Oscar Isaac is currently in New York performing Hamlet at the Public Theatre. Previews began on June 20, opening night is next Thursday, and the play will run until September 3rd. So he’s spending the entire summer playing the tortured prince six days a week – and if you count rehearsal time in there, it’ll be at least six months total. These six months, in particular, have been especially life-changing for him.
As Oscar tells the New York Times in a new profile published yesterday, he lost his mother, Eugenia, in February and welcomed his first child, with partner Elvira Lind, in April. His son is named Eugene. Every night he goes onstage to work out his grief. Every night he comes offstage to remember that there is joy. In his words, and Shakespeare’s, of course, “To be or not to be”. But casually. As Alexis Soloski writes in the piece, Oscar’s Hamlet is “antic, mercurial, unpredictable, but each line of verse comes across clearly, almost conversationally”. And later, director Sam Gold, with whom Oscar shares his Hamlet obsession, remembers that when he first met Oscar, at Juilliard, he appreciated that Oscar had an “easy energy and an easy relationship to his talent” and believed, like he did, that “acting shouldn’t look hard”. I appreciate that they’ve related these two ideas. Because we see it all the time – actors, specifically actors, who think that acting has to look hard to convince you that they can actually do it. This reminds me of one of my favourite essays from last year, an essay I’ve linked to before, by Angelica Jade Bastien about how Hollywood Has Ruined Method Acting. Of course it’s hard for Oscar Isaac to confront the reality of his mother’s death every night as Hamlet. And, sure, he’s telling the New York Times about how awful it was, those final months, to be at her bedside, saying goodbye one visit at a time, but you’ll also note in this article that no one who’s working with him is talking about how that pain presents itself away from the performance. Instead Keegan Michael Key is talking about how they play ping-pong in the rehearsal room, and how he keeps the company off-balance in his line deliveries and his facial expressions, not by sending dead rats to their hotel rooms, Jared Leto, as a way to prove that you’re as good as they say you are.
But maybe I’m just biased. Because it’s Oscar Isaac. And I Saw Him First. Still, I’m pretty sure the narrative here and through the summer as he promotes this work won’t be his equivalent to fighting a digital bear in a cruel northern winter. Not when it’s made clear that “performing hasn’t felt especially dour. When he comes offstage after four hours he feels energised, he says”.
Click here to read more about Oscar Isaac as Hamlet at the NY Times.
Attached - Oscar Isaac out in New York in June.
Have a great weekend!
Yours in gossip,