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The Transformation Of Oscar Isaac From Childhood To Moon Knight

There's "prestigious award-winning actor joins the MCU." There's "universally beloved movie star joins the MCU." There's "Marvel enlists the perfect actor for the latest MCU role." Then there's "Oscar Isaac joins 'Moon Knight' as Marc Spector" — a blockbuster casting event so perfect we still aren't quite over it.

Some particularly devoted Marvel fans will undoubtedly see Isaac's starring turn in "Moon Knight" as the crowning achievement of his 20-year rise through the industry ranks. But the Guatemalan American actor's career is already such a sterling one, with so many memorable performances and achievements accrued in a relatively short span of time, that it would be just as fair to see this MCU boost as one more addition to his lengthy roster of successes.

Born Óscar Isaac Hernández Estrada in Guatemala City on March 9, 1979 (via Gente), Isaac moved with his family to the U.S. at five months old, eventually settling in Miami, Florida (via NPR). His teenage years were a bit turbulent, and he was a consummate troublemaker in his private grade school, Westminster Christian (via E! Online). But it was also during those young years that he discovered his calling as an artist and performer.

He began as a ska-punk musician and actor in Miami

As a teen, the art Oscar Isaac was most passionate about was music. Specifically, ska music. At 16 years old, he was a bass player in the Florida ska-punk band "The Worms" – videos of his performances with the band can still be seen to this day on YouTube. All in all, aside from a blink-and-you'll-miss-it bit part in the South Florida-shot 1996 film "Illtown" (pictured above on the right), Oscar Isaac's young years weren't all that interwoven with the craft of acting.

One day, however, he decided to watch a production of the play "Oleanna," by David Mamet, at Miami's famous Area Stage theater. As he told the Miami Herald, that was the day something shifted. "I grew up watching lots of movies, but I had never been much into theater," the actor said. "But when I walked out of that play, I was thinking 'Oh my God. This is what I want to do. This is it'" (via Florida Film Critics Circle).

Although he had moved up to playing guitar and singing in the bigger ska-punk band "The Blinking Underdogs" by then (via Broadway World), that theatrical experience motivated Isaac to dedicate himself to acting. He began to audition for John Rodaz, the artistic director at the Area Stage Company, and managed to get into the acting program at The Juilliard School in 2001.

His screen appearances gradually became more prominent

Oscar Isaac's Juilliard tenure helped him nab bigger and bigger roles, first in films like "All About the Benjamins," then in an episode of "Law & Order: Criminal Intent," then in a major role as Joseph in the 2006 Catherine Hardwicke-directed Biblical drama, "The Nativity Story." Gradually, he established himself as a familiar face in Hollywood.

His enormous talent, steadfast enthusiasm, and enthralling suave charisma made it possible for him to become very prolific very fast. By 2010, in addition to Hardwicke, he had already worked with Steven Soderbergh in "Che," Alejandro Amenábar in "Agora," and Ridley Scott in "Robin Hood," and he earned acclaim and awards attention in Australia for his performance as José Ramos-Horta in the film "Balibo" (via IMDb).

The year 2011 proved particularly momentous, as Isaac piled up four big roles in a row, first as asylum orderly Blue Jones in Zack Snyder's "Sucker Punch," then as romantic co-lead Evgeni in Madonna's "W.E.", then as part of the precociously star-studded ensemble cast of Jamie Linden's indie drama "10 Years," and then, most memorably, as Standard Gabriel in Nicolas Winding Refn's cult-classic thriller "Drive."

By then, it already seemed like Isaac was hitting his stride, but little did audiences know just how much bigger he would manage to get in the years to come.

He broke through majorly with critics and film buffs

The leading role as the titular downtrodden folk singer in the Coen brothers' "Inside Llewyn Davis" was a turning point for Oscar Isaac. Aided by two of the most talented directors of their generation, Isaac gave a star-making performance that was equal parts soulful, abrasive, bitter, pitiable, dangerous, and gut-wrenching. His willingness to put himself so far out of the boundaries of likability and face all of Llewyn's darkest depths as a character head-on, without ever making a fuss about it, had critics and film buffs instantly in love, with the movie earning a 92% on Rotten Tomatoes.

As if the plaudits and awards he won for "Inside Llewyn Davis" weren't enough (via IMDb), the following year saw him gain even more recognition by way of a partnership with another acclaimed auteur. Playing protagonist Abel Morales in J.C. Chandor's period crime drama "A Most Violent Year," Isaac won a prestigious National Board of Review award for Best Actor.

He could have taken a breather after this success, but instead, he added two more incredible roles to his resumé, seemingly on a quest to become America's most exciting actor in the shortest possible timespan. In early 2015, he gave a standout supporting performance in Alex Garland's sci-fi thriller "Ex Machina" that must be seen to be believed, once again winning multiple critics' awards for his trouble (via IMDb). Later that same year, he anchored the ultra-dense David Simon drama of HBO's "Show Me a Hero" like it was nothing — but this time, the Emmys inexplicably snubbed him.

His blockbuster roles made him an international superstar

Of course, the 2015 role that Oscar Isaac is best remembered for is a different one. If his roles in multiple auteur films made him a peerless critical darling, his casting as Poe Dameron in the "Star Wars" sequel trilogy made him a bonafide A-lister. Beginning with 2015's "The Force Awakens," Isaac's performance as Poe showed the world what his cinephile fanbase had already long known: that he is the most charming man in the galaxy. Not for nothing, it was around this time that he became known as "the internet's boyfriend" (via Rolling Stone).

In addition to his lovable maverick supporting turn in the "Star Wars" films — a role through which he tried his best to showcase a romance between the character and John Boyega's Finn, thereby endearing him greatly to the LGBTQ+ community (via Gayming Mag) — Isaac also donned an "X-Men" villain costume, playing the titular ancient mutant in "X-Men: Apocalypse." By the time he was cameoing in "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse," headlining the Netflix action flick "Triple Frontier," and getting cast as one of the name stars of the animated family blockbuster "The Addams Family," he was already in "worldwide superstar" territory.

Moon Knight is bringing him into the MCU fold

The year 2021 was yet another big one for Oscar Isaac, thanks to the one-two punch of his performances in Denis Villeneuve's "Dune" and Paul Schrader's "The Card Counter" — the latter of which once again had him showered with critics' awards and nominations (via IMDb). It also saw his return to prestige television in the HBO remake of Ingmar Bergman's classic "Scenes from a Marriage" miniseries, which reunited him with his "A Most Violent Year" costar Jessica Chastain.

In case it's not clear enough just from looking over his career trajectory so far, it bears reiterating: Isaac is currently one of the world's biggest screen thespians, movie stars, leading men, you name it. (Somehow, the only achievement that still eludes him is a nomination for his namesake award.) So, it was only a matter of time until he got brought into the MCU fold, especially seeing as Reddit users were already fancasting him as Moon Knight as early as 2018.

So far, he has already wowed Marvel fans with the intense dedication and passion he's bringing to "Moon Knight," which also has him on board as an executive producer. If the official trailer for the Disney+ series is any indication, all that commitment might well translate to one of the very best leading performances in the MCU so far. Not that we'd expect anything less than that — after all, this is the Isaac of "Blinking Underdogs" we're talking about.