arthouse films like Drive or blockbusters like Star Wars, he’s won an incredible amount of praise for his acting talents. Naturally, like most actors, Isaac had to climb a ladder to get to the lofty position he now holds in pop culture. So how did his journey to stardom go? What pushed him into acting in the first place? What sort of obstacles did he overcome? Find out more by reading this list below!
42. Origin Story
Oscar Isaac Hernandez Estrada was born on March 9, 1979, in Guatemala City, Guatemala. While he is Guatemalan by birth (and through his mother’s family), he is also Cuban through his father’s family.
41. Feline Feud
Isaac once suffered a dangerous infection after he was bitten by a cat. Naturally, that has made him rather hostile towards all cats in general. So it must have been extra frustrating for him when he spent half his time on Inside Llewyn Davis chasing after a cat that he accidentally lets out of its home. Then again, maybe it wasn’t an accident in Isaac’s case…
40. Early Start
Isaac’s first film credit was for the 1996 crime drama Illtown, which also featured the film debut of actor Eddie Kaye Thomas. Isaac played the role of a pool boy in the film.
39. Family Connections
Isaac’s father, Oscar Gonzalo, worked as a doctor. Before Isaac’s acting career took off, he worked as an orderly in the same hospital where his father was working.
38. A Dream Finally Realized
During his youth, Isaac was a fan of X-Men comic books, which he also collected in his spare time. Little did he know that he would eventually get his chance to act in the X-Men film series when he played the villainous role of Apocalypse, albeit in one of the series’ more poorly received entries.
37. And Introducing…
Isaac’s first TV appearance occurred in 2006 when he acted in an episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent’s fifth season.
36. In God We Trust
Isaac grew up with an upbringing which emphasized the family’s evangelical Protestant religion. In an interesting coincidence, Isaac’s first big break as an actor came when he co-starred in the religious film The Nativity Story. Somewhat ironically for Isaac, The Nativity Story went on to become the first film to ever hold its world premiere in the Vatican City (the capital of Roman Catholicism).
35. These Guys Seem Cool, I’ll Work for Them in a Decade
In 2006, Isaac co-starred in the independent film Pu-239, which followed a scheme by two Russians to steal plutonium and sell it on the black market. Pu-239 was ultimately picked up and distributed by HBO Films. Ten years later, Isaac would return to work directly for HBO when he starred in their mini-series Show Me a Hero.
34. Sure, I’ll Come Back, Ridley!
In 2008, Isaac appeared in the Ridley Scott film Body of Lies. He, along with Russell Crowe, Simon McBurney, and Mark Strong, returned to work for Scott on his following film, Robin Hood.
33. A Most Excellent Number!
As of 2018, Isaac has appeared in four films in a single year three times, in 2011, 2012, and 2018. The man keeps busy!
32. Past is Past, Right?
One of the very first scenes of Star Wars: The Force Awakens features Isaac and actor Max Von Sydow having a conversation. These two had previously acted together in the film Robin Hood, with Isaac playing Prince John and Von Sydow playing Sir Walter Loxley, who is killed in that film by one of John’s henchmen. Nice to see that they could put their differences aside to fight the First Order!
31. In a Galaxy Far, Far Away
Isaac and his Nativity Story co-star, Keisha Castle-Hughes, have both appeared in the Star Wars franchise. Castle-Hughes appeared in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, while Isaac has starred in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi thus far. Unfortunately, Isaac has yet to join Castle-Hughes in acting in Game of Thrones, but given the fact that Isaac seems to appear in everything, it’s only a matter of time!
30. Music in Your Soul!
When Isaac was twelve years old, he began playing the guitar. Growing older, Isaac made a name for himself within the Miami music scene when he performed as a musician with several bands. He started out with punk music in school (as we all did) and eventually became the front man for a ska-punk fusion band called The Blinking Underdogs. They even opened for Green Day during their heyday! However, Isaac temporarily put his musical ambitions aside when he was accepted at Juilliard for acting.
29. I Was Born for This Movie
Given Isaac’s Cuban heritage, it will probably surprise few of you to know that he managed to win a role in Che, Steven Soderbergh’s grand two-part biopic of guerilla and revolutionary Che Guevara. Isaac not only acted as Guevara’s interpreter in the UN scenes, but he also narrated the first film.
