8 Facts About Oscar Isaac on His 40th Birthday

Rachel Murray, Getty Images for Paramount Pictures
Rachel Murray, Getty Images for Paramount Pictures

With a filmography that includes such films as Ex Machina, Inside Llewyn Davis, and the newest Star Wars series, actor Oscar Isaac is a bona fide Hollywood A-lister. But the Golden Globe winner, who turns 40 years old today, is a pretty private person who prefers to let his work speak for itself.

1. ISAAC IS HIS MIDDLE NAME.

Oscar Isaac in Drive (2011)
FilmDistrict

Óscar Isaac Hernández Estrada was born in Guatemala City, Guatemala on March 9, 1979. But when it came time for him to choose a stage name, he opted to shorten his name to Oscar Isaac as a way to to be considered for more roles.

"All [casting directors] would see me for was ‘the gangster’ or whatever, so I was like, ‘Well, let me see if this helps,’” Isaac told Esquire of his decision to change his name. This ultimately led people to think he was Jewish, however, including director Barry Sonnenfeld—who passed on Isaac for a role because he wanted a Cuban actor. (Isaac is half Cuban).

2. HIS PARENTS WERE DEVOTED EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANS.

Isaac has admitted that, growing up, he didn’t always see eye-to-eye with his parents, who are both devoted evangelical Christians. “The social-conservative culture wasn’t lining up with what I was understanding Jesus was saying,” the actor told Rolling Stone. This, coupled with his parents’ decision to divorce at his “prime trauma age,” are reasons Isaac believes he began acting out in school.

3. HE WAS EXPELLED FROM SCHOOL IN SEVENTH GRADE.

Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain in A Most Violent Year (2014)
A24

Isaac was a bit of a rebel growing up, admittedly even getting expelled from a private school in seventh grade. The reason? It’s pretty extensive.

"I'd petted some animals I wasn't supposed to pet,” Isaac told Details. “The school was built around this guy's ranch, and there was a big wall, and we never knew what was on the other side. Me and my friend jumped over and found all these exotic animals—guard emus and the craziest tiny little beavers. We just started petting them all. Why wouldn't you? But the guy complained."

And that’s not all. "I sprayed a fire extinguisher in the gym and defaced a mural. Wrote curse words on all the stairs up to the library, like s**t, f**k, a**, all the way to the top step. Yeah, it was just stupid, stupid,” Isaac added.

4. HE ATTENDED JUILLIARD.

While he may have acted out in his youth, Isaac took his acting career very seriously. He participated in several stage productions while living in Miami, where he grew up (his family relocated from Guatemala when he was just a few months old) and he was a musician as well. He ultimately put the music on hold when he was accepted into the acting program at the prestigious Juilliard school in 2001. During his time there, he was classmates with Jessica Chastain, his future co-star in 2014's A Most Violent Year, although she later admitted she couldn’t remember when they met.

5. HE PLAYED IN VARIOUS PUNK BANDS IN THE 1990S.

When Isaac was pursuing music before his admission to Juilliard, he played in a number of bands with names that included Petrified Frogs, Closet Heterosexuals, The Worms, as well as a few Florida-based ska groups.

6. HE WAS AN ORDERLY AT THE HOSPITAL WHERE HIS DAD WORKED.

Before becoming an actor, Isaac worked at the hospital where his father was a pulmonologist. While speaking to Vice, he explained the job included “taking people to do X-rays, bringing the deceased down to the morgue.”

“When I applied to Juilliard, they asked, ‘What other jobs have you done that qualifies you?’ I put the hospital down, because you get to see the extremes of humanity there—life and death,” Isaac explained.

7. HE BEAT OUT SOME BIG-NAME ACTORS TO LAND THE LEAD IN INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS.

For Inside Llewyn Davis, the Coen brothers movie that earned Isaac his first Golden Globe nomination, the actor reportedly beat out some pretty big names for the part including Ryan Reynolds, Casey Affleck, and Michael Fassbender. Affleck has since spoke of his failed audition, explaining he had to learn to sing and play guitar for the role, two skills he ultimately couldn’t perfect.

8. HE GOT HIS UNCLE A ROLE IN STAR WARS.

One of the most impressive things Isaac has done throughout his career is probably scoring his uncle, a Star Wars superfan with no acting experience, a part in The Force Awakens. While a guest on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon, Isaac explained how his uncle came to visit the set, bringing along custom-made T-shirts for everyone. This act of Star Wars kindness ultimately won over director JJ Abrams, who asked him if he wanted to be an extra in the film.

8 Facts About Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Bloomsbury Children's Books via Amazon
Bloomsbury Children's Books via Amazon

Longtime Harry Potter fans who feel like first-years at heart may find it hard to believe, but the books have been around for decades. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the release of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the third installment in J.K. Rowling’s fantasy series, which follows Harry as he faces Dementors, investigates the mysterious Sirius Black, and gets through his third year at Hogwarts.

From Rowling’s writing process to how it changed The New York Times Best Sellers list, here are some facts you should know about the wildly popular book.

1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was J.K. Rowling’s "best writing experience."

