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Oscar Isaac talks about writing and singing ‘Never Had’ from ’10 Years’

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Oscar Isaac talks about writing and singing ‘Never Had’ from ’10 Years’
By Wilson Morales

December 14, 2012

While we have seen our sharing of actors singing on the big screen, especially this year with Tom Cruise in ‘Rock of Ages,’ and Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway in the upcoming ‘Les Miserables,’ it’s rare to see an actor who can, not only sing, but write his own song.

That’s where actor Oscar Isaac beats them all. In less than three years, Isaac has skyrocketed to the top of the Hollywood food chain with roles in ‘Robin Hood’ opposite Russell Crowe, ‘Sucker PunchMadonna’s ‘W.E.’, ‘Drive’ with Ryan Gosling, and this year’s ‘For Greater Glory,’ ‘The Bourne Legacy,’ ‘Won’t Back Down,’ and ’10 Years,’ which features a bevy of talent (Channing Tatum, his wife Jenna Dewan-Tatum , Chris Pratt, Max Minghella, Justin Long, Ari Graynor, Aubrey Plaza, Anthony Mackie, Kate Mara, Lynn Collins, Rosario Dawson, Brian Geraghty, Scott Porter, and Aaron Yoo)

It’s in that film, where Isaac was able to showcase his skills as a songwriter-singer. Most people weren’t aware that this Julliard grad can sing, play the guitar, and was once in a band called “The Blinking Underdogs.”

During a scene in ’10 Years,’ which is about a group of friends coming back for a high school reunion, Isaac’s character Reeves, who went on to become a successful recording artist, plays the song that got him famous.

‘Never Had,’ which was written and sang by Isaac, is meant to describe Reeves’ relationship with Kate Mara’s character. It is one of 104 songs that’s in contention for an Oscar nomination.

Blackfilm.com recently spoke with Isaac about writing that song for the film.

How did you end up writing and singing a song for the film?

Oscar Isaac: Jamie Linden (the director) offered me the role in the film of this musician who comes back and plays a song for his high school sweetheart. As I was preparing it, he was sending me different ideas for the song. That was a great challenge for me because I have been writing music since I was a teenage, since I was 14. I had to come up with a song that would work. So, I contacted my buddy Alan Doyle and the both of us got to work and came up with this song. I gave it to Jamie and he loved it, and decided that it would be the song.

Prior to that, had you done any singing in films?

OI: Well, in ‘Sucker Punch,’ there was this long scene where me and Carla Gugino sang ‘Love is a Drug,’ and that was my first time getting on a soundtrack.

How many takes did you do for ‘10 Years’ when you sang ‘Never Had’?

OI: That was an entire day, and we did 26 takes. By the end, everyone who was there, knew every single word to the song, and pretend to be hearing it for the first time. We did it live. None of it was overdubbed. We did close up shots, medium shots, from behind, and a bunch of different set-ups.

What the meaning behind the song?

OI: That song ‘Never Had’  in particular is about the idea of regret, and looking back and wishing thing could be different, if only you had made that move, and maybe things would have turned out a different way. That is something that has a universal appeal. I love folk music and I love playing the guitar. I’ve been playing for such a long time. What’s cool about the song is that the plot and in particular my character and that of Kate Mara and the movie itself, the song is used as a climatic moment of the film.

How exciting was working with this cast?

OI: That was probably the cool thing about doing the film, and being able to write and sing ‘Never Had.’ We shot the film in the same hotel we were staying at, so it felt like a college party. We were hanging out. It was a crazy experience. There were times when me, Channing, and Max were sitting at the bar having drinks, and would be called in to shoot a scene.

Your next film will also have you singing as well. How was going from ‘10 Years’ to working with the Coen Brothers on ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ in a lead role?

OI: The momentum was taking me in that direction. It’s amazing how life prepares you for the thing that you really want. To be able to work with the Coen Brothers in particularly and be able to use music was incredible. It was mind-blowing to be able to do that. They are amazing guys.

Ever consider putting out an album?

OI: Yeah. I’ve been thinking about that for a long time. I’ve been writing music and have many recordings of songs. It’s been something I do for myself but being able to play for others is something I’ve been doing more and more. I play in coffee shops in the city and whenever I get some guys together and record.

What’s also coming up for you?

OI: I finished a film called ‘The Two Faces of January’ by Hossein Amini. He’s the guy wrote ‘Drive.’ It’s his directorial debut and also has Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst. We shot it in Greece and Istanbul and London, and it’s a really cool psychological thriller. I play this American that’s abroad. He’s a little bit of a hustler and he runs into this very elegant couple, that’s Viggo and Kirsten. They get involved in this murder mystery. It takes place in the 60s.

10 Years comes out on Blu-ray and DVD on December 18, 2012.


  1. This song was the best part of the film. I bawled. Then found it on youtube and hit repeat about a zillion times. Just love it.

  2. Laurie Zientz says:

    Love this song… Needs to be on the radio, now!