10 Actors to Watch: Oscar Isaac Finds Folk Hero’s Soul

In the Coen brothers’ ‘Inside Llewyn Davis,’ Isaac plays a musician in the early Greenwich Village folk scene.

Playing supporting roles in such films as “Drive” and “W.E.,” Oscar Isaac conveys a beleaguered intensity, if not an underdog quality, that accounts for the actor’s unique appeal.

And in the Coen brothers’ latest, “Inside Llewyn Davis,” both characteristics are magnified to such a degree that his Sisyphean struggle as a musician in the early Greenwich Village folk scene feels palpable. It’s as if you can experience the winter cold that chills this itinerant musician down to his weary bones.

The Coens cast Isaac, who’s in virtually every scene, after switching their focus from musicians who can act to the other way around.

The advantage was that Isaac has been singing and playing guitar since his early teens. “I would say without hyperbole that this is the first time in the history of cinema that somebody has learned to play and sing an entire repertoire of music and film it live without the benefit of a click track or any technology whatsoever,” says the film’s exec music producer, T Bone Burnett.

Isaac’s title character may appear rather self-centered and rakish, but it’s more protective armor than narcissism.

“I think the idea was that he is shut off,” Isaac tells Variety. “When you actually break down his actions, you see that he’s doing things not from a completely self-motivated place. But I think it was the music; that’s the only time that you see a cathartic moment, or a softening, or an opening of his heart. And so I think that juxtaposition was very interesting.”

More Film

  • Les Arcs Film Festival

    Les Arcs European Film Festival's Industry Village Kicks Off with Strong Roster

    Playing supporting roles in such films as “Drive” and “W.E.,” Oscar Isaac conveys a beleaguered intensity, if not an underdog quality, that accounts for the actor’s unique appeal. And in the Coen brothers’ latest, “Inside Llewyn Davis,” both characteristics are magnified to such a degree that his Sisyphean struggle as a musician in the early […]

  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi

    Box Office: 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' Rockets to $215 Million Opening Weekend

    Playing supporting roles in such films as “Drive” and “W.E.,” Oscar Isaac conveys a beleaguered intensity, if not an underdog quality, that accounts for the actor’s unique appeal. And in the Coen brothers’ latest, “Inside Llewyn Davis,” both characteristics are magnified to such a degree that his Sisyphean struggle as a musician in the early […]

  • Disney-Fox Deal Sets Up Scramble for

    Disney-Fox Deal Unleashes Flood of Free-Agent Executives, Talent

    Playing supporting roles in such films as “Drive” and “W.E.,” Oscar Isaac conveys a beleaguered intensity, if not an underdog quality, that accounts for the actor’s unique appeal. And in the Coen brothers’ latest, “Inside Llewyn Davis,” both characteristics are magnified to such a degree that his Sisyphean struggle as a musician in the early […]

  • Anita Hill

    Anita Hill Chairs Hollywood Anti-Sexual Harassment Commission Formed by Top Execs

    Playing supporting roles in such films as “Drive” and “W.E.,” Oscar Isaac conveys a beleaguered intensity, if not an underdog quality, that accounts for the actor’s unique appeal. And in the Coen brothers’ latest, “Inside Llewyn Davis,” both characteristics are magnified to such a degree that his Sisyphean struggle as a musician in the early […]

  • Warren Beatty

    Arnon Milchan Sues Warren Beatty Over 'Rules Don't Apply' Flop

    Playing supporting roles in such films as “Drive” and “W.E.,” Oscar Isaac conveys a beleaguered intensity, if not an underdog quality, that accounts for the actor’s unique appeal. And in the Coen brothers’ latest, “Inside Llewyn Davis,” both characteristics are magnified to such a degree that his Sisyphean struggle as a musician in the early […]

  • Oscar Isaac Addams Family

    Oscar Isaac in Talks to Voice Gomez Addams in Animated 'Addams Family' Movie

    Playing supporting roles in such films as “Drive” and “W.E.,” Oscar Isaac conveys a beleaguered intensity, if not an underdog quality, that accounts for the actor’s unique appeal. And in the Coen brothers’ latest, “Inside Llewyn Davis,” both characteristics are magnified to such a degree that his Sisyphean struggle as a musician in the early […]

  • Jennifer Lawrence

    Publicists for Jennifer Lawrence, Daisy Ridley, Amy Adams Form New Firm

    Playing supporting roles in such films as “Drive” and “W.E.,” Oscar Isaac conveys a beleaguered intensity, if not an underdog quality, that accounts for the actor’s unique appeal. And in the Coen brothers’ latest, “Inside Llewyn Davis,” both characteristics are magnified to such a degree that his Sisyphean struggle as a musician in the early […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content