28. You Seem Familiar
In 2011, Isaac starred in two films which also starred Australian actress Abbie Cornish. These films were Sucker Punch and W.E., where they portray a romantic couple.
27. A Near Miss
Isaac was considered for the lead role in The Bourne Legacy, along with many other actors. He eventually did get cast in the film, albeit in the role of Outcome Three. Meanwhile, Jeremy Renner was cast as the protagonist of the film.
26. Stiff Competition
Before he got his role as Llewyn Davis in the Coen Brothers’ musical film Inside Llewyn Davis, Isaac was contending against the likes of Michael Fassbender and Ryan Reynolds!
25. Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do!
Being a talented musician, Isaac has contributed to the soundtracks of his films on several occasions. The more well-known examples are 10 Years, Sucker Punch, and Inside Llewyn Davis. Additionally, his character in Won’t Back Down is very musically inspired, in what must have been the easiest performance of Isaac’s career!
24. No Oscar for Oscar Yet?
While he’s never been nominated for an Academy Award as of 2018, Isaac won a Golden Globe in 2016 for his performance in the miniseries Show Me a Hero. Before that, he’d been nominated for Inside Llewyn Davis, but didn’t win.
23. Nobody Dubs My Singing Voice!
The song which Isaac sings in 10 Years was an original creation by the man himself. He’d only been able to make this contribution to the soundtrack when he found out that the filmmakers intended to find someone else to sing the song. Isaac was quick to explain his Juilliard training and his ability and willingness to perform the song himself.
22. Important Skill Set
When Isaac acted in The Nativity Story, the filmmakers had him, as well as the rest of the cast, go full method. They were all taught how to properly use the tools which humans were using more than 2,000 years ago. They were also taught how to build a home from that time period, how to milk goats, and even how to make cheese and wine with era-accurate methods! Was this just a cheap way to teach everyone how to make their own lunches?
21. Hi Again, Carey!
Isaac has twice acted with British actress Carey Mulligan, in the films Drive and Inside Llewyn Davis. In both films, the two of them play a dysfunctional romantic couple, and things don’t turn out well in either instance.
20. It’s a Heck of a Song!
Bizarrely, two of Isaac’s films happen to have the song “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” in their soundtrack. Those films are X-Men: Apocalypse and Sucker Punch (which features a cover of the song).
19. Just Across the Street
It’s not always easy to film multiple projects at once. In Isaac’s case, he was acting in Annihilation and Star Wars: The Last Jedi at the same time! Luckily, however, these two movies were being filmed on studio lots which were adjacent from each other, so at least the commute wasn’t too bad.
18. Excuse Me, I have to Disappear
To play his character in Ex Machina, Isaac was inspired by two men frequently considered to be mysterious and eccentric geniuses: the chess player Bobby Fisher and the filmmaker Stanley Kubrick (whose iconic beard also helped inspire the look of Isaac’s character). Hopefully, Isaac didn’t go full method and demand forty takes of each scene!
17. World’s Coolest Uncle
At one point during the production of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Isaac was visited by his uncle. This uncle of his also went above and beyond the call of duty by bringing “personalized T-shirts” to the set so he could hand them out to the cast. In gratitude, the film production gave Isaac’s uncle a cameo in the film!
16. I Made It??
The casting of Star Wars: The Force Awakens was so tight-lipped and secretive that Isaac didn’t know that he’d been cast as Poe Dameron until mere hours before the first table read of the script!
15. Spoiler Alert!
Strangely, two of Isaac’s more prominent movie roles have resulted in him not only being involved with the CIA, but also being killed by an explosion just half an hour into the film. We’d list the movies here, but he’d probably prefer if you readers find out by watching his entire filmography to find out!
14. Brother to Brother
While Isaac was on the promotion tour for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, he arranged for his brother, journalist Mike Hernandez, to interview him. The two men discussed Isaac’s past and a host of other subjects.
13. How Sweet!
The character of Poe Dameron was named after a stuffed bear owned by JJ Abrams’ daughter and Abrams’ former assistant, Morgan Dameron.
