Oscar Isaac is having a pretty good year. The Juilliard-trained actor has been on a bit of a roll since being cast as the lead in Inside Llewyn Davis; the Coen brothers’ ’60s folk noir may not have gotten the awards traction that could have made Isaac’s breakout a truly golden ride, but it’s not like the lack of an Oscar nomination dimmed his prospects either. Not only did he score a choice role opposite Jessica Chastain in director J.C. Chandor’s A Most Violent Year, which recently received an awards-season friendly 2014 release date—he was also cast in Star Wars: Episode VII. But you already knew that one.
In his latest, an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s 1964 novel The Two Faces of January, Isaac plays Rydal, a clean-shaven, fedora-sporting American abroad who’s been leading the life of a quiet, small time scam artist in Greece till he takes up with a beguiling American couple played by Kirsten Dunst (Colette) and Viggo Mortensen (Chester). When a symbol of Chester’s less-than-honest past pays him an unexpected visit, a violent incident tethers the three travelers for the remainder of the slow-burning thriller, directed and adapted by Oscar-nominated screenwriter Hossein Amini (The Wings of the Dove).
“He didn’t look, necessarily, like the part was described in the book, but he can do anything. He has this thing that my favorite kind of actors have in that they’re kind of edgy and dangerous, but he has this innocence as well,” said Amini, who met Isaac on Drive, which he wrote the screenplay for. “You can feel it when he’s flirting with Kirsten, and he looks over and sees Viggo and feels guilty and tries to include him in the conversation. He can switch moods so quickly. I don’t know many actors who can go toe-to-toe with Viggo.”
EW spoke to Isaac about The Two Faces of January (available now on VOD and in select theaters on Sept. 26), the game-changing moments of his career and even a bit about Star Wars, which he’s currently filming in London.