As in Julia’s case, Isaac’s ethnically ambiguous looks make him a casting director’s dream. Since 2006, after dropping his surname, Hernandez, to avoid being typecast in Hollywood, he’s played Joseph, Jesus’ dad, in Catherine Hardwicke’s The Nativity Story; an Iraqi in Ridley Scott’s Body of Lies and an English king in Scott’s Robin Hood. He also snagged choice supporting roles in the Ryan Gosling thriller Drive and Madonna’s W.E.
But Isaac’s true breakthrough arrived late last year, with his first starring role—one of the most coveted in Hollywood—as the titular folk singer in Inside Llewyn Davis. The drama is written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, who launched Javier Bardem onto Hollywood’s A-list with his Oscar-winning performance in No Country for Old Men.
Not that Isaac spends too much time dreaming of little golden statues. “I can’t anticipate [winning an Oscar], because often you set the bar so high and things don’t happen,” Isaac says. “My goal is to continue doing work that’s inspiring to me. The fact that Inside Llewyn Davis happened is an incredibly rewarding feeling…a feeling that I’m on the right path.”
And that path includes music: Isaac, who as a teen played guitar in a punk-ska band, performed one of his songs in 10 Years and plays the ukulele in Won’t Back Down. He also contributed five songs to Inside Llewyn Davis’s soundtrack. Isaac even uses his tunes as part of his dating repertoire. “I write love songs; those are the best ones to write,” he says. “You play songs for girls—that’s the thing to do. The song, sometimes, seals the deal.”
So does being one of the most talented actors in Hollywood, Oscar. Just a thought.