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Why ‘Star Wars’ fans are swooning over Oscar Isaac

‘Star Wars’ fans have a charming new pilot on their radars.


Michelle Jaworski

Internet Culture

Warning: This article contains minor spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Star Wars fans have a charming new pilot on their radars.

Since The Force Awakens opened in theaters two weeks ago, it’s taken the world by Force, breaking box office records left and right thanks to repeat viewings and huge audiences. It gave fans a brand new hero to root for and a complex villain whose Jon Snow-esque hair and emotional turmoil fueled the story (and the best parody Twitter account in ages). Characters like Finn and Rey will surely inspire a new generation of Star Wars fans, but it’s the third member of the heroic new trio who’s already inspiring fans—and making them swoon.

Out of the new class of Star Wars heroes, we knew the most about Poe Dameron before going to the movie, despite him getting the least amount of screentime. His parents—Shara Bey and Kes Dameron, a Rebel pilot and a Pathfinder, respectively—fought in the Battle of Endor and aided Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa in the days following the battle. He grew up on Yavin 4, the same moon that the Rebellion used as a base before the Battle of Yavin in A New Hope, which housed a Force-sensitive tree that Poe’s parents took care of, a gift from Luke. Poe is following in his mother’s footsteps as a Resistance pilot, and he’s “one helluva pilot,” according to Finn.

But fans were not prepared for the charm explosion we got from Poe, played by the dreamy Oscar Isaac.

Even Guillermo del Toro is a big fan.

Isaac may not have as much of a presence in The Force Awakens as co-stars John Boyega and Daisy Ridley (or lovable droid BB-8), but he’s already shown just how vital an addition he is to the crew. Poe will be back for Episode VIII (though that almost didn’t happen).

The irresistible charm of Poe Dameron

Although Poe, Finn, and Rey are original characters in The Force Awakens, fans will notice in them echoes of the franchise’s original trio. The connection between Rey and Luke is most obvious, due to their desert planet origins, big dreams, mysterious family members, and encounters with the Force. For Poe and Finn, the connections are less clear. That’s a good thing, particularly as the newer films look to distance themselves from the original trilogy.

Poe’s parentage has never been in question, but in some ways his roguish personality and drive seem to meld the most admirable parts of Leia and Han Solo. Poe’s mother taught him to fly in her RZ-1 A-wing interceptor, and he grew up hearing his father’s war stories. He initially was a Commander of the New Republic Starfleet, but later accepted an offer from Leia to join the Resistance after becoming frustrated with the lack of action being taken on the First Order, according to Before the Awakening. He’s the one whom Leia trusts with the mission to seek out Lor San Tekka on Jakku to obtain the map that leads to Luke. He’s also the owner of BB-8, which is a beautiful relationship for fanartists to draw.

The novelization of The Force Awakens covers more ground with Poe. In the movie, he disappears after the crash on Jakku with Finn and doesn’t show up again until the Battle on Takodana, with his return to the Resistance vaguely explained. The novel goes deeper: After gaining consciousness, Poe met a Jakku native, who he charms into getting him a ship to help him return to the Resistance.

He’s likable, headstrong, and dedicated to the cause—he only gives up information about BB-8 when Kylo Ren uses the Force to get it out of him. But he has a sense of humor, especially in tight situations, and he easily wins Finn over in the middle of their escape attempt. (More on that later.) Part of that is due to Isaac’s acting.

Considering that the Star Wars: The Force Awakens: The Visual Dictionary made a point to mention the state of his hair after taking off his Resistance helmet, it’s evident that his hair is also a very vital part of Poe’s charm.

Poe is an integral part of OT3—and shippers and fanartists love him

We’re introduced to a number of new relationships in The Force Awakens that will most certainly be explored in future films. We’ll undoubtedly see more “romantic moments” between Poe and BB-8, but we’ll likely see even more of the relationship key to the entire feel of the series.

The OTP (one true pairing—a term used to describe fans’ favorite romantic partnerships) of The Force Awakens is actually an OT3. The movie spends time on both the Finn/Rey friendship and Finn/Poe, while Poe/Rey is connected more through BB-8 and their mission to get BB-8 back to the Resistance. Poe and Rey do eventually meet face-to-face in the novelization. None of those pairings are explicitly set up for a romance in future movies, although there are a few hints at a more-than-friends feeling between Finn and Rey.

But it’s the bond between Finn and Poe that has taken over much of the Internet. While The Force Awakens may hint at this “in a more symbolic fashion,” fans have become enamored by the duo who are linked by circumstance, a dire mission, and a jacket that magically fits both of them. The pairing would introduce a queer, interracial romance into the Star Wars universe, one many fans are already rooting for.

“[Poe] ends up coming across [Finn], and their fates are forever intertwined,” Isaac said of his character at the Star Wars press conference.

Finn and Poe meet in suspenseful circumstances as Finn rescues Poe in return for getting him off the Star Destroyer. In just minutes, the Resistance pilot and former First Order stormtrooper already have a rapport and Finn is given a new name because Poe refuses to call him by his stormtrooper number, FN-2187. Once they crash on Jakku, Finn takes Poe’s leather jacket after he believes Poe died in the crash.