In a 2004 interview with USA Today, Rowling described the creation of Prisoner of Azkaban as “the best writing experience I ever had.” This had more to do with where Rowling was at in her professional life than the content of the actual story. By book three, she was successful enough where she didn’t have to worry about finances, but not yet so famous that the she felt the stress of being in the public eye.

2. The Dementors represent depression.

Readers who live with depression may see something familiar in Prisoner of Azkaban’s soul-sucking Dementors. According to the book, “Get too near a Dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you. If it can, the Dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself ... soulless and evil. You will be left with nothing but the worst experiences of your life."

Rowling has stated that she based the Dementor’s effects on her own experiences with depression. "[Depression] is that absence of being able to envisage that you will ever be cheerful again," she told The Times in 2000. "The absence of hope. That very deadened feeling, which is so very different from feeling sad. Sad hurts but it's a healthy feeling. It's a necessary thing to feel. Depression is very different."

3. Rowling regretted giving Harry the Marauder’s Map.

In Prisoner of Azkaban, the Marauder’s Map is introduced as a way for Harry to track Sirius Black and learn of the survival of Peter Pettigrew. But this plot device proved problematic for Rowling later on this series. In Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide, she wrote, “The Marauder’s Map subsequently became something of a bane to its true originator (me), because it allowed Harry a little too much freedom of information.” She went on to say that she sometimes wished she had made Harry lose the map for good in the later books.

4. Rowling was excited to introduce Remus Lupin.

One of the aspects Rowling most enjoyed about writing Prisoner of Azkaban was introducing Remus Lupin. The Defense Against the Dark Arts professor and secret werewolf is one of the author's favorite characters in the series, and as she told Barnes & Noble in 1999, “I was looking forward to writing the third book from the start of the first because that's when Professor Lupin appears.”

5. Crookshanks is based on a real cat.

Harry had Hedwig the owl, Ron had his pet rat Scabbers, and in book three, Hermione got a pet of her own: an intelligent half-Kneazle cat named Crookshanks. J.K. Rowling is allergic to cats, and she admits on her website that she prefers dogs, but she does have fond memories of a cat that roamed the London neighborhood where she worked in the 1980s. When writing Crookshanks, she gave him that cat’s haughty attitude and smushed-face appearance.

6. Prisoner of Azkaban was the last Harry Potter book Americans had to wait for.

Harry Potter fans based in America will no doubt remember waiting months after a book’s initial release in England to buy it from their local bookstore. Prisoner of Azkaban was the last Harry Potter book with a staggered publication date: Beginning with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the rest of the books in the series were published in both markets on the same date.

7. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban broke sales records.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban sold 68,000 copies in the UK within three days of its release, making it the fastest-selling British book of all time in 1999. The book has since gone on to sell more than 65 million copies worldwide and helped make Harry Potter the bestselling book series ever.

8. It changed The New York Times Best Sellers List.

For part of 1999, the first three Harry Potter books—Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (which is known as Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone pretty much everywhere besides America), Chamber of Secrets, and Prisoner of Azkaban—occupied the top three slots on The New York Times Best Sellers list. It didn’t stay that way for long, though: Prisoner of Azkaban was the book that pushed the paper to create a separate list just for children’s literature, leaving more room on the original list for books aimed at adults. That’s why Harry Potter is missing from the famous bestsellers roundup during the 2000s, despite dominating book sales at this time.

Game of Thrones Star Emilia Clarke Turned Down the Lead in 50 Shades of Grey

Dia Dipasupil, Getty Images
Dia Dipasupil, Getty Images

Though Emilia Clarke is undoubtedly best known for her starring role on Game of Thrones, she has landed some other plum parts over the past several years, including Sarah Connor in Terminator Genisys, the role of Qi'ra in Solo: A Star Wars Story, and the lead in Phillip Noyce's upcoming Above Suspicion opposite Jack Huston. But there's one major role Clarke passed on, and has no regrets about it: Anastasia Steele in the 50 Shades of Grey franchise.

The movies, based on E. L. James's erotic book series, trace the sadomasochistic/romantic relationship between college graduate Anastasia Steele and millionaire businessman Christian Grey. Both the books and the movies have garnered a lot of criticism for their graphic nudity and sex scenes. While Clarke is no stranger to appearing nude on film for her role as Daenerys Targaryen, she said that 50 Shades of Grey would have taken her too far out of her comfort zone.

“There is a huge amount of nudity in the film,” the British actress told The Sun of her reasons for not wanting to get involved with the film series. “I thought I might get stuck in a pigeonhole that I would have struggled to get out of.”

Even without 50 Shades of Grey on her resume, Clarke says she has dealt with a lot of negative backlash because of the nudity in Game of Thrones. “I get a lot of crap for nude and sex scenes,” the 32-year-old star said. “Women hating on women. It’s so anti-feminist.”

When we last left Daenerys, she seemed to be getting serious about Jon Snow—who, unbeknownst to the two of them, is her nephew. We'll see how that unpleasant discovery plays out when Game of Thrones returns on April 14, 2019.

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