Oscar Isaac may not have the biggest role in Alex Garland’s new science-fiction thriller “Annihilation,” but he certainly has one of the most important. Playing the mysteriously ill husband of Natalie Portman’s lead character presented its own unique challenges, but filming “Annihilation” was even crazier for Isaac since he was also shooting “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” at the very same time on the very same studio lot in London. Isaac told /Film that he would literally walk between both sets, sometimes arriving on the “Annihilation” set while still in character as Poe Dameron.
“I would shoot something in the morning and then have a little bit of down time and then switch it up,” Isaac said. “So that was wild…I think I visited, too, still dressed up as Poe on the set. It reminded me a little of “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure,” when he’s on the lot and you see all the different actors walking around. There was something very classic about it.”
Because Isaac was filming the Disney blockbuster, he wasn’t able to spend a lot of time rehearsing for “Annihilation.” He credits co-star Portman for picking up the slack and helping him easily create the intimacy the two needed to have in order to nail their scenes together.
“There was very little time, and not a lot of rehearsal time, and Natalie and I didn’t know each other,” Isaac explained. “It happens in movies, obviously – you have to suddenly be very intimate with someone very quickly. I think the fact that she was willing to trust me and I was trusting her, and we just went in there and did it and tried to find a real intimacy. Which is always a weird, awkward, strange thing to do suddenly in front of a bunch of people…She is very focused, but also in those scenes, very emotionally available as well, so I really enjoyed that.”
Isaac’s achievement becomes clear once you’ve seen both “Annihilation” and “The Last Jedi.” In the latter he’s effortlessly charming, while in the former he’s closed off and largely internalized. The performances couldn’t be more different, and the fact that he could successfully switch between the two on any given day only proves what a talent he is on set.
Garland also spoke to /Film about Isaac’s challenging schedule. The director said he’s thankful that “The Last Jedi” director Rian Johnson and producer Ram Bergman allowed Isaac the breathing room to pause his work on “the biggest movie of all time” and film his scenes on “the small movie next door.”
“I think because [Johnson and Bergman] come from an indie film background, here they are making like the biggest movie of all time, and they were unbelievably helpful and accommodating to us,” Garland said. “And they really didn’t have to be at all. Most big productions would not even dream of doing that. And they went out of their way – whilst making fucking ‘Star Wars’ for Christ’s sake – to help this really small movie next door. It was very cool and I’m truly grateful for it, actually.”
“Annihilation” opens in theaters nationwide February 23.