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Oscar Isaac on The Nativity Story

Published November 29, 2006 in Movie Interviews
By Fred Topel | Image property of New Line Cinema.
The Nativity Story Poster The Nativity Story
Aspiring actors have many hurdles to face on the audition circuit, but imagine vying for the role of Joseph in the bible? Oscar Isaac had to convince producers of The Nativity Story that he could be biblical.

Interview: Oscar Isaac Becomes Joseph in The Nativity Story


"Well, you know, you just try to approach him like any other character," Isaac said. "How is he a real person? How is he like me? How is he not like me?"

Just reading the script became an educational experience for Isaac. "I didn't know anything really about him. He was kind of behind some sheets in the back, trying to get his face in the picture. He was always in the back, you never really know what his role was, or really how integral his role was. And how it almost wouldn't have happened had he made a couple of different choices. So it really kind of brought him to the forefront for me playing him."

Isaac's Sunday School knowledge was basic. "I grew up in a Christian household. I knew the story and the angel comes and they go to Bethlehem and there's no room at the inn. There's a sign that says 'inn' in my head."

Perhaps this acting job was more of a religious experience. "Of course as an actor, when you dive into something, how do I figure out how to be this devout Jewish man in the first century? You know, for Jews at that time, there was no separation between God and them as individuals. And also the connection with the land. So of course trying to figure out how to have that kind of piety, that deep relationship with God, affected me. I think about that. I think about how I can be more humble."


The Nativity Story Oscar Isaac in The Nativity Story

The Nativity Story Oscar Isaac and Keisha Castle-Hughes in The Nativity Story

The film required physical training as well. A "Nazareth Boot Camp" taught the actors the basic skills their characters would have possessed. "I don't think I could have done it without that because for me, for instance the hands, I knew if I didn't believe myself, there was no way anybody else was going to believe it. I have actor hands. How do you get first century carpenter hands? So I remember the technical adviser came and I shook his hand. Those are the hands that I need. He had these huge, massive, swollen, cut-up hands. So we worked with First Century tools exclusively for a month. I was making the staff that I used in the film. The walls of my house, we did masonry work, and by the time filming came the hands were callused and bruised, swollen. Okay, now I'm ready for the lines. Now I'm ready for dialogue. Yeah, it was great. You felt that you were living in that time. I'd look around and I'd see Keisha and Shoreh milking goats, and I'm carving wood here. You can't help but feel like you're in it."

The Nativity Story opens to theatres on December 1st.

For the trailers, featurettes, more interviews and additional movie info, head over to The Nativity Story Movie Page.

Stay tuned for updates.


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Fred Topel
Sources: Image property of New Line Cinema.
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