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.

15 Game of Thrones Products Every Fan Needs

Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke in Game of Thrones
Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke in Game of Thrones
Helen Sloan, HBO

Though Game of Thrones might be coming to its official end, that doesn’t mean that your fandom can’t—or won’t—carry on. Whether you’re a years-long defender of House Stark or have been rooting for House Targaryen since the beginning, there’s a candle, collectible pin, coffee mug, card game, and pretty much anything else you can imagine with your name (and preferred sigil) on it.

1. A Song of Ice and Fire Book Series; $46

Bantam's 'A Song of Ice and Fire' book series

Bantam, Amazon

If you’ve never read George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, the book series upon which the series is based, plenty more Westerosi drama awaits. And just because you’ve seen every episode of the series 10 times doesn’t mean you know which way the books will turn. (The TV show diverged from their narrative a long time ago—and dozens of the characters who have been killed off on your television screen are still alive and well in the books.) Plus, as Martin has yet to complete the series, you may just catch up in time for the newest book.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Map Marker Wine Stopper Set; $50

Nobody solves a problem like Tyrion Lannister … and his thought process usually includes copious amounts of wine (Dornish if you’ve got it). Something tells us you’re going need some vino yourself to get through the giant, hour-long hole left in your Sunday nights once Game of Thrones officially ends. Make sure you don’t let a drop of it go to waste by keeping one of these six wine stoppers—each one carved to represent the sigil of the most noble houses in the Seven Kingdoms—handy.

Buy it: HBO Shop or BoxLunch

3. Winterfell Coffee Mug; $25

If coffee is more your speed—we get it: the night is dark and full of terrors—this simple-yet-elegant Winterfell mug is an easy way to communicate to your co-workers why you’re typically a little bleary-eyed on Monday mornings.

Buy it: HBO Shop

4. Hodor Door Stop; $12

A 3D-printed Hodor door stop, inspired by 'Game of Thrones'

3D Cauldron, Amazon

An important part of being a Game of Thrones fan is accepting that showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff have no problem killing off your favorite characters, often in brutal ways. One of the series’ most memorable deaths was that of Hodor, Bran Stark’s personal mode of transport, who we loved despite the fact that the only word he ever uttered for six seasons was “Hodor”—and who we loved even more when, in the final moments of his life, we learned why that was the case. Pay tribute to the gentle giant, and his backstory, with this 3D-printed door stop.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Tarot Card Deck; $25

A 'Game of Thrones' tarot card deck, from Chronicle Books

Chronicle Books, Amazon

Channel your inner Maggy the Frog and see what the future holds for you and your loved ones (your enemies, too, if the mood strikes you) with Chronicle Books’s gorgeously packaged tarot card deck. The tarot tradition and Game of Thrones mythology blend seamlessly together in this box of goodies, which includes an instruction book and illustrated cards featuring your favorite characters and most beloved scenes from the show.

Buy it: Amazon or Chronicle Books

6. Fire and Blood Candle; $12

Mad Queen or not, show that you still stand behind the Mother of Dragons by filling your home with this House Targaryen-inspired votive candle. Best of all: Just wait to see the look on the faces of your guests when they ask “Mmmm … what’s that smell?” If you’d prefer not to answer with “fire and blood—doesn’t it smell delicious?,” there are other scents available: one called "Moon of My Life My Sun and Stars," another called "Be a Dragon," and one inspired by the Iron Throne itself (which must smell like victory).

Buy it: HBO Shop

7. Clue: Game of Thrones; $50

Margaery Tyrell with the battle axe in Cersei’s bedchambers. Rewrite the rules—and brutal deaths—of Game of Thrones with this special edition of the classic board game, which tasks you with figuring out who murdered whom, using what weapon, and where the incident took place. A double-sided playing board lets you choose whether you want to set the game in The Red Keep or Meereen.

Buy it: HBO Shop or BoxLunch

8. Game of Thrones Monopoly; $24

'Game of Thrones Monopoly' game board

Hasbro, Amazon

Who wants to be the Lord or Lady of Winterfell when you can become the preeminent real estate mogul of all the Seven Kingdoms? This special-edition Monopoly board puts a distinctly Westerosian twist on the classic game, with silver tokens to represent the sigils of each of the main houses and a card holder that plays the series’ haunting score whenever you press it.

Buy it: Amazon or Best Buy

9. House Stark Hoodie; $60

If you really wanted to dress like a Stark, you’d have a master blacksmith on hand to help customize your armor—or at least turn your IKEA rug into a luxurious cape. If you’re far less crafty, there’s always this full-zip hoodie featuring an embroidered direwolf on the front and an outlined illustration of the same on the back. The minimalist design is a way to show your fandom in a way that, to the untrained eye, might just look like you’re a fan of wolves. But the rest of us will know better. And approve.

