The titular character of Joel and Ethan Coen’s Inside Llewyn Davis is a fairly stubborn and principled individual. His life is hard, but those issues are compounded by the fact that he has an incredible difficulty putting up with people who he doesn’t think highly of (read: everybody). As much as a grouch and a curmudgeon the struggling folk singer is, however, the audience is drawn to him and cheers for him to escape the ditch that his life has landed in. And a great deal of that credit goes to star Oscar Isaac.

The lead actor recently participated in a Los Angeles press day for the new musical drama, and spoke with a group of journalists, including myself, all about what it was like getting into the mindset of Llewyn for the new film. Read on to learn about the actor’s first thrilling exposure to the Coen brothers’ work, the challenge of giving both a dramatic and musical performance, and what it’s like to see the world through the eyes of Llewyn Davis.

How did you prepare and come into this role, because he is an ass, but he’s a very likable ass.

[laughs] I can be an ass too.

Llewyn is an ass, but he’s a very likable ass.

He’s a likable ass? Well, that’s good.

And he’s good to cats, so...

Someone just a little bit ago said I was bad to cats, so it’s interesting.

You had the save the cat moment!


You ran all over town looking for it.

The people that are saying that are feline fundamentalists, I think. Extremists. Yeah, you know, it was an interesting challenge, because early on, obviously the writing is such that you have a clue the clearly people are not too happy with Llewyn, at least the people in his circle. So, it’s someone that is disconnected and isolated from others. He’s a man unto himself. He’s an island unto himself and early on I thought, I want to still convey warmth, but not us any of the traditional means of doing that, which is, you know, charming someone or ingratiating yourself to someone or even smiling, any of those kinds of things, things that most people normally do. You tell and joke and then you laugh to let other knows you were joking. He doesn’t do any of those things. So, but at the same time, it was not about being cool and detached because he’s still, his temperature runs very hot, and what ended up happening, you know, I thought about something, for example I thought about the Comedy of Resilience and I thought, why is it that we laugh at this, all of these hardships that are happening? Is it because we’re sadistic? Is it because it’s relief that it’s not us or is it something else and I thought of a performer that I think does that a lot, which is Buster Keaton, who is you know, all these things are happening to him, these near death experiences are constantly happening to him, and yet he presses on and his face is always in this kind of melancholic impasse and I thought, what happens is when you see that, there’s, you really, it’s a real great suggestion of a rich inner life that’s happening. So, for me, that was really important to have that constantly happening, because the only time he really does connect with people and the only times he opens up is when he plays his songs. That’s the only time that he really shows a window into where he’s at emotionally. Otherwise, it’s all just happening inside his head.

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