Oscar Isaac Chose to Be in ‘The Card Counter’ Because He Was in ‘Green Screen Space Land’ Too Long

Oscar Isaac has spent the last couple of years in space. From 2015 until 2019, the actor starred as Poe Dameron in Disney’s latest installments of the Star Wars franchise. These films included Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi, and Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker

He has since completed another space epic, Dune, set to premiere nationwide on Oct. 22, 2021. 

Despite his blockbuster success, Isaac originally got his start in art-house and independent films. He has received praise for his work in A Most Violent Year, Inside Llewyn Davis, and At Eternity’s Gate. 

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MARCH 03: Oscar Isaac attends the "Triple Frontier" World Premiere at Jazz at Lincoln Center on March 03, 2019 in New York City.
Oscar Isaac | Roy Rochlin/WireImage

Oscar Isaac plays an ex-military interrogator in ‘The Card Counter’

Even though he achieved great success with his mainstream films, Isaac was hungry to get back to character-driven pieces. First Reformed’s Paul Schrader seemed to provide the actor precisely that in The Card Counter, out Sept. 10.

According to The Card Counter’s official website, “Redemption is the long game in Paul Schrader’s [newest film]. Told with Schrader’s trademark cinematic intensity, the revenge thriller tells the story of an ex-military interrogator turned gambler haunted by the ghosts of his past decisions and features riveting performances from stars Oscar Isaac, Tiffany Haddish, Tye Sheridan, and Willem Dafoe.”

Paul Schrader and ‘The Card Counter’ gave Oscar Isaac the Blockbuster break he needed

Isaac cited Star Wars and Dune as motivators for joining Schrader’s cast. “I’ve been in green screen space land for quite a few years, and I was desperate to do a character study,” Isaac said at a Venice Film Festival press conference

“In prep, I wore a mask,” he said, before going on to describe how he prepped for his role as a military interrogator-turned-card player with a haunted past. “I went back to my theatre school at Juilliard and worked 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.”

In a separate interview with ComicBook.com, Isaac broke down why he wanted to play his character William Tell.

“I’d say that what resonated most with me was trauma and what trauma does and how it’s processed and what people do with it in the aftermath,” he said. “He serves his time for this horrible thing that was told to do and did willingly, and when he gets out, he feels like it wasn’t enough. He’s still traumatized by what he’s done, so he decides to live this life that’s quite empty and repetitive, in this purgatory.”

‘The Card Counter’ joins Paul Schrader’s revered work like ‘Taxi Driver,’ ‘Raging Bull,’ and ‘First Reformed’

If Isaac wanted a character study, Paul Schrader was the right director to pick. The writer/director is known for creating flawed characters pushed to their moral limits. His credits include Taxi Driver, The Last Temptation of Christ, and Raging Bull. He earned his first Academy Award nomination for 2017’s First Reformed.


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Isaac noted in his interview with ComicBook.com that Schrader’s characters come from a “long line of ‘man alone in his room’” and realized what a distinction it was to play one. “Taxi Driver, Light Sleeper, American Gigolo, First Reformed… so, for me, it was this incredible honor that I get to do one of these characters, one of these ‘men in a room’ for this series of these incredible portraits, of these dark, tortured misfits.”