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Oscar Isaac showed a natural love of acting early in life, but an offbeat role at a strict private school got him committed to the stage. When he tapped into the dark side of acting for the first time, a young Isaac was nearly in awe at some of the side perks that came with the role. Three decades later, the Moon Knight star continues to prove he has boundless versatility and a flair for bringing edgy roles to life.

Oscar Isaac went from character actor to A-lister with ‘Star Wars’

Oscar Isaac acting Devil Moon Knight
Oscar Isaac | Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney

Shortly after graduating from the renowned Juilliard School in 2005, Oscar Isaac jumped with both feet into a career in acting. He turned a few heads playing Joseph in The Nativity Story and starred in multiple productions of Shakespeare in the Park at the onset of his acting career. Showcasing his versatility, Isaac then appeared in Law & Order: Criminal Intent before landing a role in Che: Part One, a small part that linked him up with renowned director Steven Soderbergh.

While paying his dues with other side roles, Isaac continued to work with some of the most prominent directors and actors in Hollywood. In the thriller Body of Lies, he co-starred alongside Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe under the guidance of Ridley Scott. The famed British director then brought Isaac back to play the tyrannical Prince John for Robin Hood a couple of years later. Even though the movie didn’t quite land with audiences, Isaac had his most significant exposure to date and showed he had no problem playing contemptible characters.

But the role that changed everything for Isaac was playing the titular character in Inside Llewyn Davis, the Coen Brothers’ acclaimed comedy-drama about a surly folk singer in 1960s Greenwich Village. The following year, in 2014, Isaac again tapped into darker moods for the acclaimed sci-fi thriller Ex Machina and earned a reputation for being a major talent on the rise.

Cementing his star status, Isaac snagged the role of hotshot X-wing pilot Poe Dameron in the Star Wars sequel trilogy and hasn’t looked back since.

Oscar Isaac began acting in grade school

Isaac’s teacher had no idea what she was getting into when she asked her class to complete a simple assignment.

“The assignment was to write … a paragraph short story as an animal on Noah’s ark,” Isaac recalled in a recent interview with fellow actor Jared Leto for Variety. “And I wrote a musical that was like 20 pages.”

Isaac’s teacher was so impressed with his tale of a “reluctant platypus” that she had him perform it for the class.

His early performances in fifth and sixth grade also came at a critical period for Isaac, whose parents were divorcing. After his platypus performance gave him a taste of the stage, Isaac joined other simple school productions of biblical stories. At the time, the Guatemalan-born actor was living in Miami and attending what he called a “weird Christian school” he didn’t particularly vibe with.

But Isaac also quickly found that acting had some side benefits — especially after he landed a role as the Devil. Isaac told Leto that “girls started being interested in me” shortly after scaring teachers with his performance.

“I found my calling,” Isaac joked.

But even though he seemed to relish playing the bad boy, the school wasn’t as pleased when his antics continued backstage. According to Details, Isaac was expelled from school for various infractions, including minor vandalism and hopping a fence to pet exotic animals.  

‘Moon Knight’ shows off his immense range


Oscar Isaac Worked With Dead Bodies Before He Found Fame: ‘Anything Can Happen’

From his first experiences with acting onward, Isaac has had no problem bouncing back and forth between light and darkness. That ability came in handy for Marvel/Disney+’s Moon Knight, which wrapped at the beginning of May with primarily positive reviews and fan reactions. In the six-episode first season, Isaac plays a man struggling with dissociative identity disorder (DID), requiring Isaac to play three distinct personalities.

Isaac worked with the production team to distinguish the characters, showing a willingness to take risks and try new things. While Marc Spector is a veteran tough guy with an American accent, it was Isaac who thought the affable Steven Grant should have an English accent. On the D23 Inside Disney podcast, Isaac further explained that he liked the idea of imagining legendary comedic actor Peter Sellers joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Meanwhile, the third personality, Jake Lockley, not only speaks Spanish but also has an entirely different temperament from the other two.

Add it all up, and you have a multifaceted performance by Isaac that’s anything but typical for a big-budget action series — an effort of which Sellers himself might have been proud.

After challenging himself at the center of a major MCU series, Isaac next will return to his Shakespeare in the Park roots. He’s set to appear on May 24 in Public Theater’s Gala on the Green in New York City, where he’ll take the stage alongside Lin-Manuel Miranda, Playbill reports.