Sometimes in an interview there’s a defining line. And in talking to Oscar Isaac about JC Chandor’s A MOST VIOLENT YEAR on December 5, 2014, it came towards the end our conversation, when I had asked what I called the “obligatory Star Wars question”. As Isaac was describing his method for getting into character as an X-wing fighter in this most anticipated sequel, he described getting back to that unselfconscious playfulness he felt as a child. It was, he opined, what all acting is about, even with such a serious role as Abel Morales in Chandor’s brilliant examination of ethics and corruption and the will to survive.
Before getting to that, though, we covered how Isaac went about creating his character, a man with a carefully crafted facade and a fascinating sense of morality. From the nuances of dialogue in Spanish, to the particular way Abel dresses, to what Chandor did and didn’t choose to reveal to his actor. We also discussed how T-Bone Burnett‘s thoughts on music influenced the way he handled the silences in Chandor‘s script, and how his old friend, and co-star, Jessica Chastain, helped him land this role of a lifetime.
A MOST VIOLENT YEAR is a film about ambition, optimism, and the American dream. Isaac plays Abel Morales, a self-made man whose plans to expand his New York City heating oil business in 1981 is being picked apart by a DA’s investigation, and a series of hijackings that cuts into his profits and breeds fear among his delivery men. With well-meaning but troubling advice coming from his wife and his lawyer, Abel struggles to keep everything he’s worked for from being taken from him while not violating his own personal sense of what it means to do the right thing, a sense that has everything to do with practicality, and not so much about ethics. The film co-stars Chastain, Albert Brooks, David Oyelowo, Alessandro Nivola, Elyes Gabel, and Catalina Sandino Moreno. It was written and directed by Chandor. Isaac’s accolades for this role have already won him the best actor award from the National Board of Review. His previous work includes playing a disturbingly hunky Joseph in THE NATIVITY STORY, Standard in DRIVE, and his Golden Globe-nominated performance in and as INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS. His future includes two franchises, with roles in X-MEN APOCALYPSE, and the much anticipated STAR WARS EPISODE VII: THE FORCE AWAKENS.