Oscar Isaac on “A Most Violent Year”

Posted on January 3, 2015 at 3:11 pm

Oscar Isaac (“Inside Llewyn Davis”) is one of my favorite actors.  In “A Most Violent Year” he plays an immigrant in 1981 New York trying to keep his very successful home heating oil business both legitimate and competitive in a world of rivals who are not as concerned with ethics and staying within the law as he is.

Meredith Alloway interviewed Isaac for Press Play, and his comments on creating the performance with writer/director J.C. Chandor are fascinating.

It was a very dense script.  Obviously he’s very formal. He doesn’t use contractions. He speaks very formally. As an actor you have a choice, you’re like I want to make it more human and talk like I do. I chose to lean into the formality in a way almost like a memory of your grandfather. I would ask all these questions–“What’s he feeling here, what’s he going through?”–and he would say, “The hair’s going to be amazing.” And I’d be like, “What?” Then, “What’s going on inside…?” He’s like, “The suits, you got to take a look at the suits!”  I would get so frustrated! I even wrote him, “I don’t care about suits. I don’t care about the hair! I need to know what’s going on inside!” And then at one point he said, “The suits are not about fashion, it’s a suit of armor.”  Suddenly that hit me in a much different way. As an actor, that’s completely actable….This is war and this is his suit of armor. That influenced how I wore it. It wasn’t wearing a suit to look cool. It was wearing a suit because it was his armor and his way of defense against other people. Even the way he’d sit, come into a room. He wouldn’t really have angles. He always squared off at everyone.


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