The final season of the horror anthology brought to you by that freaky puppet.
Bob Hoskins, Natasha Richardson, Ewan McGregor, Daniel Craig, Imelda Staunton, Eddie Izzard, Steve Coogan
Tales from the Crypt returns for its seventh and final season. Moving the show to England, we get a season that is more filled with crime drama and film noir than horror.
The final season of Tales from the Crypt moved the action to England, where the first episode showed the Crypt Keeper (John Kassir) relocating his coffin to the U.K. Because of the change in location, the show drifts into some new thematic areas. Much of the cast in the final season is British and the stories vary from Film Noir to the World War but all remain very British in their presentation and humor.
As with the previous seasons, you get your smattering of star power throughout the episodes and witness some pretty good directors trying their hands at the small screen. Presented by HBO, the show does not face the same censorship as network television, so we get our fare share of nudity, gore, and sick and twisted humor. Blasphemy runs rampant throughout the final season as well as the taboos that you would not see in an anthology show on a lesser network. Some of it works and some of it doesn’t, but the final season throws out some pretty good episodes along the way.
Cold War is directed by the man who helmed some of my favorite music videos, Andrew Morahan. This installment features Ewan McGregor in the same year of his breakout role in Trainspotting. McGregor plays Ford, a thief who works with his girlfriend Cammy (Jane Horrocks). They also happen to be zombies. Cammy leaves Ford after one too many botched jobs and hooks up with Jimmy (Colin Salmon). When Ford comes after Jimmy in a fit of jealousy, he gets more than he bargained for when he learns that Jimmy is a vampire. Who doesn’t love a story that involves zombies versus vampires? This would have been better with a different actress portraying Cammy (Horrocks has since found her niche as a voice talent in animated features), but this episode was very funny and highly entertaining just the same.
The season was not without its downs, but the switch to British humor gave it a shot in the arm and the style of storytelling was a refreshing change from previous seasons. It was not as great as the show’s heyday but the high points of this final season were good enough to give it a passing grade.
There is only one extra, a virtual comic book called Fatal Caper, although it had nothing at all to do with the episode of the same name. It is completely voiced by John Kassir and shows comic panels as the story progresses.
STATUS: Active Development
DIRECTOR: Dominic Savage
CAST: Michelle Williams - Ewan McGregor
WRITERS: Emily Watson - Jack Waters
1939 and England has just entered the war. The Battle of Britain, a David-and-Goliath story to make your heart pound is looming. Stella (Michelle Williams), a beautiful, university educated girl suffering from a broken heart, abandons her privileged life and joins a radar unit on the coast of England monitoring enemy aircraft. There she meets Len, a shy and impossibly young RAF pilot barely out of his teens. They are improbable lovers, but in wartime anything can happen. What starts out as a tentative romance turns into an intense passion as the bombs raining down on England give them no reason to hold back.
Set against the backdrop of a country under siege, Stella and Len’s youthful naivety falls away as planes are shot down and radar huts are bombed. The dizzy horrors of Len’s aerial battles are counterbalanced by the slow, unbearably sweet progress of their love, which they first resist as too big a risk (the RAF was not known for its long lifespans). Every day, Stella listens to the sounds of pilots dying, and prays that it is not Len’s screams she is hearing. The two cling to each other as they grow up and fall in love amid the horrors of war, never knowing if and when they will die...
Robert Redford's Against All Enemies, starring Bruce Willis, and Taylor Hackford's Love Ranch, starring Helen Mirren, top the slate of productions that Capitol Films is bringing to the American Film Market, which starts next week in Santa Monica.
Also new to Capitol's sales roster are Todd Robinson's The Last Full Measure, starring John Cusack; Clark Johnson's Chinese Wall; Dominic Savage's Mood Indigo; and 3-D wildlife pic Distant Thunder, by Mark Deeble and Victoria Stone.
Total production budget for the movies, all being lined up to shoot before a possible strike would delay them, is described as "in excess of $300 million."
"This is not only the strongest slate Capitol has taken to a market, but one of the most impressive lineups ever offered by an independent sales company," Capitol's tubthumping co-managing directors, Nick Hill and Peter Naish, said in a statement. "It reflects the ambition of our company."
CHAS Christmas Concert: Supported by Ewan McGregor
In the video interview, on the stv.tv site (link at the end), Ewan McGregor speaks about how he initially got involved with the Children's Hospice Association Scotland (CHAS), who work tirelessly to help children with life-limiting conditions.
This Christmas, the world-famous Scottish actor supported a concert held on 23 December by a group of church singers which raised funds for CHAS. The annual performance has grown so popular they've had to hire the Clyde Auditorium in Glasgow to fit everyone in.
The Springfield Cambridge Festival Chorus from Bishopbriggs, joined the likes of big star acts like Harry Connick Jr, The Sugababes and Katherine Jenkins who have all performed at the distinctive looking venue.
McGregor said: "I wish you the best of luck in your fundraising for CHAS. I hope the concert is a great success and a fun night for everyone involved."
The annual concert has raised over £33,000 for CHAS. The chorus has more than 90 members from a range of churches and there are members from Jewish and Islamic backgrounds too. It is supported by a 40-piece orchestra made up of professional musicians who give their time to the project on a voluntary basis.
A spokesman for the Chorus said: "The popularity of the music presented by the chorus, accompanied by a full orchestra, strikes a chord with all ages and the audience spans the spectrum from the very young to senior citizens."
Ewan McGregor will play the romantic lead opposite Jim Carrey in "I Love You Phillip Morris," a dark comedy that marks the directing debut of "Bad Santa" scribes Glenn Ficarra and John Requa.
Mad Chance's Andrew Lazar will produce with Far Shariat. Luc Besson's EuropaCorp is fully financing, and Besson is exec producer.
Carrey signed earlier in the fall to star in the fact-based tale as Steven Russell, a married father whose conman ways introduced him to the Texas prison system. There, he fell in love with cellmate Phillip Morris.
His love for Morris motivated his escape from prisons four times, once by using a green pen and bucket of water to change his prison outfit into what appeared to be surgical scrubs, another time by faking his death from AIDS and signing his own death certificate. Morris eventually got out, but Russell's escapades got him a 144-year sentence.
Ficarra and Requa wrote the script, based on a book by Houston Chronicle crime reporter Steve McVicker.
Production will begin in spring, once Carrey completes starring in "A Christmas Carol," playing multiple roles in the Robert Zemeckis-directed performance-capture film for Disney.
McGregor just finished "The List," the Marcel Langenegger-directed drama.
Woody Allen’s Cassandra’s Dream looks to be a casualty of the awards season. The Woodman’s new film, his third straight made in England, has long been scheduled for a Dec. 28 release, which would qualify it for the Academy Awards. But the film, which stars Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell as cockney brothers drawn into a crime by a young woman, has been completely ignored by the various critics groups, the National Board of Review and – yesterday – the Golden Globes.
Today, the Weinstein Co. pushed its release date back to Jan. 18, when it will open nationally.
Cassandra’s Dream premiered at the Venice Film Festival in September and got respectable notices. The Daily Variety critic dissed it, but the reviews collated at www.rottentomatoes.com are all positive.
