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Oscar Isaac had a very big 2015, thanks to roles in indie smash hits like the Oscar-nominated “Ex Machina,” the unabashed box office goliath “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens” and his Golden Globe-winning turn in the HBO miniseries “Show Me a Hero,” a delightfully mixed lineup of both genre and style. It’s the kind of stuff that Isaac is aces at, choices that speak to his uncanny ability to snap up roles that tap into his multi-faceted abilities while never quite being predictable.
Yet, there’s one thing that continues to hold true across Isaac’s ever-evolving career: An independent streak that will likely see the actor continuing to pave his own way.
Isaac’s resume has long been kitted out with indie offerings, from his turn in the Madonna-helmed “W.E.” or his work in the Uma Thurman-starring “The Life Before Her Eyes,” to later starring roles in the Coen Brothers’ “Inside Llewyn Davis” (still Isaac’s best work and his true breakout role) and J.C. Chandor’s bold “A Most Violent Year.” Isaac has never balked at studio fare (hi, “Sucker Punch”), but he’s found his fanbase and his footing in independent features that have allowed him to show off his skills in different ways.
Isaac’s career has been a relatively slow burn (his first credited role was back in 1996, if you can believe it, with a six-year gap before he popped up in “All About the Benjamins”), and since then, he’s steadily built up a resume filled with varied roles in a number of smaller-scale films.
The indie life has afforded Isaac the chance to work with all sorts of talents both behind and in front of the camera (from the Coens to Nicolas Winding Refn, Ryan Gosling to Leonardo DiCaprio). If there’s any kind of modern roadmap for going from indie hero to blockbuster mainstay, Isaac has drawn it from scratch, and with major success.
There’s little argument that Isaac’s splashiest role to date was in “The Force Awakens,” if only because the blockbuster provided splashy roles to everyone involved in it, simply by being one of the biggest movies of all time. It’s hard to argue with that kind of exposure, but it doesn’t seem to have diluted Isaac’s interest in staying indie when possible.
In fact, despite Isaac’s roles in upcoming sure-to-be-blockbusters like “Star Wars: Episode VIII” and “X-Men: Apocalypse” (where he will play the eponymous big bad, thanks to seemingly copious CGI and hopefully some tongue-in-cheek humor), the actor will also soon appear in Terry George’s “The Promise,” a period romance set during the fall of the Ottoman Empire that will set him up in a love triangle involving Christian Bale and Charlotte Le Bon. The film, despite its starry cast, does not have studio backing and has yet to be picked up for distribution by a large outfit.
Of course, this will likely change once the film — currently in post-production — gets in front of industry eyes, but for now, Isaac remains indie.
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