Buy it: ThinkGeek

10. Deluxe Iron Throne Funko Pop! Set; $130

Funko's Iron Throne Pop! set of five

Funko, HBO Shop

Though it seems unlikely that a few of these characters will ever sit on the Iron Throne (either because they’re dead or have gone mad), a fan can always hope. And buying them as part of this five-piece set is an easy way to collect them all. If you don’t see your favorite character here, Amazon has got plenty more squat-headed figures to choose from, including Arya, Brienne of Tarth, Rhaegal (poor Rhaegal), and Ghost (poor Ghost). If you ever happen upon a headless Ned Stark Pop!, grab it; this hard-to-find figure can sell for more than $2000 on eBay.

Buy it: HBO Shop

11. Iron Throne Bookend; $60

After devoting more than eight years of your life to seeing Game of Thrones all the way through, maybe it’s you who deserves the Iron Throne. You can’t sit on this 7.5-inch replica, the base of which features sigils from all the noble houses, but you can show off your fancy George R.R. Martin book collection … or all that dragon fan fiction you’ve been working on.

Buy it: Best Buy or the HBO Shop

12. Game of Thrones Music Box; $13

'Game of Thrones' music box

Shenzhen Youtang Trade Co., Amazon

Channel your inner Arya by psyching yourself up with the iconic Game of Thrones theme song whenever you feel the need to hear it with this hand-cranked music box.

Buy it: Amazon

13. Iron Throne Tankard; $70

Show your guests who's boss at your next dinner party—or raucous feast—as you take your place at the head of the table and guzzle your mead (or giant's milk—we don't judge) from this Iron Throne-themed tankard, completed with sword handle.

Buy it: HBO Shop

14. Game of Thrones Socks; $8

It gets cold in the North. Keep your tootsies warm with this six-pack of stylish ankle-cut socks.

Buy it: Target

15. Living Language Dothraki; $16

A copy of the Living Language Dothraki language course

Living Language, Amazon

By now, you've surely learned at least a handful of common Dothraki words and phrases. But if you wan to become fluent in the (fictional) language, this language course is one way to do it. Now: Finne zhavvorsa anni?

Buy it: Amazon

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Will Varys's Letters Matter in the Game of Thrones Finale?

Conleth Hill as Lord Varys in Game of Thrones
Conleth Hill as Lord Varys in Game of Thrones
Helen Sloan, HBO

Warning: Spoilers for all aired episodes of Game of Thrones ahead.

The final episode of Game of Thrones is upon us, and after last week’s episode, “The Bells,” most of our biggest questions now revolve around Daenerys Targaryen’s fate. The Mother of Dragons made the controversial decision to burn King’s Landing to the ground, and that move—combined with the fact that she’s not the true heir to the Iron Throne—might result in an ending that is not in her favor.

While viewers know that Jon Snow is actually the person with the rightful claim to the throne, very few people in the show do (and not all of them are still alive to tell the story). Lord Varys tried to right that wrong by writing letters presumably to people across Westeros in the beginning of the most recent episode, but was executed soon after.

Did he manage to send any of the letters, and if so, who will even receive them?

During the episode we see two scenes in which Varys is writing letters, and PopSugar argues that this means he must have sent at least one batch. Writer Andrea Johnson also poses a theory that he informed the new Prince of Dorne of Jon’s true claim. The mention of this new character in the previous episode, “The Last of the Starks,” seemed very random to fans at the time, leading many to believe that the Prince of Dorne—whose identity is still unknown to us—might play a part the finale.

Varys already had an established relationship with the people of Dorne and, as PopSugar points out, if the new prince is a member of House Martell, who have historically been allies with the Targaryens, he would likely support Jon, a.k.a. Aegon Targaryen, as king.

ScreenRant speculates that Varys could also be sending letters to the Vale and Riverrun, looking for support from Edmure Tully and Robin Arryn. As neither have been loyal to Daenerys, they would likely be open to accepting Jon’s true claim. Plus, back in February, a cast list leak included both Tobias Menzies and Lino Facioli (who play Edmure and Robyn, respectively) among the actors who would appear in season 8, though they've been no-shows so far.

Despite how those in the other kingdoms would feel about Daenerys, even considering her most recent actions in King's Landing, whether or not they’ll learn the truth in time is still a question mark. With only one episode left, the First of Her Name will have to act fast if she wants to live, let alone win the Iron Throne.

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