TAKING FLIGHT AS HOTSHOT PILOT – POE DAMERON
Star Wars Insider: How did you first get involved?
Oscar Isaac: I got a call to come and meet J.J. Abrams in Paris and I showed up without any information as to exactly what it was about. I had a vague feeling that it was about Star Wars, but even that was a bit under wraps. So, I came to Paris and sat with him and Kathleen Kennedy and Lawrence Kasdan and they just told me about the film and the role that they were interested in me playing. I just tried to stay cool and stay calm and listen and take it in.
But really my reaction was utter excitement and disbelief that this was actually happening. Are you a Star Wars fan? I’ve been a Star Wars fan as an adult and a child. It was a big part of my family. My uncle, cousin, and brother were huge Star Wars fans and so they collected all the toys. So, I, by proxy, was also a fan. The first film I remember seeing as a child was Return of the Jedi. I think for a lot of people in the film business in general, Star Wars is a milestone. For some people, it’s why they do what they do, so to be asked to be a part of it was a huge, huge honor and it just created such excitement.
How did J.J. Abrams describe his vision of the film to you?
J.J. Abrams spoke a bit about the vision of the film and also about how he wanted to approach the fi lm by going back to the roots of it and shooting it on fi lm, making it a very textured world. As far as the performances, it feels like he sees things on three levels. One, is visually, the story that’s being told, so you can turn it on silent and still have communicated what’s happening emotionally. Secondly, it’s the energy, which is really the thrust of the whole thing; the proper level of energy for any given scene. Then, third, is the nuance of the characters and how they interact with each other, and what they say, and how they respond and how that reveals who the characters are. So that’s been interesting to play with. So any suggestions I might have come from a place of how those three things get affected and how they can be highlighted. That was an interesting thing with playing Poe; it’s a specific color that he adds to the film. It’s one that’s energetic. There’s almost an old-school Cary Grant in His Girl Friday kind of speed to it, and that’s something that J.J. really likes.
What did you make of the impressive scale of the film?
It’s a real textured world and environment. We actually have two full-sized X-wings standing there that you can run up to and the cockpit will open! You can jump inside and fire them up. Everyone that’s involved feels like it’s real and like it’s there. It infuses the fi lm with something that’s unquantifiable. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever done before. What I like about it, too, is that it’s also a bit of a period piece because it goes back to the technology that they were using in the original films. There is a slightly 1980s vibe that they’re able to elicit with a lot of the designs and using actual everyday objects as well mixed into the set. That’s just so great because, again, it’s a reminder that it is part of a legacy and a culture. You’re creating culture. That’s something that Max Von Sydow had said when we were sitting there talking a little bit. He said these movies create culture; they create a whole lineage and ancestry and world with all these little bits and pieces that they use. It infuses everything with meaning.
How is J.J. Abrams mixing the old and new for a new audience?
J.J. would often say that he wanted it to be messy; he didn’t want it to be formal. He wanted the movie to have a bit of a subversive quality to it; a little bit of edge and grit. By infusing it with that, it makes it feel modern and really alive. I think the most important thing is that it be alive, and visceral. Star Wars has a strong human element too, doesn’t it? In the original fi lms, I think that’s what was so moving about it. I remember the fi rst fi lm that I saw in the theater was Return of the Jedi. What sticks in my head is being in a theater and seeing that moment when Darth Vader takes the helmet off and Luke Skywalker sees his father as this vulnerable being. He’s not this huge, black monolith; he is suddenly is this vulnerable man, and that’s a big moment in a child’s life when you realize your parents are not immortal gods. Those are universal themes, along with the quest for identity and the feeling that you’re lost and you don’t know where you fi t in. Did the experience live up to your expectations? It has defi ed what I could have expected. I think that’s because of J.J. Abrams, who has allowed people to feel ownership over it. You’re not just being allowed to come into this world, this is your world and you get to add to it. You get to really live out these characters and be part of this world. That’s so generous of him.
What can fans take from the film?
What’s great is that this is being done with no cynicism. It’s being done open-hearted and with love and enthusiasm from everybody, starting with J.J. You’ll be able to feel that coming off the screen; just the love of Star Wars and the love of these stories and being able to add new ones to the legacy. J.J. has been doing it exactly how you would want these films to be handled. Everyone has ownership over them. Everyone wants them to be their thing. That’s always a difficult and scary thing because everyone has a very specific idea of what it should be. But I think when you approach it with this much love and generosity, that stuff becomes less important. You see that this is someone who loves it so much and has found people that love it just as much and who want to make it special and beautiful.