The Card Counter, Paul Schrader’s latest film, is awaiting moviegoers — and it puts together an interesting duo.
Per the film’s official description, “the revenge thriller tells the story of an ex-military interrogator turned gambler haunted by the ghosts of his past decisions.” The film stars Oscar Issac, Tiffany Haddish, Tye Sheridan and Willem Dafoe.
Ahead of the film’s release, Issac and Haddish spoke to Shadow and Act about their characters, the theme of guilt in the film and how they felt about working closely together for this project.
Haddish plays La Linda, an intriguing woman who befriends Issac’s William “Bill” Tell.
The role is a departure for Haddish, one that allows for her signature comedy (while also reigning it in) but it also doesn’t box her in as some of her previous dramatic efforts have.
On approaching the character Haddish said she thought about “‘Who is she? What kind of life is she leading? Where is she coming from? And what does she want?’ Because every character in a movie wants something, right? So what does she want? What does La Linda want? And when I read this script, the first time I read it, I was like, ‘What?’ Then the next time I read it, I read it again. And I’m like, ‘Oh wait, I get this, I know people like this.’ I know at least six Bills that I don’t understand what he’s going through.”
Haddish spoke about knowing so many people like Bill. “Especially in comedy, I know so many comics that they have this other side to them,” she explained. “You can see there’s something going on, but you don’t know what it is. And so I wanted to tell that story. I felt like this is a good way for guys to see themselves. They’re finding another way to express their emotions or their talents, but still hiding, right? And I thought that was pretty powerful.”
She also spoke highly about working with Schrader and Issac, though she didn’t realize she knew who the latter was.
“Working with Paul was everything for me, she said. “That was a dream come true [and a] check off the list. I remember when he did Cat People and I thought that was shot so beautifully…and then watching all the movies that he’s done since then in his growth and his evolution has been amazing. And I’m like, ‘Oh, if I get to work with him, how much do I get to grow? What’s the level up on that?’ And then when they’re like Oscar Isaac…I’m going to be honest with you. I was like, who is that?'”
But then she knew who he was after finding out what he looked like. “[I was like] oh hell yeah,” she said. “He’s cute. And I didn’t even realize I had been watching his work for years.”
Issac heaped praises upon Haddish and how her character makes him such a “badass.”
“I think she’s just one of the most charming, beautiful people I’ve ever met,” he explained. “And I remember getting so excited when he was talking about casting her. [I thought] it makes my character such a badass, that that’s his girl. It’s so cool. But it also speaks to this other side of my character that he wants to be a human being. He wants to have love. He wants to be with someone that has so much life. I think that’s the thing about her. She just vibrates at such an incredible energy. Sure it’s the comedy, but also she’s so present. I think that’s the thing, very few people that I’ve ever found that [are] just that much in the present moment, and not crippled by regret or anxiety about the future or looking bad or saying the wrong thing or doing the wrong thing. There’s just none of that, and some people pretend to be that person, but she really authentically is. And so I found there’s almost a spiritual quality of hanging out with Tiffany because there’s just such a directness that with that thing. And so I thought it was such a great juxtaposition between someone that’s so dark and tortured and someone that is just so pure light. And those two things kind of come in together.”
The actor also spoke about finding interest and a challenge in the film’s exploration of guilt.
“I think certainly this idea of this inner turmoil, I found really interesting and the fact that he has this horrible secret. When I was reading it, I never knew what was going to happen next. I didn’t know who he was and at every moment I kept getting really, really scared that this person that I’m starting to get drawn to is going to do something so horrible. And then when you find out what it is that he did, it is awful, right? It’s terrible. What he went to jail for. And so that mystery, I just found really intriguing and really interesting and how to make something like that active. I thought it was a really cool challenge.”
The Card Counter is in theaters now.
Watch the full interviews below: