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Oscar Isaac: Here and Now

The talented actor discusses starring in MTC's We Live Here, the new film Drive, and working with Madonna on W.E.. logo
Oscar Isaac
(© Joan Marcus)
Since graduating from the Juilliard School in 2005, Oscar Isaac has worked frequently on the New York stage, in such shows as Two Gentlemen of Verona and Grace, as well as making his mark in film and television. Right now, the 31-year-old actor is co-starring in Zoe Kazan's new play,We Live Here, at Manhattan Theatre Club Stage I as Daniel, who suddenly comes back into the lives of a family he was once close to on the weekend of their daughter's wedding.

TheaterMania recently spoke to Isaac about these projects, as well as his newest film, Drive, being directed by Madonna in the upcoming film W.E., and his dream theatrical roles.

THEATERMANIA: What attracted to you to We Live Here?
OSCAR ISAAC: I went to school with the director Sam Gold and we're good friends and have been looking for something to do together. He knew I had some time in my schedule to do a play and he called me and offered me the role of Daniel. I think Sam is immensely talented; I am so impressed with the way he puts shows together.

TM: What was your first reaction to the play and to the character of Daniel?
OI: I thought Zoe had written a really interesting play which really allows the actors to fill in the text, which is something I really respond to. As for Daniel, I see him as a man who is a little stunted in his emotional growth because of this very traumatic experience he had some time back. He definitely has some resolve, and I think by seeing this family he is taking this opportunity to deal with that head-on. I think he foresees the possibility that his appearance could cause some havoc, but he takes a leap of faith that he's doing something positive. I don't see him as either good or evil.

TM: Are you enjoying working with this group of actors?
OI: Yes. Jessica Collins (who plays Allie) is such a great actor. We did Macbeth together at Juilliard; she was my Lady Macbeth. It's wonderful to be back on stage with her; we really have a natural rapport and chemistry. Amy Irving has been really great. She is such a sweet, gentle soul. Mark Blum and Jeremy Shamos are great guys, and Betty Gilpin is really talented.

TM: Your film Drive was recently released in theaters. Have you had a chance to see it?
OI: I saw it at the big premiere, but I'd really like to see it again. It didn't come out the way I expected. I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome. I was really impressed with the music choices, and the ways our director, Nicolas Refn, introduced all the characters and really gave each one some weight.

TM: You were also at the Venice Film Festival this summer for the premiere of W.E., in which you were directed by Madonna. What was that experience like?
OI: It was great. I had never been to Venice. The Italians and Madonna are really a cool mix, and it was great to see the film for the first time with such a warm audience.

TM: Tell us about having Madonna as a director?
OI: She was intense, she was really determined, and she has an amazing wealth of knowledge about art and aesthetics, so it was easy to trust her. What's really great about her is that she expects the best of everyone and won't settle for mediocrity. I had to learn to play piano for this role, and she made sure I went to rehearsal every day. I found it refreshing to work with someone who's into every minute detail.

TM: What's on your plate after you finish We Live Here?
OI: I'll be going up to Canada and doing the next Bourne film. I'm playing one of the trained killers. It will be fun to shoot a gun and play around with the guys.

TM: Does all this work in films means you're abandoning the theater?
OI: No, I love the theater. I am a theatrical creature, and I'm always continuing to look for things to do on stage. Sam and I have some other things in mind to do together. I would love to do more Shakespeare. I want to do Leontes in The Winter's Tale, but I have a different idea of how to do it with some double-casting. Doing Macbeth again would be fun, and I'd love a shot at Richard II. And I would do any of the Chekhov guys. Astrov in Uncle Vanya is my dream role, but I'm probably a little two young right now.

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