Oscar Isaac seems really excited about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Now, that might not come as much of a surprise, but countless actors before him have tried to “play it cool” when asked about an upcoming biggest movie of his or her life. You know, an iteration of, “Hey, it’s just another movie,” or some other bullshit line that is obviously not true. Every time the subject of Star Wars — in which Isaac plays an X-Wing Fighter pilot named Poe Dameron — is discussed, Isaac was beaming, so much so that I felt compelled to point this out to him.
Isaac had his breakout role in 2013’s beloved, but little-seen Coen brothers film, Inside Llewyn Davis. (Perhaps it’s Llewyn Davis’ “too cool for school” attitude that makes Isaac’s glee so surprising.) He followed that up with J.C. Chandor’s acclaimed slow burn, A Most Violent Year. Following the release of his current film, Ex Machina (in limited release this weekend), Isaac will all of a sudden be in two upcoming franchise films, Star Wars and X-Men: Apocalypse, with Isaac playing yet another title character.
In Ex Machina, Isaac plays Nathan, a bearded genius alcoholic who invented the world’s greatest search engine, Bluebook. Nathan’s next project is an attempt to create a truly conscious artificial intelligence, which he has named Ava (Alicia Vikander). To prove this, Nathan needs an independent observer to determine if Ava is truly sentient – that independent observer turns out to be Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), an employee of Bluebook who is flown out to Nathan’s secluded home and has absolutely no idea what he’s gotten himself into.
When you meet Isaac – as I did this week at his New York City hotel — he disarms you by being “cool.” He has a genuine talent at making you feel like you’ve been at least casual friends for years. Ahead, Isaac talks about his dancing prowess in Ex Machina, his history as a Star Wars fan, and debates the disposable nature of media in 2015 (he’s not really a fan of the convenience of technology). Oh, and remember those “Please Mr. Kennedy”/ “Outer Space” jokes that went around the Internet after both Isaac and Adam Driver were cast in Star Wars? As it turns out, Isaac and Driver were making the same jokes.
Before we start, there’s something I have to know: What’s the relationship between Llewyn Davis and the Gorfeins? There’s an Internet debate that the Gorfeins are Mike’s parents.
That’s not Mike’s parents. They were people that would come down to the Village and watch and were fans.
I’m glad this is settled.
I mean, look, there’s no explicit reference that they’re not Mike’s parents, but, for us, we never saw them as Mike’s parents.
I enjoyed Ex Machina quite a bit.
Yeah, it’s a cool one.
You’re becoming an actor that, if I see you’re in a movie, I feel confident I’m going to like the movie.
And you’re not too cool to do Star Wars.
[Laughs] I’m sure I’ll fuck it up soon for myself.
You really are on quite a run of good movies in a row.
So now you’ll go see Star Wars.
Right. Sure. Only for that reason.
No one was going to see Star Wars until this run of movies for you.
You’re welcome, world.
When I spoke to J.C. Chandor for A Most Violent Year, the Star Wars trailer had just hit and he was relieved because he said you told him you were an X-Wing pilot and he was afraid he was going to spill the beans.
[Laughs] Freaking J.C. — Loose Lips Chandor, that’s what I call him.
That’s going to stick now.
Yeah, I do call him that. Let it stick. “Loose Lips Chandor.”
Your dance in Ex Machina gets asked about a lot. I’m just glad it’s on the Internet for everyone to see.
I will say though, it’s such a crazy moment in the movie as a surprise.
It doesn’t work as well out of context.
No, it doesn’t. Within the film, it’s such a disco non sequitur that it’s pretty awesome.
When watching the film, it really does come out of nowhere.
Oh, you’re dancing aggressively at me!
How many takes was that?
That was, I think, three takes.
That’s not bad.
But it was twice as long though. It was like a three and a half minute dance.
Did you know how to dance like that?
No. You need a choreographer to do that. At least I did.
Do you have any dance experience?
At Julliard they make you do some dance.
Llewyn Davis would look at this and shake his head.
He would not be happy with that. He would not be happy, no.
Was Nathan based on anyone? He’s eccentric, but in an overly, “I’m just a down to Earth fella,” way.
All that “bro billionaire” stuff.
It’s off-putting and appealing at the same time.
Exactly. It’s made to disarm someone. “Give me your privacy, give me your rights, dude, come on.” So there is that thing happening. He seems to have some street awareness, he’s kind of a tough guy a little bit.
And an alcoholic.
Yeah, and an alcoholic. So, I like the idea of looking for someone like that as inspiration and that’s when I stumbled across Bobby Fischer. He’s self taught, he’s from The Bronx – a very dark, misanthropic individual. And on the other end of the spectrum, Stanley Kubrick is someone that I thought of – from The Bronx, self-taught, genius also at chess, and very mysterious. His mind was such a command of things.
Kubrick is an interesting comparison. I find myself more obsessed with Kubrick himself than his movies. He’s fascinating.
Yeah, he is fascinating! I just read a collection of all of his interviews.
I spoke to Vincent D’Onofrio recently and brought up Full Metal Jacket, he said he hadn’t seen it since the premiere.
I assumed since it was Kubrick, he watched it like anyone else would.
I also get it. I remember back with Llewyn Davis I was like, “Man, it would be perfect if I wasn’t in this because then I would really love it.” You can’t be objective about it.
I feel sorry for you now.
[Laughs] Yeah, thank you!
Because you can’t enjoy that movie as much as I do.
Because you’re in it! It’s just hard not to see the things that you’ve done wrong.
Can you ever take yourself out of that?
No. I saw it a couple of time when it first came out, but I’m not going to see it again because it doesn’t symbolize the thing it symbolizes to everyone else – you just see all the other stuff around it. It’s just not enjoyable, or you’re thinking, “Why are you watching this again?”
Well, I wouldn’t publicize you’re just watching your own movies over again.
Yeah, it’s a whole mind minefield, so it’s a psychological minefield.
Ex Machina seems to know what the audience is thinking. Every time I had a “theory,” the movie would address that theory and disprove it.