He's got the X-factor
Oscar Isaac lands plum roles in X-Men: Apocalypse and new Star Wars movie
Oscar Isaac could easily have made a career out of playing drug dealers and criminals.
But with a little help from the likes of pop diva Madonna, film-makers the Coen brothers and his own gigantic talent, he has a diverse Hollywood resume.
And nominations for Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) and A Most Violent Year (2014).
But nothing is going to shoot his name through the stratosphere more than his upcoming back-to-back parts in two big franchises - as X-Wing pilot Poe Dameron in the highly-anticipated Star Wars: The Force Awakens (out Dec 17) and as the titular villain in X-Men: Apocalypse, which opens next May.
But first, we meet at the Beverly Hilton hotel in Los Angeles, US, to talk about his new HBO miniseries Show Me A Hero, in which he plays Nick Wasicsko, the former real-life mayor of Yonkers, New York, and his struggle to eliminate segregated housing in the 1980s.
When faced with a federal court order stating he must build a small number of low-income housing units in the white middle-class neighbourhoods, his attempt to do so tears the city apart, paralyses the municipal government and ultimately destroys him and his political future.
Directed by Paul Haggis (Crash, The Next Three Days) and co-starring Jim Belushi, Winona Ryder and Alfred Molina, Show Me A Hero airs over HBO (StarHub TV Ch 601) on Mondays at 8pm.
Isaac, 36, is late for our interview, which he profusely apologises for. It seems even movie stars cannot escape LA's horrible traffic.
The Guatemala-born US actor is engaging in person and you see no signs of the electric intensity he conveys onscreen, almost reminiscent of a young Al Pacino.
What kind of research did you do for this role, considering Wasicsko committed suicide in 1993 at the age of 34?
I began with seeing a video of him and listening to his interviews and getting a sense of who he was and how he spoke and what register he spoke in.
I spoke to his widow. We talked for about three hours and it was incredibly emotional.
And she would even be on set at times and I would say, 'What did you think?' And she would say, 'Good, he was angry that day'.
And even that little bit would be in my head. I had never had anything like that before.
What happens on Show Me A Hero was not that long ago. Do you feel we have made any progress at all?
You hear a story like this and you realise the myth of post-racial America. The case wasn't closed until 2007.
So the idea that this happened right down the road from the supposed liberal haven of the world, New York City, and people were aggressively against 200 units of low-income houses in a city of 200,000, it's a wild thing to hear.
These issues are always cloaked in words like 'No, it's not about race, it's about property value'.
But it's always fear about actually desegregating.
A federal court found that 90 per cent of the minority population was segregated into one square mile of the city and even after they said that that's not a good thing, people were like, 'So what? not in my backyard'.
Who are your heroes in real life?
My biggest hero is my mother who has overcome so much. A kidney transplant, bladder cancer, losing her father and losing her husband.
She is still the most positive, genuine and warm person I know.
How was it on the Star Wars set with alumni Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher?
In that situation, it was very hard to maintain a sense of equanimity because there was that part of me that grew up with them and to see them dressed up like that and to see Chewbacca standing next to Harrison and think, what dream am I in, where this is actually happening?
And not only that, but to see someone like Harrison putting his heart into it and it wasn't cynical, it had a lot to do with (director J.J. Abrams) just creating a situation where we were all having fun.
Carrie Fisher is a mad one (laughs). She is one of the funniest people I ever met in my life and I just enjoyed working with her so much.
Can we talk about X-Men: Apocalypse?
For me, there was a very personal reason. I grew up with that comic book in particular.
And also the idea of encompassing this second coming and the idea of this judgment of the God of the Old Testament, and how do you embody that? So that has been the challenge.
It has a sense of Greek tragedy and mask work where you are embodying mythic ideas, and how do you convey that physically?
It's tough because I am completely covered in prosthetics, my entire face, and I am in a huge suit that weighs about 50 pounds (about 20kg), and I have to be connected to a cooling mechanism at all times, if not I will die.
I really also enjoyed working with Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy and Jennifer Lawrence - they have got a tight family up there and they have kind of welcomed me into the whole thing.