"We had difficulty. I mean, it just didn’t happen until he walked in the room," Joel Coen told Slate last month about casting Oscar Isaac in "Inside Llewyn Davis." "It’s true that there was a point at which we wondered if we’d written something that was essentially impossible to cast. At first we just met musicians, because it’s a movie about a musician and there’s so much performance in the movie, and because the movie’s success is so contingent on buying this main character as a musician. So we started off just meeting musicians who we thought might be able to play the part. And the problem with that is that — it’s not that they can’t act, but there’s a big difference between acting in a couple of scenes and carrying a whole movie as a leading character. It’s a different order of thing, and that we just didn’t find."
"Conversely, it seemed just as difficult to find an actor who could — I mean, a lot of actors can play and sing, but we wanted to find one who was musically talented enough to convince you through his performance, repeatedly, that he’s a musician," he continued. "And then Oscar came in. He went to Juilliard, and has been playing music his entire life."
And thank God for the Coens, and for us, that they found Oscar Isaac, because he is Llewyn Davis, delivering not only the sweet melancholy of the character, but also performing the songs in the film fantastically, in one of 2013's best soundtracks. But the question of "what if?" lingers, and here's a scenario to think about: Bright Eyes frontman Conor Oberst in the lead role. Yup, the indie rock singer has revealed he met with the Coens for the movie.
"I know I told you this when we met, but I tried out for your role in 'Inside Llewyn Davis'—and thank god for everyone that I didn't get it," Oberst told Isaac during their discussion for Interview (via Vulture). "But they auditioned a lot of musicians and actors for this part, to the point where I heard the Coen brothers and T Bone Burnett say that they had more or less given up on the idea of finding someone. And then you appeared."
So, an interesting trivia nugget and one wonders what other musicians will come forward to admit they were once considered to play Llewyn Davis.