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Oscar Isaac as Laurent
To play Laurent - the bohemian artist who ignites Therese's passions and frees her, or so it seems it first - the filmmakers chose Oscar Isaac. Charlie Stratton found the rapidly rising actor, who is also seen this year in the Coen Brothers' INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS, a strong match for the sexy but slippery role. "Oscar has an understated vitality that's completely captivating," Stratton observes. "I first saw him on stage in New York after he had come out of the program at Julliard. He has a compelling, volatile quality that reminds me of some of the major talents that broke out in the early 70's."

Some have speculated that Emile Zola originally modelled Laurent, an artist with modernist tastes, after his childhood friend, Paul Cezanne. But if Laurent has an eye for color and beauty, he also has a darker drive to use his seductive powers to get what he wants. And as alluring and electric as he is to Therese when they first meet, in the wake of Camille's "accident," Laurent's whole demeanor twists, his neck even erupting in a scary, unhealing scar.

Isaac was drawn both to the charm and the dizzying descent of his character. "It's rare that you see a contemporary film that really goes for it dramatically," he says of IN SECRET. "I thought it was a great opportunity for me to explore a huge trajectory in a man's life. I wanted to play Laurent as someone who's not coming from the head; he's just coming from the body. I tried to come at it from a kind of detached, animalistic point of view, just as Zola did."

For Isaac, the psychological impact of Laurent's crimes spins his personality 180 degrees. "He goes from hot-blooded to having a nervous demeanor," he observes. "I don't think he feels remorse, per se, but he is traumatized. He can't get the images of what happened out of his mind, and his nerves start to go. He creates in himself an intense anxiety from which there is no escape."

Watching Isaac go through all this was fascinating for Elizabeth Olsen. "Oscar is so specific about everything he does," she comments. "It's amazing to work with someone who brings that kind of attention to every detail."

Isaac was similarly impressed with Olsen. "She's a very committed actor and I find her face so amazing," he summarizes. "She has this open expression that has a gravitational pull."

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