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Oscar Isaac takes a gamble on being the anti-hero in Paul Schrader’s latest film, ‘The Card Counter’

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Focus Features

Oscar Isaac plays as an ex-military interrogator turned gambler haunted by his past in The Card Counter, a new crime drama from the man behind such classic films as Taxi Driver and Raging BullPaul Schrader.

Isaac tells ABC Audio that despite serving prison time for the bad things he’s done, his character, William Tillich — a.k.a. William Tell — can’t seem to shake off the trauma and guilt.

“Even after he’s done his time, he doesn’t feel like it’s enough,” the 42-year-old actor explains. “So he sentences himself to indefinite purgatory by finding the most lonely, kind of miserable existence that he can think of, which is low stakes blackjack, poker, you know, forever.”

Tell is the latest in what Schrader calls his “series of man alone in his room” characters, according to Isaac, who says a role like this was a lifelong goal of his.  Films like Raging BullTaxi DriverAmerican Gigolo and First Reformed “are about the pressure of this person in his room and the mystery of what has happened and letting that unravel.  So, yeah, I got to do that.  I got to be a Paul Schrader anti-hero.”

Tiffany Haddish plays La Linda, a mysterious gambling financier who agrees to back Isaac’s character financially, and recalls it wasn’t Schrader’s iconic films, but an erotic horror film he directed in 1982 that convinced her attracted her to the film.

“I loved him since Cat People,” she tells ABC Audio.  “I thought it was shot so beautifully.  And I loved the story.  And I still love the story.”

“[I said] I want to work with that man! I’ve been saying that for years, and then bam, he called me,” she gushes.

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