Oscar Isaac talks 'Inside Llewyn Davis,' avoiding career baggage and nostalgia
CULVER CITY, Calif. — A few weeks ago we ran an interview with the Coen Bros. about their latest film, "Inside Llewyn Davis." I put it up in a Q&A format rather than the usual prose kind of thing because the back and forth was so interesting to me. And for a pragmatic pair whose answers almost have more power in the context of the question, it made a lot of sense.
As I sat down to write up a lunch interview with star (and recent Spirit Award nominee) Oscar Isaac, it became apparent to me that it would benefit just as much from that treatment. The discussion has a natural flow and Isaac is so thoughtful in all of his responses that it would seem wrong to pick and choose the quotes that work best for a piece about the themes and character-building that went into the film.
Which brings me to another point about why a simple Q&A made a lot of sense. Just like the Coens, Isaac — as you'll plainly see in his answers — isn't too caught up in affectation and applying meaning to art. The existence of the thing is the thing. So the conversation, then, is the conversation. No fluffy piece built around choice excerpts. Just an hour-long chat about nostalgia, the life of a nomad, the impact of artists on community, music as an outlet, the inspiration of Buster Keaton and the danger of an actor's personality becoming bigger than the work itself.
Check it all out below, and be forewarned: it's LONG. But it'll make a great piece of reading during the holiday. So feel free to bookmark and dive in later this week.
HitFix: So have you ever done this much press for a movie in your life?
Oscar Isaac: No, sir. Nope. No, I have not.
Well it's a fun one. You get to do all these concerts and stuff.
Yeah, that part's really cool. I just came from seeing the film, the concert film.
Oh, the New York thing. I really wanted to go to that but I couldn't make it, so I'm glad they made a film out of it.
Yeah, the movie's good, because everything they do is so – they just have really good taste so they just – they even make that a little bit of a story. They're just great storytellers. But a lot of it I was backstage, actually. I didn't get to see a lot of the performances. There were a few of them that I saw that were just amazing, man. That Marcus Mumford. He's a motherfucker. He is a motherfucker, man.
Speaking of New York, you live in Brooklyn. Are you going be bi-coastal, you think?
I basically am now. I've been living at The London for a month. But I'm gonna stay out there, as far as, like, living.
How long have you been there?
Almost 12 years now. I actually just bought an apartment. Because I moved around so much when I was a kid. I was like, "I'm gonna go for it. Some roots," you know? A little apartment. But it's nice and I do like it out there a lot. I just feel a little calmer out there. I know it's strange because it's New York, but there's something about it.
Well, it's not, like, an industry town.
Yeah, so it's not overly saturated. People are kind of doing their own thing.
Why did you move around when you were a kid?
My dad was a doctor but he was just always, like, going from hospital to hospital for some reason. I lived in Baltimore and then Louisiana – a couple of different places in Louisiana and then Miami – a couple of different places in Miami, then up to the kind of Palm Beach area – a couple of different places there, and back down to Miami.
So you were bouncing around. I was kind of the same way. My dad was transferred a lot. It was always North Carolina or Virginia, but I was always on the move, always a different school. It makes it hard because you don't have a real sense of home.
Yeah, exactly. Like home – I think that maybe – I don't know if you feel that way but – and not to be over dramatic about it but like having to deal with missing a place – because that's not usually an emotion that a kid feels until later. Having to be confronted with that, like, nostalgia already for, like, "Oh, that was that place. Oh, that city or that." It probably does an interesting thing to you.