Oscar Isaac stars as Will — a young man wooing Olivia Wilde's Abby — in the ensemble drama "Life Itself," which debuted to rave reviews at the 2018 Toronto Film Festival and opens in American theaters on Sept. 21. Critics have kept mostly quiet regarding the actual plot of the twist-filled multigenerational love story from the creator of "This Is Us" — making it as mysterious as its leading man, whom you probably know from his role as Poe Dameron in the "Star Wars" franchise. In honor of "Life Itself," Wonderwall.com rounded up the things you probably don't know (but should!) about one of our favorite under-the-radar leading men…
No. 1: His real name is Óscar Isaac Hernández Estrada
Oscar Isaac shortened his name during his teen years as he began to seriously pursue his acting career "for any number of reasons" but also "because the marquee, you know, it's a little easier," he once told The Guardian.
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No. 2: He was born in Guatemala
Oscar Isaac was born in Guatemala to a Guatemalan mother and a Cuban father. The family relocated to the United States when he was just 5 months old and bounced around from Baltimore to New Orleans to Miami. The actor told The Guardian in 2017 that he has no desire to "represent" his ethnic background: "I don't represent anybody except this organism that I happen to be," he said. "I have a love for Guatemala, a love for my family there, a love for a place that I was born, a place where my mother was born. For Cuba, as well. But, yeah, I'm always wary of people that say they speak for a large group of people because I'm always like, 'Really? How do you know?' To speak for a group of people is not something I've ever felt comfortable doing."
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No. 3: When he was in kindergarten, he was convinced he was Russian
When he was in kindergarten in the '80s, Oscar Isaac was convinced his family was Russian: "I remember going to the playground and being like, 'Hey, guys, I'm Russian! Let's play. You guys are the Americans and I'll be the Russian,'" he once told The Guardian. But when Oscar asked his father to confirm his suspicions regarding their nationality, he fired back with the ultimate dad joke: "We're rushin' in the morning. … But that's about it." (Oscar, by the way, has played a wide range of characters — from Israeli and Armenian to French and Russian.)
No. 4: His father is a pulmonologist
Oscar Isaac's father moved from Cuba to the United States and then to Guatemala (where he met Oscar's mother) to attend medical school. "He worked the graveyard shift for a long time, so we'd have to be very quiet around the house while he was sleeping until he went to work at night," the actor told Vice. His father now works as a pulmonologist, a doctor who focuses on the health of the respiratory system.
No. 5: His brother is a journalist and an actor
Oscar Isaac's younger brother, Michael Benjamin Hernandez, is an actor and a journalist who's written for the Miami New Times. He made his acting debut as Dani Shalom in 2018's "Operation Finale," in which Oscar starred. He'll also appear in the upcoming action-adventure film "Triple Frontier," in which Oscar stars alongside Ben Affleck, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund and Pedro Pascal.
No. 6: He was expelled from his private Christian junior high school
Oscar Isaac was expelled from his private Christian middle school in seventh grade for repeated bad behavior including spraying a fire extinguisher in the gym, defacing a mural, writing curse words on stairs leading to the library and breaking into the ranch next door. "The school was built around this guy's ranch and there was a big wall and we never knew what was on the other side. Me and my friend jumped over and found all these exotic animals — guard emus and the craziest tiny little beavers. We just started petting them all. Why wouldn't you? But the guy complained," Oscar told Details, adding that his acts of vandalism were "just stupid, stupid."
No. 7: He almost enlisted in the Marines after high school
Oscar Isaac told Esquire in 2017 that he was inspired to enlist by a friend who grew up in a military family. "We were like, 'Hey, let's work out and get all ripped and be bada—-!'" he said. "I was like, 'Yeah, I'll do combat photography!' My dad was really against it. He said, 'Clinton's just going to make up a war for you guys to go to,' so I had to have the recruiters come all the way down to Miami where my dad was living and they convinced him to let me join. I did the exam, I took the oath, but then … I decided I'd join the Reserves instead. I said I wanted to do combat photography. They said, 'We don't do that in the Reserves, but we can give you anti-tank?' Ha! I was like, 'it's a liiiiiittle different to what I was thinking…'"
No. 8: His childhood home was destroyed by Hurricane Andrew
In August 1992, Hurricane Andrew wreaked havoc on the Bahamas, Louisiana and Florida, reportedly killing 66 people and causing more than $26 billion in damages. Among the casualties was Oscar Isaac's childhood home in Miami. "We were huddled inside with cushions over us," he told Details in 2015. "The roof was torn off and the water was coming up. I was holding my dog. My room got completely swept away. And then, in the morning, my dad came and knocked through a wall and grabbed us and took us to the hospital where he was working."
No. 9: He worked a series of very odd jobs before his acting career took off
Before his acting career took off, Oscar Isaac bagged groceries at Publix, worked as a waiter at a golf club, manned the concession stand at a movie theater and served as a "transporter" at a medical center. The actor explained to Vice in early 2018: "The longest job I held was as a transporter at the hospital where my dad worked — taking people to do X-rays, bringing the deceased down to the morgue. My first day on the job, I had to do that."