After the two reunite, they almost immediately collaborate to rescue Rey from Starkiller Base, but not before Poe tells Finn to keep the jacket because “it suits you.”

On a recent appearance on Ellen, Isaac even addressed whether there’s romance between any of the characters in the film.

He could easily be talking about BB-8, but he could also be talking about Finn. At the very least, Boyega’s response is delightful.

And until Episode VIII, these two will spark plenty of fanfiction and fanart.

All of Oscar Isaac’s co-stars are smitten

It’s one thing to take the Internet by storm during a press tour as big as the one for The Force Awakens. It’s another to stand out in such a high-caliber cast, especially when the actors couldn’t say much of anything about the movie they were promoting. Boyega and Ridley were front and center, but Isaac easily stole the show whenever he appeared with them, other co-stars, or on his own.

At an Apple Store event with Boyega, he touched on what the moderator called the “instant chemistry” with Isaac because it only takes around 20 seconds for Finn and Poe’s dynamic to change from perfect strangers to two people who’ve known each other for years.

“Honestly, it’s hard looking away from his face ‘cause good lord is he handsome,” Boyega responded around the 5:24 mark.

When paired with Lupita Nyong’o in an interview, he made her smile and even made his action figure listen to her talk about her role.

He managed to convince Harrison Ford that his “tousled hair” was actually a wig.

Isaac and Ridley performed a duet of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” during a Twitter Q&A, making us wish that Poe and Rey get an excuse to sing in the next movie.

He and Boyega back up Gwendoline Christie in order to bang their heads to Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir.”

Both Carrie Fisher and Gary, her therapy dog, are fans.

And let us not forget the matter of Isaac’s height. He says he’s 5-feet-9-inches tall in a GQinterview, and while some people online may think that number is off, the important thing to remember is that regardless of the real number, he’s shorter than most of his co-stars.

Have you seen him sing?

Isaac appeared on stages long before he signed on for Star Wars. He played in a punk-ska band called the Blinking Underdogs when he was in high school and starred as the titular wandering singer in Inside Llewyn Davis (in part because he could act as well as play and sing). At one point Isaac, Justin Timberlake, and Isaac’s Force Awakens co-star Adam Driver all performed together.

He’s also written his own music.

Aside from his duet with Ridley, Isaac has taken to performing during the Star Wars press tour and even updated Bill Murray’s famous Star Wars theme.

While Isaac doesn’t sing in Ex-Machina—his other film with Domhnall Gleeson this year—he does dance, which is a delight in itself.

He influenced Poe’s backstory

Isaac, like many members of the cast, was a Star Wars fan before being cast in The Force Awakens. So he didn’t hold back from speculating about Poe and where he came from in early interviews about his role.

He liked to think that Poe came from Yavin 4, where the medal ceremony happens at the end of A New Hope, because that scene was filmed in Guatemala, the same country where Isaac was born. Perhaps a young Poe had even witnessed it. At the time, Isaac also pushed back at the idea that because both he and Jimmy Smits, who played Bail Organa, are of Latin descent they must have some sort of tie to each other.

After Lucasfilm heard about Isaac’s Poe headcanon, it decided to make it canon through the Shattered Empire mini-series, which followed Poe’s parents right after the Battle of Endor. Although the Battle of Yavin occurred before Poe was born, he would have still been very young when the Empire was brought down.

“So it’s the first time that me figuring out my character’s backstory suddenly becomes a comic book, becomes canon,” Isaac said. “But that actually signals quite a bit of trust as well.”

As for the theory that Poe may be Force-sensitive because he grew up next to the Force-sensitive tree that Luke gifted to his parents? On that point Isaac is staying mum.

Isaac’s casting is another example of how representation matters

Isaac is nowhere near the first time parts of the Internet have swooned over movie stars. Tumblr has fanned over Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes, Idris Elba after Pacific Rim, Benedict Cumberbatch in Sherlock, and Tom Hardy in Mad Max: Fury Road(even more so after his old Myspace photos resurfaced), and favorites like Jennifer Lawrenceand Misha Collins are staples on the site. But aside from Elba, there’s a big difference between Isaac and most of those actors: He’s not white.

Isaac was born Óscar Isaac Hernández Estrada to parents of Cuban and Guatemalan descent, and for the first six months of his life he lived in Guatemala before moving to the U.S. He eventually shortened his name to Oscar Isaac so he could separate himself from other Oscar Hernándezes. But that didn’t prevent him from having to deal with being offered stereotypical Latino roles in the midst of Hollywood’s abysmal track record on diversity.

Although Poe is a popular choice for fanart, he’s causing some controversy among fans, who are accusing some fanartists of lightening Poe’s skin.

“I keep seeing fan art of Poe Dameron looking completely white,” one Tumblr user wrote. “I think a lot of the art is great, but if you’re going to draw Poe, at least draw him the color he is. Because he is NOT white. At all.”

But Isaac, like Boyega and Ridley, is already inspiring fans young and old, and given that he’ll likely have an even larger role in future movies, his popularity will only grow as he saves the day with the good graces of his charm and piloting skills.

Screengrab via Star Wars/YouTube

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