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It's fairly standard practice in Hollywood to lock actors into long contracts in advance any time they sign on to play a character who has franchise potential, whether the studio knows sequels are coming or not. If you're part of something that could be bankable for years to come, the studio wants you on standby so they can call you back for the next film as soon as possible without having to compete with other movies for your attention.
This practice has, of course, famously applied to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where big screen stars have been routinely locked down for five, six, or even nine films at a time with one contract.
But Marvel apparently can't say the same for Oscar Isaac.
Speaking to Variety for a new profile timed to the launch of his MCU series Moon Knight this week, Isaac noted that his contract at Marvel Studios is limited to the show's six-episode run on Disney+, because he made it clear up front that he wasn't interested in being locked into something.
“I had heard of the golden handcuffs,” Isaac said. “That was something that I was reticent about. And luckily, we all agreed that this [show] is what we’re going to focus on. This is the story. And if there’s any kind of future, I think it just depends on if people like it, if people want to see more, and if we find a story that’s worth telling.”
Isaac is no stranger to franchise work. His career got a big boost in the 2010s when he was announced as one of several new cast members joining Disney's Star Wars sequel trilogy, and in the midst of working on all three of those films he also spent time in Fox's X-Men universe. Last year he also joined the Dune saga, albeit in a role that feels largely limited to the first film. Because he's spent so much time working in these circles, and alongside other franchise stars who've often had bigger commitments, Isaac is very aware that it's easy to feel stuck inside a franchise machine, locked into sequel after sequel while more personal projects keep getting pushed to this side. So, he went to Marvel with a very simple ultimatum for Moon Knight.
“I was in a position — because I wasn’t actively looking to get back into something this big — to say, ‘This is how I see it, and if you guys don’t see it that way, that’s totally okay, but then maybe it’s not the right fit,’” Isaac said. “And so I wasn’t afraid that I was going to do the wrong thing.”
Fortunately for everyone, Marvel met Isaac on his terms, and he was able to work on Moon Knight in a limited, miniseries-only capacity.
Of course, at no point does Isaac say that he would never return for more MCU work. He noted it "depends" on the audience response and his personal response to the stories Marvel might pitch him as future vessels for his character, whether that means a supporting role in someone else's film or series, or a Moon Knight sequel. The show was always pitched as a six-episode "miniseries event" within the MCU, but so was Loki at first, and we all know how that turned out. For now, the important thing is that, in a world where the franchises have the power, Isaac's been able to throw a little of his own weight around, and do things his way.
Moon Knight is now streaming on Disney+.