Get me some poison, Iago." Finally and fatally convinced of Desdemona's iniquity, Chiwetel Ejifor's magnificently held and hurt Othello shimmers with the desire for vengeance. Tightening agonizing tension still further, Ewan McGregor's lethal Iago takes his time. "Do it not with poison," he replies, gently. Taking a stealthy step towards his victim, he pauses for a beat before lowering his voice to almost a whisper: "Strangle her." The chill that grips the theater is testament to the throat-clutching tension of Michael Grandage's brilliantly calibrated Donmar Warehouse production. Shakespeare's masterpiece of cunning is revealed as a breathless, three-hour thriller.
Grandage is alive to the fact that uncontrolled rage is profoundly uninteresting to watch: If emotions boil over, tension evaporates. It's as if his entire production stands in opposition to Desdemona's phrase, "I understand a fury in your words, but not the words." Thus his actors replace spills with escalating thrills generated by moment-by-moment detail.
That much is clear in the play's first major confrontation, between Desdemona (Kelly Reilly) and her father Brabantio (James Laurenson). Confronted with his daughter's marriage to the Moor, his speeches brim with ire. But although clearly appalled by his daughter's choice, Laurenson never makes the mistake of being overwrought. As a result, the unremitting cold bitterness of his resignation -- "I am glad at soul I have no other child" -- is all the more shocking.
That's typical of every performance. Instead of flattening out the play by showing how the director views the characters, Grandage pays the text -- and the audience -- the ultimate compliment of allowing the characters to exist in three dimensions.
Lovestruck Roderigo is usually overly delineated as a ninny. But Roderigo considers himself resolute, if thwarted. Here, Edward Bennett gives the character proper dignity. That in turn allows auds the pleasure of discovering his foolishness for themselves rather than through a more attitudinous approach.
That complexity of character is even more crucially finessed in McGregor's superb Iago. He allows himself the most fleeting of smiles on the line, "And what's he then that says I play the villain?" The actor has earned it. After his Sky Masterson in Grandage's "Guys and Dolls," the physical ease McGregor brings to the stage was expected. But in his Shakespearean debut, such minute control of moment and language comes as a surprise.
Like almost everyone in this Shakespearean-period production, McGregor wears gleamingly lit, sumptuous black clothes that appear lifted from Titian portraits. But that's the sole outward signal of his villainy. His knife-edge plot to ensnare Othello depends upon his being convincing, and McGregor's easeful charm makes rare sense of the fact everyone believes him. By being insidious but never revealing his hand, his Iago makes the climatic series of intensely emotional payoffs all the more devastating.
The truth of Iago's psychopathic interior life is held back for his stream of soliloquies. Having set up Roderigo as the fall guy, Iago turns away to consider his move as he walks beside the burnished back wall of Christopher Oram's bare but water-strewn, slate-floored stage. Drenched in Paule Constable's shiveringly atmospheric, dank light and accompanied by Adam Cork's insidious and subtly threatening soundscape, McGregor's thought processes become horribly clear as his plan takes root in his head.
There's a similarly captivating depth to Reilly's unusually complex Desdemona. Out goes the pallid innocent, in comes a headstrong girl whose physical ease not only with Othello, but with Tom Hiddleston's marvelously relaxed Cassio, also helps make sense of Iago's allegations.
She seems poised between girl and woman, in thrall to her sexual awakening but unable to see she's not in control of herself or her circumstances. Her touching confusion is made plain in the ravishingly tender scene with Michelle Fairley's peerless Emilia.
As Fairley prepares her for bed, Reilly doesn't so much sing as breathe the Willow Song accompanied by the distant sound of a harp, subsumed by rising winds whipping round the castle. Fairley's worried concentration in the scene is magnetic and retrospectively acts as the spur to her terrified understanding of her unwitting involvement in her mistress' death.
Adopting an African accent that lends his character both immense authority and an essential "otherness," Ejiofor opts for the most dangerous route through the title role. Constantly hinting at but never revealing his full power until the final scene makes it all the more astonishing when his emotions reach boiling point. His wrenching outburst and Desdemona's mounting confusion and horror aren't just upsetting, but truly scary. She whirls away in terror from the bed, only to be forced to the floor and strangled directly beneath the audience's rapt and horrified gaze.
Even Othello himself is stunned by what has happened. Sweeping her body up in his arms, his wretched cry at what he has done -- "my wife, my wife" -- is shockingly powerful.
The 13-week Donmar run sold out in a single day. The indivisibility of its creatives' contributions justifies that excitement. What's unmissable, however, is the production's focused power and emotional lucidity. What makes this stand proud amid all recent London Shakespeare stagings is that no one onstage could stand accused of making speeches. Whether it's envy, love, deceit, revenge or betrayal, the engrossing needs and desires impelling every word are thrillingly conveyed.
A Donmar Warehouse presentation of a play in two acts by William Shakespeare. Directed by Michael Grandage.
Othello - Chiwetel Ejiofor
Iago - Ewan McGregor
Desdemona - Kelly Reilly
Cassio - Tom Hiddleston
Emilia - Michelle Fairley
Roderigo - Edward Bennett
Brabantio, Gratiano - James Laurenson
Duke of Venice, Lodovico - Michael Hadley
Bianca - Martina Laird
Montano - Michael Jenn
1st Officer, 1st Cyprus Gentleman - Alastair Sims
1st Senator, 2nd Cyprus Gentleman - David Mara
Sets and costumes, Christopher Oram; lighting, Paule Constable; original music and sound, Adam Cork; production stage manager, Patrick Molony. Opened, reviewed, Dec. 4, 2007. Running time: 3 HOURS, 10 MIN.
Long way up - ticket prices soar as Ewan McGregor works his magic on Othello
December 5, 2007 By Jack Malvern and Andy Ryan
The pulling power of a Hollywood A-list star and the timeless charm of Shakespeare have combined to make Othello, which opened last night at the Donmar Warehouse, the most desirable ticket in town.
The appearance of Ewan McGregor as Iago alongside fellow film actor Chiwetel Ejiofor has created a demand for tickets in the West End usually associated with rock concerts.
Tickets that should cost a maximum of £29 have fetched £800 on the internet auction site eBay but some people are offering them for up to £2,000. The potential for profit is so high that the Donmar has intervened with a warning that any ticket sold on for profit will be invalid.
Staff are monitoring ticket exchanges and have sent written warnings to sellers reminding them of the terms printed on the back of the ticket. Clause 11 states that “tickets may not be resold or transferred for profit” and that “to do so will render tickets void and the holder will be refused entry”.
A spokeswoman for the theatre told The Times that it would be enforcing the policy when it had gathered evidence that a ticket had been resold. “Any ticket that we discover we will make void,” she said. “They will be turned away. We have contacted people who are in possession of the tickets and we hope that they’ve got the decency not to sell them on.”
The high prices have been matched in theatre only by Sir Ian McKellen’s appearance in The Seagull in Los Angeles. A pair of $90 tickets sold for $2,500 (£1,215).
The Donmar sold 23,000 tickets within three hours of their going on sale in mid-October. The only remaining tickets must be bought directly from the box office, where ten seats will be made available at 10.30am every day for that day’s performance. Another 20 standing places for the three-hour play will also be sold.
Box-office staff said that demand had been created by the “Ewan McGregor factor”. The actor, who commands £5 million a film and is best known for his roles in Trainspotting and Star Wars, has already had experience of the buzz he can cause in the West End. People camped outside the box office from 6am when he appeared in Guys and Dolls in 2005.
His film career has left little time for stage work, however. His last stage play was Little Malcolm and His Struggle against the Eunuchs, which transferred from Hampstead Theatre to the West End in 1999.
