British Jewish actor Jason Isaacs is perhaps best known for playing Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter series, but did you know he has a long career in movies and television? And that he’s a Hot Dad?!
Let’s dive into 18 things to know about the man, shall we?
1. Jason Isaacs was born in Liverpool in 1963 to Sheila and Eric Isaacs, both Jewish. His dad was a jeweler. He describes his childhood as growing up in a “tight-knit Jewish community.”
2. When he was 11, his family moved to London. This time — the mid to late 1970s — was a time of a rising far-right fascist party called the National Front. Isaacs recalls, “There were constantly people beating us up or smashing window. If you were ever, say, on a Jewish holiday, identifiably Jewish, there was lots of violence around. But particularly when I was 16, in 1979, the National Front were really taking hold, there were leaflets at school, and Sieg Heiling and people goose-stepping down the road and coming after us.”
Here’s Jason in 1976:
3. Once Isaac went to university, his parents made aliyah (immigrated) to Israel. “That might have been what galvanised my parents to get out,” Isaacs said, referring to the National Front in the UK. “My dad got into a lot of scraps in the 1930s when he was a young Communist. I’m always trying to persuade them to come back, because this is home to me. But they felt so uncomfortable as young people and were so defined by their experience being Jewish during the 1930s and Forties.”
4. Reflecting on his own Jewishness, he said in 2000 he is wary of discussing being Jewish:
“I feel very vulnerable telling you this, because I’m an English actor and I don’t really want to see this in the English press, because it’s damaging. But there is the sense that Britain can be a very xenophobic country; it’s not just directed at Jews but at anybody who isn’t the perceived version of what ‘Englishness’ is. Of course, England is an extraordinarily multicultural society, and the notion of what’s perceived as English is a relic, a fossil. The result is that people are not ‘loud’ about being Jewish. They don’t stick their heads above the parapet.”
5. Yet, in the two decades that have passed, he has become more outspoken — particularly on Twitter.
Our favorite are his Rosh Hashanah messages (“#NotYouJared”):
A belated Happy New Year to jews everywhere (and anyone who likes bagels). 5780 years now. Some run. Remember that time when nobody was trying to kill us? Me neither.
May all of your years be sweet, fruitful and fascist-free. #ShanaTova#NotYouJared
— Jason Isaacs (@jasonsfolly) October 1, 2019
It's the Jewish New Year. 5781 years of stress, running and guilt. No wonder we have bad posture.
It's supposed to be a time of rebirth, re-imagining and, over the next 10 days, of reflection.
May it be sweet and fruitful for everyone and herald the start of something better.
— Jason Isaacs (@jasonsfolly) September 19, 2020
6. At Bristol University in the early 1980s, he studied acting. From there, he went to London’s Central School of Speech and Drama, where he met his now-wife.
8. He married Emma Hewitt in 2001, but they’ve been together since 1998. They are parents to Lily (born 2003) and Ruby (born 2006).
9. In 2020, he opened up about his struggle with addiction. Speaking to the British magazine The Big Issue, he said he first got drunk at age 12 and “by the age of 16 I’d already passed through drink and was getting started on a decades long love affair with drugs… Every action was filtered through a burning need I had for being as far from a conscious, thinking, feeling person as possible. No message would get through for nearly 20 years.”
“I think what would surprise the 16-year-old me is that I’m okay,” he added.
10. His first roles were on British television in shows like Capital City and Civvies. He quickly became known for playing villains and soldiers — in Civvies, he played a psychopathic soldier.
11. He played the gay Jewish office temp Louis Ironson in Tony Kushner’s Angels in America in its London premiere. When he went to audition, the producers were surprised he wanted to audition for Louis. But he told them: “Look, I play all these tough guys and thugs and strong, complex characters. In real life, I am a cringing, neurotic Jewish mess. Can’t I for once play that onstage?”
The highlight of the play was getting to kiss Daniel Craig nightly: “I’ve played a lot of gay parts, and it’s a barrier for me to get over snogging men. But Daniel was so easy… he’s such a sexy man.”
12. His big break in Hollywood came in 1997, when he starred in a sci-fi horror film Event Horizon alongside Laurence Fishburne. We can’t even go through all his films — there are so many. From The Patriot (2000) which he got Oscar buzz for, to Peter Pan (2003) when he starred as Captain Hook, to Good (2008), a Nazi drama.
13. And, of course, there’s Harry Potter, where Isaacs portrays the villainous Lucius Malfoy.
“One of the great privileges of being in the Harry Potter films for me is I’ve actually got to have a journey,” Isaacs said ahead of the last film. “Lucius has gone from being the most entitled, obnoxious, racist pig to a broken, emasculated shadow of a man — and that’s a fun thing for an actor to do.”
14. Lucius’s long hair and obnoxious affect in the films are thanks to Isaacs: “I went to the set, and they had this idea of me wearing a pinstripe suit, short black-and-white hair. I was slightly horrified. He was a racist, a eugenicist. There’s no way he would cut his hair like a Muggle, or dress like a Muggle.” So, Isaacs suggested the now-famous long white wig.
15. He often plays villains or antagonists in shows and films. But he is nothing like the characters he portrays. For example, he said, “I love a musical. When I was in Los Angeles, I used to listen to the AM show tunes channel and sing along. At traffic lights, people would look over and see this minorly famous tough guy belting out Liza Minnelli at the top of his voice.”
He continued: “Where I’m well-known for being tough, uncompromising, psychopathic, dangerous, and I’m as close to a big ball of candy-floss fluff as you could hope to find. It’s odd.”
(Are we… in love with Jason Isaacs? Perhaps.)
16. He starred in other big hits, like The OA on Netflix and Star Trek: Discovery as Captain Gabriel Lorca
Reflecting on the role, he said, “As someone who’s played a lot of antagonists, [what I’ve learned] is that everybody always thinks that they’re right. Racists, eugenicists, homophobes, misogynists… They think they’re right. They think other people have an unrealistic and sentimental view of the world and they’re the only people that see the truth.”
17. His Instagram is very Dad-on-Instagram, full of corny selfies, especially with his former Potter castmates:
Where’s the selfie with Daniel Radcliffe!?
18. Let’s end with this fantastic quote: “I have neither courage nor perseverance. What I do have is luck; so when I started out I got some jobs and then, because of those I got some more and… cut to 20 years later. Although I’ve had some relatively lengthy periods out of work, they were mostly through choice – turning things down that I thought were rotten or that I’d be rotten in – and I’ve never had to think about doing something else. I never wanted to be an actor and I still don’t really know why I’m doing it but I’m a bit too old to do anything else now and, anyway, it’s quite enjoyable while I’m waiting for inspiration.”