Oscar Isaac was everywhere 2015 – in movies, on TV, doing interviews on primetime, and winning the hearts of his cast mates and fans alike through the power of song. But what exactly happened in 2015? To say that Oscar Isaac was the breakout star of 2015 ignores his previous and impressive film work in movies like Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) or Drive (2011). For many fans, Oscar Isaac had long illustrated his masterful craft and potential as a dynamic actor, and this past year simply allowed him to illustrate that again and again and again. To say that he had a busy year is both an understatement and undermines just how wildly successful it was.
Oscar Isaac wasn’t just busy – he was busy succeeding, repeatedly, in a variety of roles and projects. No, the truth is, Oscar Isaac won 2015: from starring in movies alongside Mark Wahlberg and Jessica Chastain to being in HBO’s critically-acclaimed mini-series to flying an X-wing in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Oscar Isaac spent the last year proving that there was nothing that he could not do.
There is, of course, something to be said about star power – Oscar Isaac’s many projects also meant that he was interviewed repeatedly, and his increasing fan-base is also in part due to the charm that he brings to the red carpet and beyond. Isaac is not only a formidably talented actor and musician, he is also a charismatic spokesperson for his own brand.
If you need some convincing, or if you simply want to relive the glory, here are the 10 Reasons Oscar Isaac Won 2015:
10. A Most Violent Year (2014)
A Most Violent Year (2014) reunited Oscar Isaac with his Julliard classmate, Jessica Chastain. As Abel Morales, Isaac plays a small business owner whose trucks are getting hijacked and stolen. Despite the title – and the violence – the movie is a slow-burn, brooding and building over two hours. The best scenes, by far, feature Isaac and Chastain as husband and wife, and both give impressive and moving performances. Isaac converses in both English and Spanish as his character struggles to keep his business and himself legitimate and honorable.
While A Most Violent Year premiered in 2014 at the AFI Festival, it was given an Oscar qualifying release in late 2014, but was seen by most people in early 2015
9. Ticky Tacky (2014)
Ticky Tacky (2014), a short film by Brian Petsos, is a dark and violent Wes Anderson-esque dream of a film that appeared at a number of festivals in late 2014 and through 2015. It was also released online in December of 2015.
In less than fifteen minutes, Oscar Isaac’s Lucien gleefully eats donuts, madly schemes revenge with his half-pint henchman, goes on a drunken bender, and waltzes around the room with a gasoline tank. The short film does not try to explain some of its most surreal elements – the child hit-man, the Santa Claus outfit, the assistant’s ability to fetch anything at the drop of a hat – and instead includes them to add to the jarring nightmarish quality of the whole ordeal. Lucien becomes perfectly unhinged after he learns of his lover’s betrayal (or perhaps he was already), but he never quite loses a certain playful joy.
8. Ex Machina (2015)
Ex Machina (2015) is a science fiction movie in which a young programmer (Domhnall Gleeson) is asked to perform a Turing test on an artificial intelligence (Alicia Vikander) that has been constructed by a genius CEO (Oscar Isaac). Isaac’s Nathan masks his intellect with destructive alpha male tendencies – calling Gleeson’s Caleb “dude” and “man” as he throws back beers and lifts weights. Living in Nathan’s secluded bunker home, Caleb becomes increasingly suspicious of Nathan, whose kindness seems to be a fragile facade. Underneath that facade lies a troubled and even violent man, waiting to lash out. Though Caleb’s suspicions of Nathan may be deserved, he also discovers that Nathan’s robot creations resemble their creator in unsettling ways – the story of Ex Machina is simple, and Nathan is not simply a villain. Nathan’s “mad genius with a god complex” could easily be a two-dimensional character, but Isaac’s performance illustrates that Nathan is as fallible, as lonely, and perhaps, as human as everyone else.
The most talked about scene of Ex Machina featured Oscar Isaac, agitated, drunk, and dancing. The scene is hilarious, but it makes the audience realize that Nathan is capable of doing anything – and that Isaac is capable of anything, too.
7. Show Me a Hero (2015)
Show Me a Hero is the creation of The Wire’s David Simon. Airing on HBO in mid-August of 2015, the mini-series follows the rise and fall of real-life politician Nick Wasicsko (Oscar Isaac), the youngest mayor of a major American city, in this case, Yonkers, NY. In the late 1980s, a judge ordered Yonkers to create low-income housing in white, affluent neighborhoods. This caused political turmoil that both initially got Wascisko elected and later banished from politics. Wasicsko was seen as a hero of desegregation for his actions, but his failures to get re-elected plagued his short-lived politic career.