Ejiofor is thought to be one of the country’s brightest acting talents. He is best known for his film roles, which have included playing a drag queen in Kinky Boots and a heroin dealer in American Gangster. His stage work includes Romeo and Juliet and Peer Gynt, both at the National Theatre, and The Seagull at the Royal Court.
The cast was assembled by Michael Grandage, the Donmar’s artistic director, who is considered by theatregoers to be a guarantor of quality.
Terri Paddock, who runs the theatrical website Whatsonstage, said that the Shakespeare was proving to be the biggest draw at the theatre this Christmas. “It’s amazing, at a time of year when you would expect people to be seeing pantomime, that the three hottest tickets are Othello, King Lear with Sir Ian McKellen, and Much Ado about Nothing at the National Theatre.”
In The Times Magazine on Saturday McGregor said of his preparation for the play: “I've never had to work harder than this. I mean, the sheer size of it. Since being in South Africa in August, I've done almost nothing except work on the play and prepare myself for the part.
“Everyone was saying, ‘Oh, you’re in London, can we have you for this, or this?’, which was nice, but I just had to say, ‘Sorry but no,’ because all I wanted to do was sit at home and learn the script.”
Grandage said that he had been trying to lure McGregor back to the stage ever since he directed him as Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls.
The popular Premieres section of the 2008 Sundance Film Festival is filled with the customary selection of movies featuring stars venturing outside the mainstream to do something presumably more adventurous, as well as of films by name directors doing work outside the big studios.
The program has been bumped up to 24 entries this year and kicks off the fest Jan. 17 with the previously announced world premiere of Irish playwright Martin McDonagh's first feature, "In Bruges," a noirish thriller about two London hitmen whose enforced vacation in the Belgian city goes south. Focus feature stars Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes.
Among the directors with films in Premieres are Michel Gondry, Barry Levinson, Boaz Yakin, Mark Pellington (twice represented with "Henry Poole Is Here" and "U2 3D"), Michael Keaton and Brad Anderson. Thespians making appearances therein include Robert De Niro, Sean Penn, Maria Bello, William Hurt, Bruce Willis, Ben Kingsley, Ewan McGregor, Julianne Moore, Charlize Theron and Jack Black.
"Incendiary" (U.K.), directed and written by Sharon Maguire ("Bridget Jones's Diary"), concerns the reactions of a young mother to a terrorist attack in London. Michelle Williams and McGregor star.
From the speed with which all the tickets for Othello at the Donmar Warehouse in London have gone, it would be
quite possible to argue that Ewan McGregor is bigger box office than Nicole Kidman or Gwyneth Paltrow. Both actresses have
starred at the small but influential venue in the past decade; both packed it out and received glowing reviews (Kidman’s
performance being famously described as “pure theatrical Viagra”). But neither show shifted seats as fast as
this one, which sold out in less than six hours.
Ewan McGregor (left), Chiwetel Ejiofor and Kelly Reilly star in Othello Photo from The Telegraph
McGregor, who was made famous by the film of Trainspotting in 1996, is playing Iago, the embodiment of jealousy,
and describes this as quite simply the hardest thing he has ever done. No ifs or buts here, no maybes or on-the-other-hands.
Ask him how it compares with life’s other challenges, like fatherhood, or going down to the foot of Africa on a motorbike,
or skimming the hills of Scotland in his brother’s Tornado jet, and none gets a look-in. Nor do the big movie roles –such
as Christian in Moulin Rouge! or Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars franchise –which have maintained his
profile these past 11 years.
In playing Iago, the biggest non-title role in Shakespeare, the 36-year-old McGregor becomes the latest of many actors
known mainly for film or TV work to take on a serious West End stage production. Apart from Kidman and Paltrow, there have
been appearances by such major players as Madonna, Kevin Spacey, Christian Slater, Woody Harrelson, Patrick Stewart and
Stockard Channing. In some cases, such as Stewart’s, there was already a body of stage work before the arrival of
Jean-Luc Picard and Star Trek: the Next Generation; in others, like Harrelson’s, it was TV and films almost
from the start. McGregor falls into the second category, his career having been influenced by the success he scored even
before Trainspotting. He was still at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, six months from graduation, when
he landed a lead role in Dennis Potter’s six-part TV classic, Lipstick on Your Collar.
The startling result –startling when you consider that he’s about to tackle one of the greatest Shakespearian
monsters –is that he’s done very little stage acting as a professional. There was the musical Guys and Dolls
two years ago, and his title role in a revival of David Halliwell’s cult classic Little Malcolm and his Struggle
Against the Eunuchs, but these were six years apart, punctuating a film career that has become busy rather than dazzling.
Last year alone there were three: Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Miss Potter and Stormbreaker. So either
he’s asking for trouble, or he’s riding his luck as gladly as he rides his BMW R1150GS Adventure, or else he
is buoyed up by the faith being placed in him by the Donmar’s director, Michael Grandage. Perhaps it’s a little
of all three. Either way, if a man can be said to bound warily into a room to discuss his situation, then that is what
“I’ve never had to work harder than this,”he says. “I mean, the sheer size of it. Since being
in South Africa [for the most recent TV motorbike epic] in August, I’ve done almost nothing except work on the play
and prepare myself for the part. Everyone was saying, ‘Oh you’re in London, can we have you for this, or this?’,
which was nice, but I just had to say, ‘Sorry but no,’because all I wanted to do was sit at home and learn
I ask him if he is trying to prove something, and he breaks into a big, open smile and runs a hand back through his tufty
hair. It seems a fair question. Spacey, Stewart and others constantly talk about the different challenges and rewards of
live work, and make it sound as if an actor’s professional virility remains unproven if he spends a lifetime shirking
these summits in favour of lower but more lucrative pastures. “I’m just approaching it as another acting job,”McGregor
replies, “and that’s how I hope people will come to see it. I’m an actor, and that’s how I’ve
approached all the work I’ve ever done. So, no, I’m not trying to prove anything, except to be fully involved
in the production, and to nail Iago.”
No one is doubting that he’s up for it. He’s often in before anyone else, full of observations on text and
character during rehearsals. Grandage says he’s been trying to lure McGregor back to the stage since he directed
him as the hunky gambler Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls at the Piccadilly Theatre. “Ewan,”says the
director, “has a head start [for Iago] in that he looks like a guy who is good at male company. Good at it, and used
to it.”McGregor looks lean and alert. He may be a more mellow version of laddish now, but he is recognisably the
same peddler of slightly risky charm that he was as Nick Leeson, Barings Bank’s nemesis in Rogue Trader, eight
There’s no doubting the truth of what Grandage says. For four and a half million viewers of his TV journeys Long
Way Down and the earlier Long Way Round, McGregor has become the very image of the biker-buddy, bonded but
restless, circling the globe with his friend Charley Boorman in a because-it’s-there sort of way. But for some
people, critics and civilians alike, the whole thing looks suspect. Boorman comes across as a bit of a prat, showing
off to the camera and making the most of his famous friend. This is unexpected, when you consider that he is the son
of John Boorman, who made one of the finest feature films ever about men up against it in the wild, Deliverance,
in 1972; Charley, then six, even appeared in it. But these two don’t seem to be searching for anything more than
ten hours’telly. McGregor comes out better from the inevitable comparison –the Peter Fonda rather than the
Dennis Hopper, the James Bolam rather than the Rodney Bewes.