No. 10: He shot "Life Itself" in the wake of his mother's death in early 2017
Oscar Isaac took a six-month break from acting to be with his mother before she passed away in February 2017. "I was really fortunate to be able to just be with her the entire time and not be off on some set somewhere," he told The Guardian. "At first, we didn't know how ill she was, and she didn't either, but as things progressed, it was much easier to say no to things. At a certain point, it was like, clearly: 'I'm not going to be doing anything.'" He got back to work with "Life Itself," which took two and a half weeks to shoot, and an off-Broadway production of "Hamlet." Said Oscar of the movie, "I was very nervous about it because I was like: 'I don't know if I can get it up for anybody.' You know? Or if I want to. And it ended up being so necessary … the mirroring my own life. It's very dark and yet I found joy in it."
No. 11: He's married
Oscar Isaac and documentary filmmaker Elvira Lind tied the knot in March 2017, a month after his mother passed away and a month before they became parents. He told GQ in early 2018 that there are "tons of reasons" why he finally decided to propose to his longtime partner. "She's Danish — she's not a citizen, and she was very pregnant, and there was an element of figuring out, 'Well, where are we going to be?' And us wanting to be a family unit a bit more," he said. "But, you know, at the time, right before it happened, my mom was ill, and so I saw her carrying my child, bathing my sick mom — seeing her do that, I just thought: I want to be with this person forever and ever. And I just wanted to take that extra step as well."
No. 12: His son is named after his late mother
In April 2017, two months after his mother, Eugenia, passed away, Oscar Isaac welcomed a son with his wife, documentary filmmaker Elvira Lind. They named their baby boy Eugene in her honor. Oscar told The New York Times that his son has Eugenia's lips and hands. "You have a child … and you must — you must for their sake — you must say yes to life," he said of becoming a father while mourning his own mother.
No. 13: He and Jessica Chastain were classmates at Julliard
Oscar Isaac graduated from Juilliard's drama division in 2005. While he was an underclassman, Jessica Chastain — who was dating one of his friends at the time — was an upperclassman. "She was amazing," he told Details, adding that the actress "would give him a hard time" during their college years. The longtime friends co-starred in 2014's "A Most Violent Year."
No. 14: He's the reason why Poe Dameron didn't die in "Star Wars: The Force Awakens"
J.J. Abrams originally planned to kill off Oscar Isaac's "Star Wars" alter ego, Poe Dameron, early in "The Force Awakens," which J.J. co-wrote, co-produced and directed. But after they met to discuss the role, the filmmaker changed his mind: "The idea of Oscar Isaac as Poe coming back into the movie and being an ally to the cause got my blood pumping," the filmmaker wrote in an email to The New York Times of his decision to make the character a larger part of the "Star Wars" universe.
No. 15: He's a musician, too!
Oscar Isaac started playing guitar at age 12 and was in several Florida-based bands before he moved to New York City to study at Juilliard. One of his ska groups, The Worms, even played at a Warped Tour stop in South Florida. "What was cool about the punk/ska thing was that you could just have lots of your friends that weren't that good at playing music but had a trumpet or a saxophone so we had, like, a 10-piece band," he told Rolling Stone in 2013. Five years later, Oscar — who also plays bass and was in a hardcore band — told Vice that he had to put music on the back burner to focus on acting at Juilliard. "But even to this day, I play music all the time. I occasionally play live too," he said.
No. 16: He's not wild about cats
Oscar Isaac shares quite a bit of screen time with a cat in 2013's "Inside Llewyn Davis." He told The Irish Times that he shot with four or five cats with very different personalities while making the Coen brothers drama. "Often they were tied to me, so they wouldn't run into traffic. It wasn't so bad. But they can't really be trained," he said, adding that he's "not really" a fan of cats in general. "Some time ago I had to go into [the] hospital when a cat bit me and it infected my lymphatic system," he revealed. Yikes!
No. 17: He didn't start drinking alcohol until he was in his mid-20s
Even though he played music in his teen years and spent his 20s in the New York City theater scene, Oscar Isaac didn't start drinking alcohol until much later in life. "I didn't drink till I was, like, 24," he told Esquire. "Even though I stopped being religious, I liked the individuality of being the guy who didn't do that stuff. Maybe it was the observer part of me… I liked being a little bit detached, and I wasn't interested in doing something that was going to make me lose control."
No. 18: If he wins an Academy Award, he'll be only the second man named Oscar to win an Oscar
Though he's scored two Golden Globe nominations (best actor in a motion picture comedy or musical for "Inside Llewyn Davis" in 2014 and best actor in a limited series or made-for-TV movie for "Show Me a Hero," which he won, in 2016), Oscar Isaac hasn't been nominated for an Academy Award… yet. If he does eventually win an Oscar, he'll become only the second man ever named Oscar to win an Oscar. The other is Oscar Hammerstein II, who won two Academy Awards for best original song back in the '40s.