8 Interesting Facts About Oscar Isaac

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

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.

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.

Game of Thrones's The Mountain Needed a Stunt Double for the First Time Ever in Season 8

HBO
HBO

There’s no question that Game of Thrones's final season will be action-packed. But Iceland native Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, who plays Gregor "The Mountain" Clegane in the TV series, recently confirmed just how much more hardcore the upcoming episodes will be.

In a recent interview with Mashable, Björnsson dished on the final season (as much as an actor sworn to secrecy can dish about a show). Though he couldn’t reveal any really juicy details, he did spill a very interesting piece of information about The Mountain. According to the 30-year-old strongman, the final season was "the hardest season I’ve filmed for Game Of Thrones."

Filming got so complicated that, for the first time in his four seasons on the show, Björnsson needed a stunt double to play The Mountain.

“All the seasons prior to this season that we just finished filming, I never had stunt doubles. I always did everything myself," Björnsson said. "But the last season I filmed, the season that hasn’t been shown on television, I had a stunt double there."

Though fans certainly wanted to hear more about the scene (or scenes) that required a stunt double for the actor, Björnsson—much like The Mountain—didn't budge. “I can’t go into detail ... but I had a stunt double there I can tell you that,” he said. "He was big. He was tall, not as muscular."

It couldn’t have been easy for the show's producers to find a match for Björnsson, who is a professional strongman when he's not acting. He stands 6 feet 9 inches tall, and currently holds the title of "World’s Strongest Man."

As Björnsson has never needed a stunt double before, we can’t help but wonder what exactly happens to The Mountain in season 8. We'll be looking forward to finding out when Game of Thrones returns on April 14, 2019.

[h/t: Mashable]

New Book Provides an Intimate Look at the Handwriting of Freud, Marie Antoinette, and Other Historical Figures

TASCHEN
TASCHEN

Handwriting analysts would have a field day with TASCHEN's latest book. Titled The Magic of Handwriting, the 464-page tome offers a rare glimpse into the intimate lives and correspondences of some of the most well-known names in history.

In modern times, handwriting is a dying art, which makes it all the more meaningful to see nearly 900 years' worth of writing preserved in vivid detail in the book. A letter penned a year before the French Revolution shows Marie Antoinette’s neat signature written in small letters. In contrast, French writer Marcel Proust’s handwritten manuscripts were frantically scrawled on whatever scraps of paper he could find. Charlie Chaplin sometimes included a sketch of his signature hat and cane while signing autographs, and Sitting Bull, the Hunkpapa Lakota leader who was known for his courage in battle, dotted his i’s with what look like hearts or v's.

A signed picture of Sitting Bull
TASCHEN

A letter signed by Marie Antoinette
A letter signed by Marie Antoinette
TASCHEN

A manuscript handwritten by Marcel Proust
Marcel Proust's writing
TASCHEN

These artifacts come from the collection of Pedro Corrêa do Lago, a Brazilian art historian and curator who has acquired thousands of handwritten letters, manuscripts, autographed photos, and musical compositions over the years. The book features over 100 items from his collection, which also went on display last year at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York City.

In addition to displaying different styles of handwriting, the book also highlights little-known facts about historical figures and insight into their personality. There’s a handwritten invoice from Sigmund Freud, who charged one client 2000 schillings (nearly $500 in 1934, or roughly $9400 today) for 20 hours of psychoanalysis. When his patient tried to negotiate a lower price, Freud reportedly replied, “I am still forced to make a living. I cannot do more than five hours of analysis daily; and I do not know how much longer I shall work at it.”

An invoice signed by Sigmund Freud
An invoice signed by Sigmund Freud
TASCHEN

Ernest Hemingway’s snark is on full display in a “Who’s Who” questionnaire he filled out for the publishing firm Scribner’s in 1930. Under the career section, he merely replied “yes." Under "hobbies," he listed skiing, fishing, shooting, and drinking.

For more stories like these, order a copy of The Magic of Handwriting from TASCHEN’s website or Amazon.

A cover of the book 'The Magic of Handwriting'
TASCHEN

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