There is other baggage that McGregor carries –the kind you bring back from extended galactic touring. “I’m
not all that aware of it,”he insists. “That’s not to say it’s not there, but I don’t come
face to face with it that often. Unless I’m at a premiere, when people want me to sign an Obi-Wan Kenobi poster.
Whether people will come to see me because of that, I don’t know. It’s quite weird, because
I honestly have no idea what people’s perception of me as an actor is, whether they accept that it changes from
person to person. What I do know is that working to the depth that we are at the moment is terrifying; there’s no
point in pretending otherwise. But that shouldn’t be seen as a negative thing –I’ve never been happier.”
He was once rude about Sean Connery for telling Scots how they should feel about their country while not living there.
McGregor regards himself as an adopted Londoner, a passionate one who considers it the best city going, and has now lived
in it for half his life. You could say he’s done his bit for the Auld Alliance by marrying a French woman in 1995 –Eve
Mavrakis, a production designer whom he met during an appearance on the TV series Kavanagh QC. They have three daughters,
one of whom, Jamiyan, was adopted two years ago from Mongolia, when she was four. McGregor tends not to talk about his
family, particularly the adoption. “I simply prefer to keep it private. Once I start to discuss it, it opens it out
and becomes, well, not private any more.”
A look of mild contrition passes briskly across his face when he thinks of Connery and the question of Scottish patriotism. “I’ve
got a very big mouth at times,”he goes on, “and I’m sure I said something stupid about him. But it’s
not really my place. The fact is that I don’t really know what’s right or wrong for Scotland. I think it’s
up to the people who live there. It seems to me that the Scottish Parliament has been reasonably successful. As I say,
it’s up to them, but, you know, if they did choose to make Scotland an independent country, I’d still live
here. I like the idea of Great Britain, of us all being together. If that doesn’t work for people financially, politically,
if there is a feeling that Scottish wealth is being bled into England, then…I don’t know, I’m so ignorant
If “we”–that is, Scotland –get knocked out of football’s World Cup, then he instantly transfers
his allegiance to England. There you have the measure of his nationalism, or lack of it, since many of his fellow Scots
see their enemy’s enemy as their friend, turning into ardent Brazil fans if England are up against them.
But what about the Rugby World Cup? “I was hoping England would win. I just don’t like the antagonism that
exists in some parts [of Scotland]. I find it uncomfortable. I once had an English girlfriend who came up to work in Scotland,
and I got into fights because people would take the piss out of her accent, and I just couldn’t be arsed with it,
because it’s so boring and so ignorant. Come on guys, it’s a big world out there and yes, she’s an English
But what about the England-France semi-final? “Ah, yes. Well, obviously she [Eve] would support France. My daughters
get to choose. I was watching it with my eldest, Clara. She was going to support France and me England, but then when England
scored a try in the opening seconds, I could see her face fall and I said, ‘Darling, if you want to support England,
do so,’and she did.”
The family, clearly, is central to his life. He says as much, describing it as his backbone, and anticipates the question
about how hard it must be for them, and indeed for Charley Boorman’s family, when they are off being boys on bikes.
He and Eve have been together since their early twenties, and seen many of their contemporaries’marriages come to
grief. “Listen,”he says, “we’ve had our ups and downs like everyone else, but we are happy, and
I can’t imagine it being any other way.”At the same time, he foresees no slackening of his appetite for “discovering
the world, seeing what it’s really like in these amazingly remote places…The sense of self-challenge, the
bonding between me and my mates.”He says that both he and Boorman go with the blessings of their families, adding: “We
wouldn’t do it this way again. Next time, we will break it up and make sure that we can see the children. There’s
no element of wanting to get away from them. We come back with great stories, and they’re very involved, we’re
on the phone every day, and we send them video clips. The hardest part is being away from them.”
There was another potential cause of friction, far more serious than the rugby, when his beloved older brother Colin,
a now retired RAF fighter pilot, was serving in Iraq. The two have been close since their childhood in the small Perthshire
town of Crieff. Asked how he felt about his brother being in Iraq, Ewan’s response was that he was extremely proud
of him, but at the same time wished just as passionately that he didn’t have to be there.
Did his opposition to the war threaten to cause a rift? “No. If ever there was a problem, I suppose it was when
he started. That was at the time of the first Gulf war. He was starting his training and I was starting mine, in these
completely different jobs. My worry is that no one ever seems to be accountable. Why is that? Why can national leaders
take us into wars like this for reasons that are based on lies? Why is it that they are above being accountable?”
This year he went flying with Colin, the first time he’d ever ridden pillion in his brother’s ultimate speed
machine. “I’d never seen him at work before,”says Ewan. “I could see his face down the side of
the helmet, and there he was, in charge of this effing rocket of a plane. We flew from Lossiemouth, where he’s been
stationed for most of his career. When we took off, he said, ‘We’ll go to 2,000ft and do some low-level stuff.’We
spent ten minutes skipping over the mountains and glens and it was the most exhilarating thing in the world. You can’t
see anything coming up, can’t prepare yourself for corners, and then suddenly you’re in them, with the G-force
pushing the blood back into your legs. I was queasy for days.”
And playing Iago to 250 people is harder than all that? He nods emphatically. Maybe the trademark laddishness is just
what is needed here. After all, Iago, embittered at being passed over for promotion by Othello (played at the Donmar by
Chiwetel Ejiofor), seeks to ingratiate himself wherever he can to bring about his master’s destruction. His mission
may be the result of “motiveless malignity”, as Coleridge suggested, but it is pursued with damnable skill.
As director Michael Grandage observes, the character is as much an actor as the person who portrays him.
When Patrick Stewart was in Othello on stage, he became so appalled by Iago that he wanted nothing more to do with him.
McGregor, meanwhile, has barely got to know him, and is spending his days trying to inhabit the character. As with the
biking, there are people around to help, but ultimately he’s on his own. It’s a big journey and it’s
taking him a long way down.
Othello is at the Donmar Warehouse, Earlham Street, London from November 30 to February 23 (0870 0606624; www.donmarwarehouse.com).
Although sold out, ten seats are available on the day for each performance, on sale at the box office from 10.30am; standing
tickets will also be available on the day. See Ewan MacGregor visit a project run by Riders for Health, The Times Christmas
charity, on his Long Way Down journey. Go to timesonline.co.uk/timesappeal
No more Mr Nice Guy: Ewan McGregor stars as the scheming villian in a revival of 'Othello'
Paul Taylor discovers why this usually charming actor was cast in the role
Published: 29 November 2007
There's more than a smack of the sordid bullfight about Othello. That parallel is subject, though, to several twists. It's a human being of a different race, not an animal, whom the scheming Iago reduces to a tortured, jealous wreck in the throes of a frothing fit at his feet. It's no red rag, but an emotionally charged handkerchief that the matador waves goadingly at his prey. Dragged into the ring, the innocent wives of both antagonists are killed during the course of the contest. And, also against the rules, the matador is, in the end, upstaged by the victim who is felled by his own hand.
Othello is arguably the most intense and immediate of Shakespeare's mature tragedies. Yet productions that release the play's full potential are rare. The problems that it poses for a director are part and parcel of its tremendous yet tricky brilliance. On the one hand, it would be a sentimental reading of the play that accepted Othello at his own valuation; on the other (which, for a while, was the modern orthodoxy) it is a cynical, reductive interpretation of the play that takes a steadfastly censorious view of his self-protective magniloquence. Avoiding both of these distortions and achieving a balanced view of the hero is the moral challenge to our perception that lies at the heart of the play. Few productions successfully rise to it.
