43 years old actor Oscar Isaac enjoys the April/May 2022 for the US Esquire Issue editorial shot by Guy Aroch.
“I’ve always felt like an outsider,” Isaac says. He is talking about the characters he feels drawn to as an actor—how they, too, are often outsiders, people grappling with their place in their world. The sun, bright and unusually warm for the time of year, spills through the window behind him. He is in the Brooklyn apartment he bought back when he felt he had made it and that he keeps for visiting family and friends. He is wearing an orange tie-dyed T-shirt and dark sweats, and he sits cross-legged on his bright-yellow sofa, drinking a glass of water. His curly hair is casually finger-combed off his forehead, his dark eyes warm. “Literally, and then emotionally, psychologically. I always felt like I was observing life and not actually experiencing it. There was a lot of guilt with that sometimes—feeling like I was a vulture of my own life.”
To be in conversation with Oscar Isaac, who is forty-three, is to talk with someone who has thought deeply about the course of his life—not out of narcissism or vanity but by necessity, a desperate desire to find what feels like solid ground. For him. For his family. For us, whom his art reaches. He has worked to wrest meaning out of his confusions and fears. His effort is ongoing, and his audiences have the privilege of following him in his relentless and shattering performances, in search of the firm footing he lost every time another of his dreams was interrupted.
Forty-two movies in, where has he led us?
Two nights ago, he hosted Saturday Night Live, his first time. The gig was part of the buildup to his next big project, Moon Knight, his triumphant induction into the vaunted Marvel universe.
But everyone knew Oscar Isaac already, of course. As the wisecracking, brusque Poe Dameron in the three most recent Star Wars movies; as the unsettling, reclusive tech overlord in Ex Machina; as the desperate businessman in A Most Violent Year; as the devastated husband in Scenes from a Marriage. From Dune; from The Card Counter, a recent thriller by Paul Schrader, who wrote Taxi Driver; from the anguished melancholy of the Coen brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis. Isaac is riveting onscreen, at ease with ambiguity, comfortable maneuvering in that unsteady space where there is no correct response, no right answers, but what exists might be something akin to a greater truth.
Then came SNL and we saw something else: Oscar Isaac is hilarious! As in laugh-out-loud, LMAO hilarious. (If you missed it, watch the whole show, but especially the skit in which he plays a janitor who wants to be a writer.) “Oscar is really funny,” says May Calamawy, his Moon Knight costar. “He’s always down to be goofy and play in between scenes.” When they weren’t rehearsing or filming, she says, they would play Ping-Pong on a table that Isaac had brought in.
Jessica Chastain, his costar in Scenes from a Marriage and A Most Violent Year and a longtime friend, first met him in college. “Oscar was really good friends with my college boyfriend,” she says. “So the first time I really remember being around Oscar was when all the boys were hanging out, and he always seemed like a bit of a troublemaker. He was very mischievous. I would tease him a lot because he would behave badly and I would take him to task for it.” Years later, when they were filming A Most Violent Year around 2013, Chastain brought a foot-massage machine to the set, and between takes Oscar would get his feet massaged while the two of them sat watching The Great British Bake Off.
As we sit and talk in the apartment in Brooklyn, he says he’d like to go get coffee soon, but we never do—the conversation flows and there is never a natural break. He is as funny and quick-witted as the others say. He laughs easily, and bubbling between pauses is a ready smile. Behind him, a bicycle leans against the railing of the narrow balcony. A tall shelf in the living room holds rows of records. Next to the glass coffee table, on a console against the wall, are photos of his wife and their children. In one, Isaac is holding his baby son, bent down to kiss him.
Moon Knight is a thrilling six-part series based on the Marvel comic. On the show, Steven Grant is a hapless, mild-mannered museum-shop employee who starts to suffer blackouts and discovers he shares a body with a conflicted but cruel mercenary named Marc Spector—Isaac plays botTweet
Photography: Guy Aroch
Styling: Bill Mullen
Hair: DJ Quintero
Grooming: Amy Komorowski
Model/Actor: Oscar Isaac