Isaac’s performance is heartfelt as he navigates political and personal successes and failures. His charisma and courage are coupled with a vulnerable craving to be loved and an insecurity that he can’t be. His friends and family repeatedly remind him to not confuse votes with love, but it’s clear that when the lines between the political and personal merge, anything can happen. As the Fitzgerald quote that the title alludes to goes, “Show me a hero, and I’ll write you a tragedy.”
6. His Interview with His Younger Brother
To promote Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Oscar Isaac gave many interviews, and responded to questions with answers including such gems as saying that he would have a rainbow-colored lightsaber, he thinks that droid genders are unimportant because gender is fluid, and he would cosplay as the Gonk Droid. Along the press circuit, Isaac did a number of great interviews, including when Carrie Fisher interviewed him on the red carpet, although we may have learned more about Fisher than Isaac from that particular exchange.
The best interview that Isaac gave this year, however, was for the Miami New Times, where his younger brother, Mike Hernandez, is a journalist. Hernandez interviews Isaac about their childhood and the internet’s art of Isaac before the two brothers played Street Fighter together.
5. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
*SPOILERS for Star Wars: The Force Awakens in this entry.*
Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) is one part of the new heroic trio that saves the galaxy far, far away in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. While Poe Dameron was originally going to be a cameo, the part was expanded. Poe is the best pilot in the Resistance, who is sent by General Leia (Carrie Fisher) along with his astromech droid, BB-8, to hunt for the map to Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). Poe is rescued by Finn (John Boyega), a stormtrooper whose name Poe derives from his call sign FN-2187. In his X-wing, Poe helps to save Finn and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) after the First Order attacks Maz Kanata’s cantina, and he also helps to destroy the Starkiller Base.
Poe Dameron is reminiscent of Wedge Antilles and the other heroes of the Star Wars Legends X-Wing book series: a hot-shot pilot who is head-strong, funny, and fearless, even in the face of the evil First Order. Poe’s devotion to his cause and to his friends makes him a true hero, and Isaac’s chemistry with his co-stars and brilliant comedic timing means that he steals every scene that he is in.
4. His Rendition of Bill Murray’s Star Wars Song
Bill Murray performed a version of the Star Wars theme song with comedic lyrics on Saturday Night Live. As part of a promotion for the seventh installment of Star Wars, Oscar Isaac covered Bill Murray’s song, creating new lyrics to describe the new characters of The Force Awakens. While Murray’s performance is a parody, Isaac sings with an earnest joy as he accompanies himself on guitar.
Isaac’s musical talent was not showcased in any of his major projects of the past year, but in addition to performing a cover of the SNL song, he performed a duet with his co-star Daisy Ridley on social media.
3. Mojave (2015)
Premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival in April of 2015, Mojave is a game of cat and mouse written and directed by William Monahan (the writer of the Oscar-winning The Departed). Oscar Isaac plays Jack, a homicidal maniac with a taste for literature. Jack hunts after Hollywood star Thomas (Garrett Hedlund) across the desert while quoting Shakespeare and and making humorous quips. Mark Wahlberg also makes a darkly funny appearance as Norman, a scummy and larger-than-life movie producer.
While Mojave has been met by mixed reviews by critics, Oscar Isaac’s performance is repeatedly cited as a highlight of the film, and his performance as Jack showcases both his dramatic and comedic abilities.
2. Award Season Nominations Are Only Just Beginning
A Most Violent Year was nominated for awards in 2014, and Oscar Isaac tied with Michael Keaton (Birdman) for the National Board Review for Best Actor. Both Ex Machina and Show Me a Hero have garnered critical acclaim, and Oscar Isaac has been nominated for eight major nominations or awards thus far between his two roles as Nathan and Nick Wasicsko respectively.
With his second Golden Globe nomination (Show Me a Hero; the first for the Coen brothers’ Inside Llweyn Davis), many believe that Isaac might also be nominated for his first Emmy this year. It also remains to be seen whether or not Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be a contender for the Oscars this year.
1. The Momentum is Building for 2016 and Beyond
2015 was a big year for Oscar Isaac, and his career is not slowing down any time soon. Isaac is set to play the titular villain, Apocalypse, in X-Men: Apocalypse. The first trailer for the upcoming X-Men movie was released in late 2015, and introduced the new antagonist. Apocalypse, or En Sabah Nur, is a terrible and powerful foe of the X-Men in the comics, and Isaac campaigned to get the role in the movies.
Poe Dameron, Isaac’s Star Wars counterpart, was originally going to be killed in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but J. J. Abrams modified the script so that Dameron’s story would continue in the upcoming films. In 2017, Oscar Isaac will return to a galaxy far, far away as the ace pilot of the Resistance.
Can you think of any other actors “win” 2015? Let us know in the comments!