Without doubt a key factor in this production selling out so quickly with tickets changing hands for up to £1,200 is the casting of Ewan McGregor.
It's sometimes argued that the play should be called "Iago", for it is Othello's right-hand man who drives the hero towards his doom. Iago is a warped, surrogate dramatist and his genre is revenge pornography (his account of Cassio's alleged horny dream about Desdemona brilliantly presses every button of perverted sexual arousal). Initially incited to vengeance when he is passed over for promotion in favour of a Sandhurst type, this chippy army man is revealed in soliloquy to be a psychopath who has to invent absurd reasons for his nihilistic hatred of the Moor.
But though Iago is a playwright who takes the exploitation of living creatures to a chilling extreme, it's sometimes forgotten just how improvisatory and hand-to-mouth are his methods. And in emphasising his diabolical ingenuity and recklessness, productions often overlook the fact that, for his plot to work at all, the character (and the actor playing him) must plausibly show why he has achieved his ironic reputation for honesty.
Michael Grandage, whose Donmar revival of the tragedy begins previewing tonight, is alert to the problems which are possibilities in disguise. Well aware of the performance history of Othello (in his earlier career as an actor, he played the idiotic Roderigo in the celebrated RSC production starring Willard White and Ian McKellen), he talks of the cultural shifts that have seen alternations in which of the two main male parts was regarded as the better role.
In the days when it was considered acceptable for white actors to play the Moor, leading thespians – such as Edmund Kean – played both roles during their career, as did Laurence Olivier, who portrayed Iago to Ralph Richardson's Othello at the Old Vic in 1938 and then blacked up as an ostentatiously African Moor to Frank Finlay's Iago in the 1964 National Theatre production.
But Grandage has been intent in rehearsal on shedding the weight of theatrical tradition. "Everything is on a knife-edge in this play, so you've got to get across the sense that nobody knows what is going to happen next." Iago takes enormous risks in the tissue of lies he concocts. No other Shakespearean tragedy could be averted so easily by someone stalking on and administering a strong dose of the facts to the deceived hero.
Casting is crucial to the chemistry that bubbles in a production between hero and villain. In this account, Iago is played by Ewan McGregor, last seen on stage as charming, personable Sky Masterson in Grandage's production of Guys and Dolls and better known as a screen actor who embraces both the indie end of the spectrum (Young Adam) and the mainstream (Star Wars, Moulin Rouge!).
The role of Othello is taken by Chiwetel Ejiofor who, though he has lately concentrated on movies (for directors ranging from Woody Allen to Ridley Scott), boasts an impressive list of theatrical credits.
The director talks of Ejiofor's "natural goodness" as a person and of how as a performer "he has access to such extraordinarily open qualities. He's somebody who manages to keep hold of something very, very childlike, who takes people as they come, and has faith that people can be like himself".
In casting McGregor as Othello's nemesis, Grandage says that he is getting away from the "bushy-eyed, fruity, over-sophisticated villain who seems to have it all worked out in advance" to someone who can move between "a charm that is not feigned" in the public scenes where he is "honest" Iago and the dark and perverted confidences delivered in the soliloquies.
Grandage is alert to the ways in which Iago can be construed as the malign step-brother of Hamlet (a perception that Simon Russell Beale drew on when he played the part for Sam Mendes). Both characters are essentially on suicide missions; there is a mystery at the heart of both their stories (the cause of Iago's malignity; the reason for Hamlet's fatalism after the sea voyage). And silence is the end of the road for both these loquacious soliloquisers who, in Iago's case, break the rule that characters tell only the truth when speaking directly to the audience.
The irony is that while Iago may wrestle with the unknowable nature of his motivation, he knows one thing for sure: that Othello has "a free and open nature". As with the jealousy of Salieri, the composer destructively fascinated by Mozart's genius, Iago's envy is an inverted, glowing tribute. Grandage's production looks poised to bring out the full balance of forces in this fierce, bloody bullfight.
'Othello', Donmar Warehouse, London WC2 (0870 060 6624),to 23 February
Tickets to see Ewan McGregor in the sold-out production of Othello are exchanging hands for more than £1,200 each.
Shakespeare's play at the Donmar Warehouse is proving more popular than the one-off Led Zeppelin reunion gig and the Spice Girls tour, according to ticket exchange company Viagogo.
The only tickets left for the 12-week run are for day seats and standing places. Donmar's box office prices range from £15 to £29 for the production but online the average price for a resale ticket is £1,220.
Eric Baker, CEO of Viagogo, said: "Who would have believed 400 years after it was written Othello would be the most popular ticket in town?"
By Steven Zeitchik and Gregg Goldstein Nov 20, 2007
The Sundance Film Festival won't announce its full program until next week and won't screen its first film for nearly two months. But barely halfway through November, the buzz is starting over an unusually large number of high-profile titles that could command an ever higher set of prices.
"There are a lot of English-language movies with stars that I'm expecting to end up at the festival," one veteran acquisitions executive said. "And that means we're going to see not just indie and specialty buyers coming out to bid but people at the studio level as well."
The prospect of a star-heavy festival is dovetailing with the bigger force dictating all things in Hollywood these days: the writers strike. If the stoppage continues and studios don't like the number or quality of their existing scripts, the finished-film market is a good place to turn.
And with stars filling every corner of that market, it might, in fact, be the first place they turn.
Such movies as the Bill Pullman-Patricia Clarkson drama "Phoebe in Wonderland," Barry Levinson's Hollywood spoof and Robert De Niro starrer "What Just Happened?" and the Tom Hanks vehicle "The Great Buck Howard" are all potential Sundance movies on distributors' lips. (Execs caution, of course, that none of these movies is guaranteed entry to the festival, with Sundance known for its eclectic and sometimes surprising lineups.)
On Monday, Sundance announced its opening-night movie, Martin McDonagh's "In Bruges," a star-laden picture in its own right, with Colin Farrell and Ralph Fiennes toplining the movie about hit men in Belgium; the film already has distribution from Focus Features.
Sundance has been attracting top talent since stars began making more indie movies. But come January, the festival could resemble a studio lot.
Prestige movies with wide appeal also are expected to figure prominently, including Ewan McGregor's turn in the terrorist-themed "Incendiary," Plum Pictures' parent-child drama "Trucker" and Groundswell Prods.' adaptation of the Michael Chabon novel "Mysteries of Pittsburgh" from director Rawson Thurber ("Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story)".
Comedies also are on the radar of execs who track indie productions: Among them are the Ben Kingsley/Mary-Kate Olsen pot comedy "The Wackness" and "Sunshine Cleaning," a production from indie banner Big Beach, which had a Sundance success in 2006 with another title containing the word "Sunshine."
Studios are a lot more willing to drop money in the seven- or even eight-figure range than their indie counterparts; though astronomical by festival standards, those fees are slight compared to what studios normally spend to produce a picture.
Seasoned festivalgoers recalled the 2005 edition, when Tom Freston, then of Viacom, flew in to Park City as what was then Paramount Classics made its $9 million pickup of Craig Brewer's "Hustle & Flow."
Of course that movie, often held up as an exemplar of a Sundance overbuy, might end up serving as a cautionary tale for acquisition-happy studio execs this year.
