Oscar Isaac on playing the super-villain in X-Men: Apocalypse
He is now one of the world’s best-known and most in-demand actors, but success did not come quickly or easily to Guatemalan-born star Oscar Isaac.
The 37-year-old waited more than a decade for his first starring role, in the 2013 Coen Brothers film Inside Llewyn Davis.
Since then, his career has gone from strength to strength, and he started 2016 a household name after a string of popular and critically acclaimed successes – not least his eye-catching turn as charismatic rebel fighter pilot Poe Dameron in Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens.
His other successes include the critically adored dramas A Most Violent Year and Ex Machina, and now he is taking centre stage in a superhero movie: X-Men: Apocalypse, the latest big-screen adventure in Marvel’s mutant franchise.
He plays the titular villain, Apocalypse, an ancient mutant – the world’s first – who has almost godlike powers and is intent on the destruction of the world.
We talked to him about the film and the differences between working on huge blockbuster franchises and smaller, lower-budget films.
You play the title role of Apocalypse, the villain. What motivates him to take on all these powerful opponents?
He awakes to find the world in the hands of people that he finds inferior. It angers him that the world is ruled by weak individuals, and he sets out to wipe the slate clean, putting himself at the centre of all power. He views himself as a god, but there’s also a very Darwinian mind – he wants the strong to evolve as he has no time for anything he deems to be less powerful.
Was it enjoyable to play someone with so much gravitas within the X-Men universe?
It’s a very fun character to play, because of the large aspect of the character, but also because there were many facets to him. He wants all this power, but to do that he needs help, he needs followers. So there also has to be his charismatic side to him which is very interesting.
Were you a fan of the X-Men films before signing on?
I was. To be honest, this is the film I wanted to see, whether I was in it or not – all the characters in this rich universe coming together on different sides. It’s so exciting to see.
You undergo quite a transformation to play the character – what was it like under all the make-up?
It was challenging. To spend so much time under all of that can be trying, but there was a cooling system to make sure I didn’t overheat, and I worked on staying relaxed because you’ve got to perform for long hours.
It’s the second blockbuster franchise you’ve been involved in. How did it feel being involved in such a huge cinematic event?
It was very humbling. Like everyone else, I loved the movies growing up and going through the whole experience – not being able to tell anyone about it at first, then seeing people’s reactions to the trailers and now the film – has been amazing to be a part of.
You’ve also made several darker, lower-budget films that have been very different, including Ex Machina, A Most Violent Year and Mojave. Is it jarring moving from huge, blockbuster sets to much smaller productions?
There are differences in the amount of time there is [to prepare and shoot], but your approach should never change. I try to be involved with films that interest me, so the size of the movie shouldn’t affect that.
Still, it must be a difficult choice sometimes – a smaller film that might be artistically superior or a blockbuster that many more people will see.
Yes – but if more people see it and it’s not good, then what’s the point? As an actor I try to focus on the part, regardless of whether it has a high profile or not.
• X-Men: Apocalypse is in cinemas now
Published: May 18, 2016 04:00 AM