IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Jason Isaacs Talks 'Field of Lost Shoes,' 'After The Fall,' 'Fury,' and Upcoming Mini-Series 'Dig'

Friday, 12 December 2014 12:27 Written by  Jami Philbrick
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IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Jason Isaacs Talks 'Field of Lost Shoes,' 'After The Fall,' 'Fury,' and Upcoming Mini-Series 'Dig'

English actor Jason Isaacs has been delivering strong and entertaining performances in film and on television for over 25 years!

Isaacs has appeared in such popular films as Armageddon, The Patriot, Black Hawk Down, Resident Evil, Pater Pan, and Green Zone. But it was his role as Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter film series that made him a household name. For comic book fans, Isaacs has voiced in animated projects two of DC Comics greatest villains: Ra’s al Ghul (Batman: Under The Red Hood) and Sinestro (Green Lantern: Emerald Knights). On TV he starred in the acclaimed but short-lived series Brotherhood with Jason Clarke, as well as NBC’s Awake. He currently plays The Inquisitor on Star Wars Rebels, and will star in the upcoming mini-series Dig for USA Networks, which premieres on March 5th, 2015. 

Back on the big screen, Isaacs had small but pivotal roles in the recent films John Wick with Keanu Reeves, and David Ayer’s Fury starring Brad Pitt. But now you can see the actor in the new Civil War film Field of Lost Shoes, which will be available on VOD and DVD on December 12th. As well as the new drama After the Fall, which will open on VOD and in New York theaters on December 2nd before opening in Los Angeles theaters on December 20th. 

Field of Lost Shoes is based on a true story of the American Civil War, culminating at the Battle of New Market, May 1864. In the film a group of teenage cadets sheltered from war at the Virginia Military Institute must confront the horrors of an adult world when they are called upon to defend the Shenandoah Valley. Leaving behind their youth, these cadets must decide what they are fighting for. Isaacs plays future Vice President John C. Breckinridge, the man who sends the young boys to war. In addition to Isaacs, the film features a terrific cast that includes Keith David (Platoon), David Arquette (Scream), Lauren Holly (Any Given Sunday) and Tom Skerritt (Top Gun). The movie was directed by Sean McNamara (Soul Surfer), and written by first time screenwriters Thomas Farrell and Dave Kennedy.

After The Fall follows Bill, a suburban father and husband (Wes Bentley) who embraces a life of crime in order to support his family. Isaacs plays Frank, a disgraced police officer that takes Bill under his wing. The film also co-stars Vinessa Shaw (Side Effects), and was co-written and directed by Academy Award-nominated editor Saar Klein (The Thin Red Line, Almost Famous). 

I recently had the absolute pleasure of speaking with the great Jason Isaacs about his work on Field of Lost Shoes, After the Fall, Fury, and the upcoming mini-series Dig. The acclaimed veteran actor discussed Field of Lost Shoes, playing a historical character, his research, if he stays in character when he’s not shooting, Breckinridge’s inner turmoil, After the Fall, why Frank helps Bill, Fury, working with Brad Pitt and director David Ayer, and shooting his upcoming mini-series Dig.

Here is what Jason Isaacs had to say about Field of Lost Shoes, After the Fall, Fury, and the upcoming mini-series Dig:

IAR: To begin with, when you are playing a historical character like John C. Breckinridge in Field of Lost Shoes, do you do a lot of research into his real life, or do you just study the clues that are given to you about the character in the script?

Jason Isaacs: I do as much research as I can. It can be useful and very interesting. I dig it. I did as much reading as I could, but it is not like I spent months at a library. Wikipedia is always helpful and a few other places. One of the things I picked up was that Breckinridge drank. He had been demoted because as much as he was a phenomenally successful politician, he was not such a great strategist. It gave me an insight into to why this battle might be more important. He needed to prove himself. It is a tiny thing, but in my head I had a reason to fight the drink in a couple of scenes. There is a scene with a flask. We added that to make it feel real. The weird job of acting is that it is so simple. You just see the person in the situation. It is whatever you have to do to get there. Some people want to stay up all night or cut their toe off. For me it is a bunch of reading, and hanging out with real people, I do that. You never know what you are going to get. It might be the shoes people wear. With him it was that this battle meant a lot to him not just in terms of the war but also in terms of his own pride because he failed quite poorly previously.

When you are making an epic Civil War battle movie like Field of Lost Shoes, do you stay in character all day? Did you do what Daniel Day Lewis did for Lincoln? Did the rest of the cast have to call you Breckinridge even when you weren’t shooting?

Isaacs: I am not sure if anyone goes through the extreme length that Daniel does, but I certainly stay in my accent all day. I do not want to be talking in an English accent. People say action, and suddenly I have to be thinking about whatever accent the character does. I spend all day in my accent, which is very odd when my wife or kids call on the phone. You have to stay in character.

Can you talk about the inner turmoil that Breckinridge was feeling when he had to send these young boys to war? 