Still, experts say it's not just the offerings but the number of buyers changing this year's equation.
There are the wild cards, like the Weinstein Co., which jumped back into the game last year with several acquisitions and co-purchases and often could be counted on for a statement buy.
If newer players like the rejigged Paramount Vantage helped make last year a seller's dream (the specialty division paid $8 million for the quirky British film "Son of Rambow"), the entree of such self-financed operators as Summit and Senator could make for an even more frenzied festival this year.
But festival watchers note that new buyers might have a selective effect on purchase prices. "Some of these new companies need only one or two movies," one exec said. "The prices will skyrocket for those, but how many bidders will there be for a midlevel movie, the one that's only going to make $4 million or $5 million?"
The recent boxoffice performance of art house films might also have a sobering effect on buyers. In addition to the much-discussed phenomenon of flailing fall fare, last year saw a host of documentaries go for seven figures at Sundance, including Sony Pictures Classics' "My Kid Count Paint That" and ThinkFilm's "In the Shadow of the Moon." But docus have had a choppy time at the boxoffice this year, potentially cooling what has long been a hot Sundance category.
A number of divisions might also go a different route with the Park City festival, using it as a launching pad the way Searchlight and Picturehouse did last year for such movies as "The Savages" and "Rocket Science," respectively.
Overture's Toronto pickup, "The Visitor," is among the movies expected to get a spot at the fest, and the new label could use it as a platform to launch its April release.
After spending three months travelling the Long Way Down through Europe and Africa, Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman concluded their 15,000 mile adventure in Cape Town, South Africa in August this year. Tonight, Thursday 8th November, Long Way Down hosted the party of the year in an effort to raise money for lead charity partner UNICEF, as well as CHAS (Children's Hospice Association of Scotland) and Riders For Health, whom they also supported on their journey.
Held at Evolution in Battersea Park and generously sponsored by Belstaff, Nissan, Nokia and TOTAL, the star-studded event was a night to remember, and an opportunity to raise valuable funds for UNICEF's projects in Africa. Hosted by Ewan and Charley, guests including Elle Macpherson, Jay Kay, Damon Hill, Sharleen Spiteri and James Nesbitt sat down to a meal before participating in an auction which helped the total money raised on the evening top £300,000. Highlights from the auction included a replica of the BMW bike that Ewan and Charley rode on their trip which fetched £50,000 and a Long Way Down limited edition Nissan Navara that sold for £42,000. At the end of the evening guests were able to enjoy exclusive live sets from both The Magic Numbers and Beth Orton.
Ewan and Charley, continuously supported by producers/directors Russ Malkin and David Alexanian, visited 3 sites over the course of their journey in an effort to raise awareness for Long Way Down's charity partners, in particular UNICEF's projects in Africa.
Ewan, Charley and the Long Way Down team are committed to raising as much money as possible for children affected by HIV, poverty and conflict in Africa and hope that tonight's fundraising event will go a long way towards achieving that goal.
Everyone at Long Way Down wishes to thank everyone who came and contributed to a great evening.
We would also like to thank our wonderful sponsors Nokia, Total, Nissan and Belstaff who supported the event and ensured that all proceeds go directly to charity.
Thank you all for your continued support
The team at Long Way Down.
It's not hard to see the appeal of Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor for TV viewers. They're the male-buddy pair from Easy
Rider, only without the drugs. They're intrepid English travellers, in the tradition of Robert Byron, Bruce Chatwin and Michael
Palin, only with more swearing. They're rough-and-ready, sleep-under-the-stars, oil-on-my-denim-jacket roustabouts who happen
also to be well-off actors, taking a break from the graft and the glamour of the big screen. They are epitomes of laddishness
who would never be found reading Nuts or Zoo. For all the dust in their hair and gunge under their nails, they're nice boys,
plucky descendants of those Victorian explorers who tracked the source of the Limpopo, heedless of the headhunters, cannibals
and curare-tipped spears that they would almost certainly encounter en route. Their sweaty grins and capacity to endure rough
camping conditions have endeared them to the British public as surely as if Jamie Oliver and Nick Hornby had formed an inexplicable
alliance and ridden across the Sahara by tandem.
McGregor is most famous, globally speaking, for playing the young Obi-Wan Kenobi in the later (ie the earlier, prequelly)
Star Wars movies, a career move he later publicly regretted (all that bogus sabre-wielding); but his reputation was made
long before, when he played Renton, the charismatic junkie in Trainspotting. He matured into a dashingly convincing romantic
lead in Moulin Rouge, A Life Less Ordinary and Young Adam along with several, more forgettable, star vehicles. He's listed
at No 36 in Empire magazine's Top 100 Film Stars of All Time. Charley Boorman is less renowned than his friend, but has
starred in umpteen movies, many directed by his father John: Deliverance (he played Jon Voight's small son), Excalibur,
The Emerald Forest, Hope and Glory.
The two men met in 1997 in Cork on the set of The Serpent's Kiss, a 17th-century costume drama about topiary, leeches
and treachery, and the two hit it off over talk of throttles and exhaust pipes. They share a love of bikes that borders
on the obsessive, and a fondness for each other that's heartening to watch.
In 2004, they hit the road together on BMW Adventure bikes, journeying from London to New York via central and eastern
Europe, taking in Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Canada, and visiting places where the charity Unicef has a presence.
Having taken the precaution of bringing along a cameraman called Claudio von Planta, and some back-up vans containing a
film crew and lots of equipment, they turned it into a six-part TV series called Long Way Round. A book of their exploits
followed and was a huge bestseller. It's no great surprise, then, to find them repeating the exercise in Long Way Down,
which records the 15,000-mile trek they made this summer, from May to August, from John O'Groats in Scotland, through Italy,
thence to the Sicily ferry to Tunis on the northern tip of Africa; then journeying down the whole continent to South Africa,
taking in 18 countries on the way.
It's the same mixture as before of travelogue, male bonding and social conscience, but with a slightly edgier feel. From
the start, as they set up an Operations HQ in London, things go spectacularly wrong. The American producer-directors aren't
granted travel visas by the Libyan embassy (peevish memories of all that bombing in the 1980s, I expect). A training course,
to accustom the boys to "hostile environments" in Africa proves so gruelling, you can see their enthusiasm leaking
away. Ewan breaks his leg coming off his bike at the traffic lights in Holland Park. Then Charley's wife is diagnosed with
pneumonia and a collapsed lung. When the trip proceeds (with Mrs Boorman's blessing), they fly to Scotland to begin the
trip. But Charley gets into a row with an airline official. When she asks him to move his rucksack, he replies, "Why?
There isn't a bomb in it," and is instantly arrested and banned from all airlines in the world...
The succession of misfortunes makes, it must be said, for good TV in a series which might otherwise drown in manly hugs,
family sentiment and cries of rapture at the beauty of the landscape. One problematic strand concerns McGregor's wife Ève
Mavrakis, a French production designer, who decides, early on, she'd like to accompany the boys, despite never having ridden
a motorbike before. Students of psychology, and the "leakage" of inner thoughts, will enjoy Charley Boorman's
troubled face, as he digests the information that his laddish voyage alongside his best buddy is to be invaded by (urgh)
a soppy girl. A girl, moreover, who couldn't tell a Kawasaki from a KitKat...