12. Thanks, Joel! Thanks, Ethan!
Isaac has appeared in two films written by the Coen Brothers: Inside Llewyn Davis and Suburbicon. Although many though they may have spotted him in the first vignette of 2018’s The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, that’s actually one his Hollywood lookalikes, David Krumholtz.
11. The Connections are There!
In the Star Wars films, Isaac’s Poe Dameron faces off against the First Order, whose commanders include Kylo Ren (played by Adam Driver) and General Hux (played by Domhnall Gleeson). Interestingly, Isaac had previously acted alongside Driver in Inside Llewyn Davis and Gleeson in Ex Machina. Small world!
10. When Isaac Met John
Isaac’s first venture into acting began when he caught the attention of John Rodaz, the Artistic Director for the Area Stage Company in Miami Beach. Isaac acted in a play thanks to Rodaz, and the two men formed a friendship which lasts to this day. In fact, when Isaac found out that he’d been cast as Poe Dameron in the Star Wars films, Rodaz was one of the first people he told about it. Something tells me that Isaac’s already thanked Rodaz in his future Oscar acceptance speech!
9. Husband and Father
In February 2017, Isaac married Danish filmmaker Elvira Lind, who got a special thanks credit for Isaac’s film A Most Violent Year and who also directed Isaac in the 2014 short film Trentemøller: Gravity. A few months later, their first child, a boy named Eugene, was born.
8. Old Class Chums
In 2014, Isaac co-starred in A Most Violent Year with actress Jessica Chastain. Before this collaboration, however, the two of them were already good friends since their mutual time at Juilliard School (though Chastain finished two years ahead of Isaac). In fact, the two of them only starred in this film because Javier Bardem backed out of the lead role and Chastain recommended Isaac as a possible replacement.
7. Bronze Medal
Isaac is only the third actor to appear in both the Star Wars franchise and the X-Men franchise. The first two were Ray Park (Darth Maul/ Toad) and Rose Byrne (Dormé/ Moira). His Star Wars co-star Daisy Ridley was almost the fourth when she was nearly cast in X-Men: Apocalypse.
6. Not Until After Take Two!
In the plot of The Promise, a big-budget epic about the Armenian Genocide, the character played by Isaac gets married to the character played by Angela Sarafyan. Interestingly, while filming that scene, Isaac and Sarafyan were married by a real Armenian priest who used the genuine prayers to marry the two people. After the filming was finished, he pointed out that he now had to divorce them, as they were now “technically married in the eyes of God.”
5. Spare Him!
Surprisingly, Poe Dameron was supposed to be killed off in Star Wars: The Force Awakens! He was meant to die when his ship crashed in the desert of Jakku, which nearly caused Isaac to pass on the role. However, they found a solution where Dameron could survive the movie (for which Isaac fans will forever be grateful).
15. Start Snapping Those Fingers!
Allegedly, there’s been a movement amongst Isaac fans to have him be cast as Gomez Addams, the patriarch of the Addams family. This desire was finally rewarded, and the new Addams Family film will be released in 2019, with Isaac providing voicework for Gomez!
3. Have a Drink
Reportedly, Isaac isn’t a fan of alcohol, but he decided to have some drinks while playing the title character on the set of Inside Llewyn Davis. As you can imagine, it didn’t take many drinks before Isaac lost his memory. He could only remember drinking, then waking up in his bed later on. Apparently, he still managed to film the scene in the middle of that blackout!
2. Early Days, Best Forgotten
As you can imagine, every actor occasionally does that one project which they will later look back on with some embarrassment. Isaac got this film out of the way pretty early in his career; his third appearance on film was for Lenny the Wonder Dog, in which he played a character named Fartman (yes, you read that right).
1. Dismissed from Class
As a youth, Isaac was a constant troublemaker at the Westminster Christian private school which he attended in Miami. In a desire to make his classmates laugh, Isaac resorted to increasingly daring pranks. In his own words, he once “set off a fire extinguisher in the gym, defaced a mural, just stupid stuff.” It’s safe to say that the authorities treated the “stupid stuff” more seriously than Isaac, as he ended up getting expelled while he was in seventh grade!
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