Isaacs: I have actually met quite a few soldiers in my time, some British and some American. It is hard for anyone of us who have never been there to imagine war. The best thing that I have found to do, if it is possible, is to read contemporary accounts. I have read pre-historian accounts, and I have watched documentaries. I read diaries from the time because that will get you inside the minds of the people, and luckily these are very literary folks. Breckinridge wrote a lot and a lot of other people from that time recorded their thoughts. They spoke obviously in Congress and everywhere else. I am a grown man, but I try to pretend the way 5-year-olds do. I have kids. I saw these young actors and they are the age of the characters they are playing. They just should not be at war. They should not be there. One of the things I filled my head with was the carnage and death toll. There medical facilities in those days were so rudimentary that people died of simple cuts and infections. We would lose the battle if I did not send them in so that was the intention.

I recently saw After the Fall and really enjoyed your performance. Can you talk about the unusual friendship that Frank forms with Bill? Does Frank see himself in Bill and is that why he is trying to help him?

Isaacs: Yes. Absolutely. Or he sees a fantasy version of himself. He sees someone struggling. I invented some bad things in his life. I invented a whole backstory for Frank and why he got fired from Chicago PD. He carries a lot of guilt for the things that he has done and who he has been. He sees someone who seems to have the perfect life and be someone who is untroubled by all of the complaints. A volcano is bubbling inside of Frank all of the time. It is almost like if he does something right in the world, if he just makes one person’s life better, then he will feel better about himself because he feels pretty rotten. He was rejected by his son who he sends birthday cards to, he has ruined his family, ruined his job and lives in this tragic apartment that he has never cleaned up. He comes across this guy, and that is one of the things I loved about this script. It is an unusual friendship because opposites attract, and he thinks that if he can just help this guy navigate through his life, then Frank might feel that he has done something of value. The other thing is Frank is fine drinking alone in a bowling alley, and that is very unusual for a cop. I have been lucky to hang out with LAPD and the Chicago PD on different projects. They all say, “I have got a front seat to the best show on Earth.” One of the reasons they love their job is the camaraderie. They have each other. They go out together. They eat together. They drink together. Frank is by himself, which tells me something about his life in Albuquerque, the friends that he has not made, and the way people treat him in the office. He is a lonely guy, and Bill is too nice, maybe a little too lonely as well to reject him. All of Bill’s friends reject Frank, so he grabs onto someone who will give him the time of day.

I also enjoyed Fury and thought you were great in that too. What was it like shooting your scene with Brad Pitt and working with director David Ayer?

Isaacs: I actually knew David Ayer a little bit before because we almost did two other projects together at one point. He sent me the script. I said you’ll never get to make this. Not like this. It was just so full of arbitrary death and so morally complex. It was surprising in many ways. He said, “I am making it. Do you want to be in it?” I was stunned, not that they were going to make it because they did a great job. The story was fantastic, but because it was such an interesting time. It was so unapologetic about who these men are and how they had been damaged by war. Brad was the epiphany of Sergeant Collier. He is a really smart guy and a very smart actor. He knew that it is hard for me to come in for a day and do something. He just gave it to me and wanted me to feel as comfortable as I could. One of the other things I liked about the project is that Logan (Lerman) was a 7-year-old in The Patriot. I remember him being a little boy. He was one of my favorite kids on The Patriot. I really liked him then. He has not changed. He is definitely a young actor. He is still an absolute delight. Oddly enough, he was a really good actor at seven as well. More importantly, he is a sweet-natured boy. Everybody was trying to get into character as much as you can, and you try to trick your imagination into thinking you are in a war in Germany in the mid ‘40s. Logan kept himself innocent. There is something that I thought was just delightful about him.

Finally, what can you tell me about your upcoming USA Networks mini-series Dig?

Isaacs: The series has been an adventure. Obviously we started shooting in Israel. We shot the first few episodes. Then the war broke out this summer, so we left. I did not know if we were going to continue. Then we shot some exteriors in Croatia, which looks a lot like Jerusalem. We are going back to Croatia to shoot more exteriors because USA added more episodes. The more time I spend as an actor, the more I choose projects based on the people who are running them. Tim Kring (Heroes) is a master storyteller and creates intrigue like no one else. Gideon Raff, the new kid on the block, did Homeland. The combination of the two of them was irresistible. It is a very intriguing show with layers and layers of puzzles and conspiracy theories. Every week a new script arrives, and now I have got all of them. One of the things that has been really shocking for me is how many of the extraordinary storylines they got from real life and how many lunatics are out there who intend on destroying most of our planet just for their own extremist beliefs. They put it all into a very entertaining framework, but I hope that the audience does what I did when I read it, which is enjoy it and then go straight to the internet to find out how much of this is true. 

Field of Lost Shoes will be available on VOD and DVD on December 2nd.

To read our exclusive interview with Lauren Holly about Field of Lost Shoes, please click on here

After The Fall will open on VOD and in New York theaters on December 12th before opening in Los Angeles theaters on December 20th. 

Fury is currently playing now in theaters!

Dig is scheduled to premiere on USA Network March 5th, 2015. 

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