About midway through 2013, director J.C. Chandor began dropping by the Williamsburg home of actor Oscar Isaac. Chandor had written a script for a film about an up-by-his-bootstraps Latino immigrant who ran a heating-oil company, setting the movie in the urban Wild West of early 1980s New York.
The character was a complex mix of upstanding and corner-cutting, and Chandor, an effusive sort, would take walks with Isaac and excitedly describe his vision, pointing out fuel tankers and other vestiges of the neighborhood's industrial landscape.
There was just one snag: Isaac didn't have the part.
"We were hanging out quite a bit, and I said at one point, 'Are we going to...