I meet the boys at BBC TV Centre in west London. Since Ewan's 36 and Charley 40, it's absurd to call them "boys",
but that's exactly how they come across, as they welcome you into a glass-walled room and offer you coffee, fruit and cheese.
Ewan is, like all actors, shorter than you'd expect, but is bright-eyed, scarily alert, and possesses the confidence of
the devil. His voice slices through the room like a machete. He does most of the talking. Charley, by contrast, is rumpled
and endearingly uncoordinated, and his eyes widen like saucers when he wrestles with memories or difficult concepts. He
grew up in Ireland, riding motocross bikes from an early age. He took part in the Paris-Dakar rally last year, and is,
bikers will tell you, held in high esteem by the leather-gauntlet fraternity.
I ask about on-bike music. What's the best thing to have on an iPod when you're doing 100mph in the Mont Blanc tunnel? "I
never break the speed limit," deadpans Boorman, "so I wouldn't know." "Snow Patrol," says McGregor, "and
an American band called Bonnie Prince Billie. I was introduced to them by the actress Michelle Williams." Was that
it? Not "Born to be Wild"? Not Chris Spedding's "Motorbikin'"? "I listen to a lot of KT Tunstall,
and the Stereophonics," says Boorman. Whaaat? "And the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club." That's more like it.
How many plans were rejected before they came up with Long Way Down? Had there been a Long Way Up and a Long
Way Across? "About
the time Long Way Round went on the air," says Ewan, "we looked at the world map in our office and saw two possibilities – down
through Africa, or up through the Americas. Though Charley's been talking about a diagonal trip through Asia to Australia."
Long Way Diagonal – that didn't sound right. "Getting there through India and the Stans would be amazing," says
Charley. The Stans? "Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan – those Stans."
The big question is: why bikes? The pages of the tie-in book are often damp with misery, as Ewan and Charley become saturated
with rain and physically silted-up with sand (which gets everywhere) after travelling exposed to the elements. Did it have
to be a bike ride? This draws a lengthy rhapsody from Ewan: "Riding motorcycles was a dream I had when I was a kid.
I was never allowed a bike when I was a teenager, so it really was a dream for me, and I never quite got over it. I just
love them as objects; I like looking at them and cleaning them and tinkering with them, even if I don't know what I'm doing.
Riding them isn't like anything I know, it fulfils a big part of my life. I love the idea of getting from one place to
another on them – but long distances thrill me more than going to the shops."
"It's a choice you make," says Charley. "People choose to ride a bike because they want to. It's not an
economic necessity. The thing about a bike is, there's no phone, there's no passenger seat and no papers to put on a seat,
to start reading in traffic jams. You have to concentrate because it's easy to get knocked off. And by the time you get
home, your mind is clear."
They'd been influenced in their quests by books and films. "My favourite traveller? Easy," says McGregor. "Ted
Simon and his book, Jupiter's Travels. He was a Sunday Times journalist, and decided he wanted to travel the world
in 1972 and do it by motorbike. So he bought a stock Triumph, and went round the world... It took him four years. It's
travel book. We got in touch with him at the end of Long Way Round, and he came out and joined us in Mongolia. Without
that book, we might not have come up with the idea of doing the first trip." A look of pure hero-worship comes into
his eyes. "One of my favourite movies," says Charley dreamily, "has to be On Any Sunday, the documentary,
directed by Bruce Brown. It just makes you fall in love with riding motorbikes."
They took with them lightweight tents, in which they slept between sojourns in cheap hotels. Did the joy of camping wear
off after a while? "No it didn't," they say in all-but-chorus. "The nasty hotels were the worst sight," says
Charley with feeling. "You'd find yourself sleeping on your rollmat and your sleeping bag on the bed because you think,
I am not sleeping in that. No part of my body is going to touch that sheet. And you'd have been much better off putting
your tent up."
Had they been universally welcomed during their 81-day burn through the Dark Continent? "People still have a biker
image in their heads that hasn't changed from the 1950s," says McGregor with a touch of bitterness. "Sometimes
you can't get a table in a restaurant. Sometimes hotels become mysteriously full. But mostly we found people were willing
to help you – maybe there's some subconscious realisation that you've been battered by the elements, that if it's
a fucking hot day then you're fucking hot and if it's a wet day then you're wet, and they tend to look after you because
they know you're vulnerable."
Yes, but did they run into trouble – violence, threats, bribery, theft? "So many people, when they knew we
were going, told us about Africa," says Charley. "How the hyenas would eat your face, how you'd walk out of a
bar and someone will machete you to death. People have this idea of Africa as a dodgy, dangerous place. And you ask, 'Have
you been there?' and they go, 'Well, no I haven't actually been.' Now, we've been to Africa before, and in the towns you'll
find kids who'll try and lift your wallet, but you get that in London. And 99 per cent of the time, where we went on bikes,
people were friendly, interested in where we'd come from and what we were doing. They always laughed when we said we'd
come from Scotland and were going to Cape Town, like, what d'you wanna do that for?"
They did, on the other hand, see a lot of guns. "But they were more for show than anything else. In Ethiopia we saw
some spectacular desert warriors, with marvellous 1980s hairstyles all crimped, like Prince's, and with their tribal dress
they wore these shiny, polished-up AK-47 rifles. But they were just a status symbol or a decoration. You couldn't imagine
they had ammunition in them."
"Bloody expensive, ammunition," says Charley, with the air of a man who knows.
Things had become a bit lairy in Kenya, where they were given police protection – not from muggers, but from a sinister
gang of Somali bandits called the Shifter. "They offered us soldiers to escort us in case we walked into something,
but nothing happened," says Charley. "We were lucky. If you're unlucky ... we came across a school where there
had been this terrible massacre, a year and a half before: some soldiers had come in and murdered 22 children and 52 grown-ups
in the village. It was awful." Otherwise, the only danger on the trip had come from wildlife. Ewan found himself in
trouble for dissing an elephant. "It was in the Okavango Delta [in Botswana]. There were two elephants near our rooms,
and I got a bit cocky. I began filming myself, with an elephant in shot over my shoulder. As I walked away one started
following me, doing that false charge, with its ears up, trumpeting. I probably wasn't in real danger but I felt real fear.
I said, 'Come on Ewan, you don't know what you're doing. It's an elephant. You're not in Scotland. Show it a bit of respect.'
If it had decided to come for me, there's nothing I could've done. When people get trampled by elephants, you don't suffer
a broken leg, you die."
After all the laddishness, the boys-together, lighting-your-farts hilarity, Boorman and McGregor received a reality check
when they visited Unicef sites as part of their charity mandate. "We visited three of them, one on the Eritrean-Ethiopian
border, where we met kids who'd lost their limbs to landmines. Then in Gulu, northern Uganda, we visited a couple of kids,
a guy and a girl who'd been abducted into the Lord's Resistance Army and lived a life of absolute fucking terror and horror.
They were taken away at seven into this rebel army; she'd been raped, used as a whore by the army general, made to maim,
to kill and torture. The way the army keeps these kids is to take them back to their villages and make them kill people
there, even their own families. They're made to kill their own friends, even their brothers and sisters, so that they're
completely cut off. The girl came back to her village at 15, pregnant, and now she's got a two-year-old kid. She probably
has no chance of getting married or employed. Her life's been ruined." Did she talk about experiences? "No," says
Charley. "Her community around her were scared of her. You cannot believe what these kids have gone through. Unicef
work hard trying to rehabilitate them back into society, if they're lucky enough to come back. Thousands of children are
abducted, but only hundreds come back."
