Oscar Isaac On 'Ex Machina's Epic Dance Scene & Crafting The "Bro Billionaire"
With his starring role in the upcoming Star Wars film and plenty of award nominations for his roles in indie fare like Inside Llewyn Davis and A Most Violent Year, Oscar Isaac is having his moment in the sun. His latest film, Ex Machina , left audiences gasping at its twists and turns at South By Southwest Film Festival 2015. The film surrounds Nathan, a reclusive CEO of the world's largest, Google-esque internet company, and the 26-year-old programer he poaches to spend a week at his private mountain retreat. But when Caleb arrives, he realizes he was chosen to participate in testing the world's first true artificial intelligence (AI), an impressive computer system housed inside the robot body of a gorgeous woman.
The film addresses questions of internet privacy, the nature of human beings, differences and similarities in genders, and the power of sexuality. While these topics take the front seat in writer/director Alex Garland's beautifully crafted vision, there is one not-so-serious scene that took the SXSW audiences by surprise. "The script says we disco dance," Oscar Issac says. "It was a lot of fun. We got a great choreographer, and we did a very long dance routine that we rehearsed quite a few times. Alex would come in and watch it, I think he really dug it. He joined in every once in a while."
But the scene, which is laugh out loud hilarious, is a complete vacation from the dark, unsettling tone of the rest of the film. "That was precisely the intention," director Alex Garland says. "I worked on this other film several years ago, Never Let Me Go, which is a serious literary adaptation. And it has a tone that we hit well, it was a lesson. With Ex Machina, It was much more aggressive and spiky. I forced spikes into it in a particular kind of way. I did hard cuts," he explains, adding: "In that dance scene, right as the audience is really starting to dig it, they could actually probably stand it going on another 15 seconds, you cut out too soon. You don't let them enjoy it."
And that feeling of uneasy likability is the quintessential tone struck in Oscar Isaac's Nathan. He's the cool boss you want to like, but who might just be a psychopath. "The language, the wit, the condescension, the sardonic-biting humor, that was all in [the script]," Isaac says of his character. "The whole bro billionaire thing. It was all right there. There wasn't a whole lot of mining of that to find humor, it was really built in. Being the hammy actor that I am, I would add more of it where I could."
But when looking at young tech billionaires of the 21st century — Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Silcon Valley's Drew Houston, Texas' most eligible bachelor Scott Duncan — Isaac found his character inspiration in a more unlikely person. "I landed on Bobby Fischer, who I thought had a brilliant mind but an incredible dark thing going on. A reclusive — [he] presented aspects of himself, and hid other ones. [Stanley] Kubrick was another person. I listened to the way he spoke. He's so intelligent, but also had a roughness cause he's from the Bronx."
See the beautiful and thought-provoking Ex Machina in theaters Friday, April 10. Watch the trailer below: