The actor’s role in Armando Iannucci’s Soviet satire is another memorable one to go along with his turns in Harry Potter and the new Star Trek series. Here, he explains why he played Marshal Zhukov with a Yorkshire accent
Most actors, especially the male, British ones, will crack a few self-deprecating jokes in an interview, if only for form’s sake. Call it the Hugh Grant legacy. Jason Isaacs does this often enough to make you think he may actually mean it. “I just think I’m rubbish,” he says at one point. Then, later: “I can’t believe people don’t go, ‘I’m so sorry, we’ve made a terrible mistake for the last 30 years. Please go and open a cake shop.’” As regards his casting in The Death of Stalin, Armando Iannucci’s splendidly bleak new comedy about Soviet power struggles, he is even more down on himself: “I was pretty sure that Armando had got the wrong address, that he was sending the script off to Jason Bateman or Jason Statham. Presumably, someone more expensive wasn’t available.”
No one who has seen The Death of Stalin could believe that for a millisecond. This is a film stuffed to the Kremlin rafters with covetable comic roles, each one performed with the deadly precision of a Red Army sniper, yet Isaacs, as the Soviet war hero Georgy Zhukov, is the most riotously enjoyable of all. Zhukov doesn’t even turn up until halfway through, but, when he does, he makes an entrance, as Isaacs puts it (and there really is no other way), “like a big, swinging dick”.