From folk musicians to spaceship pilots, Oscar Isaac has found fame playing an impressive range of roles, but is yet to don superhero-style spandex... until now, that is. The closest Isaac came to the world of heroics before was in the form of Apocalypse, a purple mutant who bore more than a passing resemblance to Barney The Dinosaur in the latest X-Men movie. However, Isaac is now back as a superhero of sorts, reuniting with director Brian Petsos following the film Ticky Tacky with a new short called Lightningface.
Written and directed by Brian Petsos, Lightningface has enjoyed success at festivals worldwide and it's easy to see why. From the moment that Oscar Isaac's character is hit in the face by lightning, his entire world is turned upside down in the most bizarre way possible. Sure, the likes of Spider-Man and the Hulk freaked out a bit after they first received their powers too, but Basil Stitt loses his mind completely, pulling audiences into a surreal exploration of madness that's confined to just one apartment.
Petsos draws a career-defining performance out of Isaac, running him through the entire gamut of emotions in just 20 minutes. From the paper bag costume to that stuffed animal, the most bizarre moments of Lightningface may seem silly, but are undercut by a darkly sinister tone that hints at wider success for Petsos in the future.
We sat down with Brian Petsos to discuss the inspiration behind the delightful oddity that is Lightningface and discovered how he persuaded Isaac to tackle the role in the first place;
"Oscar and I had a devilish time working on Ticky Tacky together, even if we didn’t have a lot of time to make it.. And so when the story for Lightningface had congealed in my mind... I of course wanted Oscar to do the deed. It was before I had written the actual script — If I’m remembering correctly, I sent him the story as a single, very long run-on sentence; for comic effect mostly. For some insane reason, he wanted to come play again."
Lightningface is worlds away from the #StarWars movies that Isaac is currently shooting in a galaxy far, far away, which was probably one of the main reasons why this script appealed to him in the first place. In comparison to Isaac's regular work, Lightningface is a relatively small-scale project, but the short still found an audience on the festival scene.
Petsos explained to us how it's hard to know whether all of your hard work will ultimately resonate with audiences or not:
"I knew when we had the cut together that it was pretty damn close to what I had envisioned in scripting it. And internally we all felt good about it. But that’s all you know. It was very important to me that [Lightningface] play theatrically for people... But the funny thing is, when it comes to the festivals... you just have no idea. You bust your hump to make the thing (speaking personally, this little sucker consumed the better part of a year of my life) and then send it off into the ether hoping some mysterious programming staff digs it. But all you can do is hope!"
Short movies don't always receive the wide audience that they deserve and although Lightningface has struck a chord with those who have seen it, the unusual subject matter could have potentially derailed its potential. Petsos explains how the internal odyssey that Isaac's character takes all began with a fittingly unusual source of inspiration;
"The original impetus for Lightningface was, oddly enough, a close family member suffering a traumatic brain injury. You can laugh at that. He’s fine now. But watching that experience unfold, and especially the aftermath of it, provided me with quite a lot of ammunition."
Superhero movies undoubtedly played some role in the formation of these ideas too, although Petsos is keen to reiterate that Lightningface is far from your typical example of the genre:
"I have to be honest — although I do go see many of the comic book films, it seems to be an increasing rarity for me to find The Dark Knight in the bunch. Now, I don’t know if that’s testament to Christopher Nolan’s genius (which it probably is), or a comment on the need for the [superhero] content to be flattened more these days for wider global audience acceptance? I’m not sure. Or maybe it’s just my very specific taste."
Will Lightning Strike Twice?
Lightningface stays with audiences even longer than the scar that Isaac's character bears throughout the film, promising great things from director Brian Petsos. Part of this is down to Isaac himself of course, whose maniacal performance reinforces why he became such a celebrated talent in such a short space of time. However, Petsos himself deserves the majority of the credit for subverting a popular genre in ways that no audience would expect.
Naturally then, we were more than just a little bit curious about what direction Petsos's career will take next. Unfortunately, the up-and-coming filmmaker wasn't able to clarify what his next project will be, but hints promisingly at what lies ahead:
"I am working on something right now, a little bit bigger than Lightningface, but that’s all I want to say about it. As for who I’d like to work with, in terms of actors, there are so many amazingly talented performers that I admire. The list is endless. I’d be lucky to work with any of them, quite honestly."
Hopefully, #OscarIsaac and Petsos will collaborate again soon, perhaps on a longer feature. We doubt that this will take the form of a sequel to Lightningface though, given the film's surreal ending. Either way though, whoever does star in Petsos's next project will need to channel the same electric energy that Isaac imbued in his role here, shocking long-time fans with a charged performance that pushed his talents beyond the realms of blockbuster filmmaking.
What did you think of Lightningface? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!