8 Interesting Facts About Oscar Isaac
Although Golden Globe winner Oscar Isaac is a familiar face to many, starring in films such as Ex Machina, Inside Llewyn Davis, and the newest Star Wars series, the 39-year-old actor is a pretty private person who prefers to let his work speak for itself.
From his personal life to some casting tidbits, we managed to round up some interesting facts about the talented actor, who will next be seen playing Paul Gauguin in At Eternity's Gate, Julian Schnabel's Vincent van Gogh biopic, which arrives in theaters this week.
1. ISAAC IS HIS MIDDLE NAME.
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.
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.