Oscar Isaac talks ‘The Card Counter’ and other projects 

Oscar Isaac stars as William Tell in 'The Card Counter.'
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By María Estévez, MWN 

Oscar Isaac has three huge projects this autumn and the first of them was released on Sept. 10. ‘The Card Counter’ sees the 42-years-old as William Tell, a military interrogator-turned-card player haunted by his past. His spartan existence on the casino trail is shattered when he is approached by Cirk (Tye Sheridan), a vulnerable and angry young man seeking help to execute his plan for revenge on a military colonel (Willem Dafoe).

For Isaac, sci-fi films are carefully laid bricks along the foundation of his acting career. It is a genre that has held his entire filmography by hand and that offered him the opportunity to demonstrate his talent.

However, he got tired of that path and now finds himself in a more intimate area with ‘The Card Counter’ and especially with ‘Dune’ that will hit theaters on Sept. 16. In the second big-screen adaptation of Frank Herbert’s bestseller of the same name, Isaac will appear as Duke Leto Atreides, father of the protagonist Paul, played by Timothée Chalamet.

How did you end up with three back-to-back projects?

Well it has to do with the pandemic as some of those projects had to be delayed.  I feel overwhelmed. Now I am shooting the series called ‘Moon Knight’ in Budapest and it has given me a lot of energy to share these projects that have been withheld for so long due to COVID.

How did you end up in ‘The Card Counter?’

After watching ‘First Reformed,’ I emailed Schrader praising his job. A year later, he contacted me to star in ‘The Card Counter.’ I’ve been in green screen space for quite a few years and I was desperate to do a character study. I personified this character as if he was wearing a mask. It has been a wonderful experience to go back to my theatre school at Juilliard and work with one of my favorite teachers there who does a lot of bodywork. We did three days in a studio where I put on a neutral mask.

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Why do you like Paul Schrader so much?

He is an amazing writer. As an actor, you want that, you want solid writing. Obviously, there would be some moments that raise questions or need changes. But there are all these pauses and weird things so it’s not so direct, it’s not so linear, so that’s really exciting as an actor. You get in there and start doing these words and realize there’s all this subtext that’s just hinted at by these incredible constructions of words that he puts together. 

Tell us about the twist in your career.

I enjoyed the challenge of previous films and working with a very large group of incredible artists and actors, but it is not really what I set out to do. What I set out to do was to make handmade movies, and to work with people that inspire me. Paul’s movies made me who I am. It feels personal and, as far as I’m concerned, it has nothing to do with the finished product but with the process.

You also have the HBO series ‘Scenes of a Wedding,’ where you work with your good friend Jessica Chastain. How is that?

Professionally, it’s great when you know someone so well that you don’t have to worry about a lot of stuff you usually worry about. It’s like working with family.

Why is it important to retell Bergman’s story?

There is some catharsis about what a relationship means, sometimes living together is incredible and sublime and other times you want to kill yourself if you have to talk to that person again. I think it’s something that many will be able to connect with.

What about ‘Dune’? You said that Denis Villeneuve has done a wonderful job with the adaptation of the book.

Yes. I can’t imagine anyone more suited for the tone of the original Frank Herbert novels than Denis. There are some things that are, for lack of a better word, nightmarish about what you see. There’s just this kind of brutalist element to it. It’s shocking. It’s scary. It’s very visceral. And I know that definitely between Denis and myself and Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson as the family unit, we really searched for the emotion of it. I’m beyond myself with excitement. I think it’s good to feel cool, unique, and special. I left with just so much gratitude that I could just be a part of something that was that amazing, that cool, that much of cinematic achievement. I think it’s unlike anything that’s ever come before it. It is a masterpiece.

‘The Card Counter’ is now showing in theaters. 

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