Oscar Isaac Changed His Name to Get More Roles, But It Almost Backfired
Oscar Isaac is a popular name now, but before his big break, he was looking for a way to slip through the industry. Like how some actors do, Isaac once thought changing his name would be key to getting the work he desired. But there was a time when the name-change did more harm than good to his career.
How Oscar Isaac became a star
Oscar Isaac’s full name is Oscar Isaac Hernandez Estrada. He was born in Guatemala City, where his father moved to for medical school from Washington DC. It was there Isaac’s father, Oscar senior, met his mother in Eugenia. A couple of months after his birth, Isaac moved with his family back to America so Oscar senior could complete his residencies. His father would later go on to become a pulmonologist.
The acting bug first got a hold of him at age 11, where he was featured in a biblical play. According to his interview with Esquire, Isaac loved acting because of the “extreme nature of putting yourself out there in front of a bunch of people.”
After toying with the ideas of joining the Marines, and a musical career, Isaac fully committed to acting after applying for the prestigious Juilliard. He attended the school with Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain, but even when he got into Juilliard, Isaac faced his fair share of hurdles.
“In the second year they would do cuts,” Isaac said. “If you don’t do better they kick you out. All the acting teachers wanted me on probation because they didn’t think I was trying hard enough.”
But this only inspired Isaac to do better. Eventually, he graduated from Juilliard and was able to land an agent. As he started getting roles, however, Isaac realized his full name was impeding his success. This meant it was time for a change.
Oscar Isaac had to change his name to get more roles
In the same interview with Esquire, Isaac revealed that he dropped Hernandez from his name when he arrived at Juilliard. The name change was significant, as it helped Isaac avoid getting typecasted because of his heritage.
“When I was in Miami, there were a couple of other Oscar Hernandezes I would see at auditions,” Isaac said. “All casting directors would see me for is the gangster or whatever, so I was like, ‘Well, let me see if this helps.’”
Although shortening his name to Isaac did, in fact, afford him more opportunities, it also helped squander one as well. In particular, he lost a chance to feature in a movie directed by Barry Sonnenfield, who also filmed the hit Men In Black.
A casting director wanted to bring in Isaac to audition for one of Sonnenfield’s movies. But Isaac leaving off the Hernandez in his name cost him the chance.
“And he was like, ‘No, no, no! I just want Cubans,’” Isaac said about Sonnenfield. “I saw Barry Sonnenfield a couple of years ago and I told him that story – ‘I don’t want a Jew, I want a Cuban!’”
Whether it’s because of the name change or not, the actor may have succeeded in avoiding being typecasted. His parts in Star Wars, Ex-Mechina, Annihilation, have been roles that weren’t based on race or ethnicity. His variety in characters not only shows off his acting range, but his innate ability to become one with any character.
Is Oscar Isaac still married to his high school sweetheart?
Oscar Isaac has kept his love life close to the chest. Yahoo once reported back in 2007 that Isaac proposed to Maria Miranda, who was his childhood sweetheart. In Esquire, Isaac also briefly mentions being in a long-distance relationship with a girlfriend back in his days at Juilliard, who might have been Miranda.
It’s unclear when and how the couple broke up, but he and Miranda are no longer together. Isaac has been linked to his current wife Elvira Lind as far back as 2015. According to Bustle, Lind and Isaac might have first met at least two years before that. The only clue to this is Lind’s musical website, Staircase Sessions.com, where Lind describes her, Oscar, and someone named Bruce starting the website in 2013.
Isaac eventually married Lind, and the two welcomed a child in 2017. Isaac, who lost his mother around the same time his son was born, was profoundly affected by his fatherhood.
“In a matter of three months my mother passed and my son was born,” Isaac told Esquire. “It was really tough because for me she was the only true example of unconditional love. It’s painful to know that that won’t exist for me anymore, other than me giving it to him.”