In Star Wars: The Force Awakens (out Friday, December 18) Oscar Isaac plays Poe Dameron, a pilot in the Resistance.
The Juilliard alum’s profile has been steadily rising since he was cast as Joseph in Catherine Hardwicke’s The Nativity Story in 2006. He then had supporting roles in Ridley Scott’s Body of Lies and Alejandro Amenábar’s Agora. In 2011, his career began to heat up with solid work in Sucker Punch, Drive alongside Ryan Gosling, Madonna’s directorial debut W.E. and the Channing Tatum produced 10 Years.
In 2012, he starred alongside Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal in Won’t Back Down. The following year, he gave an impressive performance in the Coen Brothers film Inside Llewyn Davis. Not only did he show his acting chops, but the world saw his music talents (fun fact: the actor, who is of Cuban and Guatemalan ancestry, played lead guitar and sang vocals in a band called Blinking Underdogs when he was growing up in Miami).
In 2014, he worked with his college best friend Jessica Chastain in J.C. Chandor’s A Most Violent Year and earlier this year he starred in Ex Machina, one of the best reviewed films of the year. Being a part of Star Wars takes Isaac’s career to new heights.
We had the opportunity to exclusively interview Isaac about working on The Force Awakens.
In the trailer we see you flying an X-wing, every kids dream. Can you talk about the experience?
“I got to set and they actually had a blueprint waiting for me of the cockpit. They even had an ignition sequence mapped out, showing which button did what and also which button was already assigned from other films, which button in other films had done what for the X-wing, and also which buttons I was free to imagine different things for. So it was very specific. Then they had built this full sized X-wing that would open up when you ran up to it and light up and the engines come to life. Then they had another piece which was the cockpit itself attached to a gimbal that would move at incredibly steep angles. They would attach a camera to the cockpit and then just film me inside and J.J. [Abrams] would yell out different things that I could say or react to and it definitely sometimes felt like I was kind of in a plane. I got a little nauseous every once in awhile from all the movement.”
What kind of plane do you like flying more: the X-wing or the TIE Fighter?
“I think X-wing. He knows the X-wing like the back of his hand. The TIE fighter has a whole different set of movements and is a little faster and lighter, but the X-wing is his vehicle of choice. Although I think for him he’s kind of nonplussed about the actual vehicle. He’s kind of like those racers. There’s certain racers that are tech heads and love the machine, and there’s other ones that have a little bit of a disdain for the machine because for them it doesn’t matter what it is, they can drive anything and I think he’s a little bit more in that camp.”
From the little that’s known from the trailers and what’s happening in the future, it does appear that you, John Boyega and Daisy Ridley will be the future trio for this generation’s Star Wars. Can you talk about what it’s like playing a character that’ll be etched in the Star Wars lore for years to come?
“Yeah, that’s the kind of thing that there’s so little control over for me. It’s just about trying to do a good job in the movie, make an interesting character. What happens outside that is kind of hard to even comprehend, but yes it’s an incredible feeling to not only participate, but to actually add something to this incredible cultural phenomenon.”
Was it comforting to know there were familiar faces on set with Adam Driver and Domhnall Gleeson, who you co-starred with in other films?
“Very much so. We just got to talk to each other about how wild it was and yeah, it was very comforting.”
Speak about seeing Adam Driver play villain Kylo Ren?
“I think he’s done some really, really amazing work in it. I think people are going to be very surprised and impressed with the character he’s created with J.J. Abrams. It’s both reminiscent of the things we’ve grown up with, the stories we’ve grown up with, and also a wholly new and different take on someone who is obsessed with the dark side.”
In your opinion, who do you think is cooler: your character in Star Wars or your character Apocalypse from X-Men: Apocalypse?
“Well, Apocalypse is blue so technically that’s a cooler color, so yeah. I think if you ask the X-Men I don’t think they think Apocalypse is very cool at all. So I don’t know. I love both of my babies!”
How was it working with members of the original cast? Specifically Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher.
“It was fantastic. I think they were really great at reminding us all not to take it too seriously, to have fun with it, to not be too concerned with everything outside of just doing a good job. They’re very funny and warm people.”
I’m from The Source Magazine, the Bible of Hip-Hop culture. Are you a Hip-Hop fan? Who are some of your favorites to listen to?
“I am. I really, really like what Kendrick Lamar’s doing. I’ve been listening to a lot of that and I think the last D’Angelo album was insane and really good. I actually saw him play in New York live. I mean it’s just amazing what he’s doing with the instrumentation, it’s so funky and also has a jazz influence, which is also what Kendrick’s doing too. The reason I like Kendrick so much is because of his collaboration with Flying Lotus. Flying Lotus I would say is top for me, top three of my favorite musicians.”
What character from the previous films is yours most like, if you could make a comparison?
“He’s his own guy. I think he’s different from all of them. It’s a different thing. I don’t think you can compare him to any of the other characters.”
Did anything surprise you about working on this film?
“I guess JJ’s enthusiasm and his energy and his excitement was surprising. On set he just had so much energy and he was constantly keeping things fresh and exciting and connecting to the magic and the wonder of what we were doing. There wasn’t any ounce of cynicism on what we were doing. That also surprised me from the original cast. They were there with just as much of an open heart as anyone else was.”
What’s your favorite Star Wars moment of all time?
“The first film I ever saw in the movie theater was Return of the Jedi and it really stuck with me in the moment when Darth Vadar’s helmet comes off and you see underneath that imposing scary mask was just a vulnerable sad guy. That really made an impression on me because I think one of the big themes of these movies is family, and how you find your place in your family, and that moment when parents—when you realize they’re not these gods, they’re actually just frail humans. That stuck with me.”
What would you like to share with the fans about this project in closing?
“I think it’s really unlike anything else. Specifically this film, this chapter it’s unlike anything out there, and anything else I’ve seen. There’s an innocence to it and a wonder that’s rare in a lot of modern movie-making.”
Thanks so much for the interview, Oscar.
“Thank you! May The Source be with you.”
Up next you can see Oscar Isaac in Mojave and X-Men: Apocalypse.