The boys refuse to answer provocative questions about the highs and lows of their relationship, as they lived in each
other's pockets for three months. What did each consider to be the other's worst habits? "That's a horrible question
to ask," says Ewan. "Charley here is perfect in every respect, whereas I'm a bit of a nightmare." (Charley
doesn't play ball either, but carefully blames any moments of friction between them on a chronic lack of food.) Nor do
you get far by asking about Ewan's wife Ève, who eventually came along just for a short burn through Malawi and Zambia.
Had she come for the whole trip, would Charley have pulled out? He sidesteps the question: "She came along to Malawi
and had an amazing time, and was a tremendous asset to the whole enterprise. And," he continues, going perhaps further
than he meant, "she showed that anybody can go on this trip. It doesn't matter who you are, you can go and do it." Even
The boys are staying home for at least three years before they'll try another trip. There are movies to be made, and families
to re-connect with, and signing tours of the new bestseller. As for the lessons learnt on the trip, McGregor has entered
a realm that's pure Buddhism. "You know what I missed? I didn't miss anything at all. In fact, if I could've taken
less, I'd have been happier. There's something very pure about having nothing at all, about leaving your house with nothing
in your pocket, no phone, nothing. I love that. On a trip, of course, you have to take stuff. But the nirvana state would
be to have nothing at all."
Cassandra's Dream at Aspen Film's Academy Screenings series
Stewart Oksenhorn Aspen, CO Colorado October 26, 2007
Aspen — Cinema fanatics are already getting hammered with the usual overflow of quality films loaded into the midautumn season. But make sure to save some room; there's another massive helping about to be served, thanks to Aspen Film.
Aspen Film's Academy Screenings series - presented on the theory that Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences members are in Aspen over the holidays, but open to everyone - will offer up a few handfuls of Oscar hopefuls later this year. The series, in its 17th year, is set for Dec. 21-Jan. 2 at Harris Concert Hall.
Among the directors to be featured are Paul Thomas Anderson, Woody Allen, Jonathan Demme, Julian Schnabel, Jason Reitman and, in his first directorial effort in a decade, Francis Ford Coppola. Appearing onscreen are former Oscar winners Jack Nicholson, Morgan Freeman, Daniel Day-Lewis, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Denzel Washington and Forest Whitaker.
Highlights of the series include Paul Thomas Anderson's "There Will Be Blood," adapted from the Upton Sinclair novel "Oil" and starring Daniel Day-Lewis; the European-set romantic thriller "Youth Without Youth," Francis Ford Coppola's first film since 1997's "The Rainmaker"; and "The Savages," a family comedy-drama starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney and directed by Tamara Jenkins.
Also included in the series are Woody Allen's crime drama "Cassandra's Dream," starring Ewan MacGregor and Colin Farrell; "Juno," a black comedy about a pregnant teenager directed by Jason Reitman; and Julian Schnabel's real-life drama "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," a multi-award winner at the Cannes Film Festival.
Also to be screened are Rob Reiner's "The Bucket List," a comedy starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman; "The Greater Debaters," directed by Denzel Washington and starring Washington and Forest Whitaker; the French animated feature "Persepolis"; and "Jimmy Carter, Man From Plains," Jonathan Demme's documentary of the former president.
Additional titles will be added to the program. The full schedule for Academy Screenings will be announced in late November. Tickets will go on sale to the public Dec. 12 at the Wheeler Opera House's Aspen Show Tickets.
Davidoff Adventure - The New Fragrance for Men Featuring Ewan McGregor
October 23 2007
The new fragrance for men - Davidoff Adventure was presented to the European beauty press last Thursday October 18th in London.
Guests had the chance to attend a private presentation during which the talented actor and true adventurer Ewan McGregor, shared a private moment with them, telling about his last motorcycle adventure, "Long Way Down", and evoking memories of the Davidoff Adventure advertising campaign shoot which took place in Brazil.
Guests appreciated speaking with the actor and being able to ask him questions freely.
The Sunbeam studio was all dressed up to evoke escapism. Guests enjoyed an emotional journey through a beautiful wide-spaces movie plunging at the heart of the Davidoff Adventure universe. The emotional TV spot featuring Ewan McGregor was finally unveiled in exclusivity.
The creator of the fragrance, Antoine Lie, unveiled the scent step by step in a different room completely transformed in the spirit of the fragrance, inspired from natural elements, from faraway rain forest to exotic spices and precious woods.
The discovery ended with a dinner on the 29th floor of a Londoner tower with a breathtaking view on the Thames River, world-cuisine's savours and colours allowing guests to close the journey by a truly emotional experience.
Actor Ewan McGregor says Britain's "nanny state" could cause him to move abroad.
The Trainspotting star has just completed an epic 15,000-mile motorbike journey across Africa with best friend Charley Boorman.
And he told the Radio Times: "Our trip opened my eyes to how insane the rules are in Britain - CCTV cameras everywhere, congestion charge - a ludicrous nanny state. If anything drives me out of the country it will be that - not tax, I don't earn enough."
Health and safety rules can affect actors - when Daniel Craig was unveiled as the new James Bond, he was made to wear a life jacket during a River Thames boat stunt before the world's media.
"It's not his fault. He's doing what he's told," McGregor sympathised. "Today, health and safety are out of control. In Africa, garage attendants smoked as they filled the bikes. I took great pleasure in that."
The pair's trip from John O'Groats to Cape Agulhas at the tip of South Africa was captured on film for BBC2 series Long Way Down.
The journey took them through 18 countries and McGregor said he was touched by the kindness of the people he met in Africa.
"People are nice to us because we're travellers, and the most generous and happiest are often those who have the least, whereas in Britain we're devastatingly depressed, yet have so much."
The duo had to cope with physical hardships, including being on their bikes for days without proper washing facilities.
"We never got fed up with each other, but sometimes I couldn't stand the smell after a few days without a shower," Boorman said.
EOD named "Pride of Britain" for work in Iraq (AUDIO)
9 Oct 07
The British Army is being awarded a 'Special Recognition' award at the ITV's Pride of Britain Annual Awards Ceremony in London tonight, 9 October 2007.
Ewan McGregor presenting the Pride of Britain Award to Staff Sgt Michelle Cunningham of the Joint EOD group, Basra [Picture: Daily Mirror]
The award has been accepted on behalf of the Army by Staff Sergeant Michelle Cunningham, aged 32, from the Joint Forces Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Group in Iraq.
It was presented to her by Star Wars actor and strong supporter of the Armed Forces, Ewan McGregor, who recently flew out to Iraq accompanied by an ITV1 film crew to record the presentation. The footage will be shown at tonight's ceremony and broadcast on ITV tomorrow, 10 October 2007, as if it were a live link to theatre.
Pride of Britain celebrates the achievements of remarkable British people. It is the biggest national event of its kind in the UK, attracting an audience of around seven million TV viewers. HRH Prince Charles, the Prime Minister and Defence Secretary Des Browne are due to attend the ceremony.
The British Army is being awarded a separate 'Special Recognition' award, this year, as the organisers feel the Army must be remembered in an event of this scale. ITV1 wanted to present the award to reflect the Army's contribution both at home and abroad and in particular to highlight the work of troops on operations.
Ewan McGregor meets UK Service personnel at the Contingency Operating Base (COB) in Basra [Picture: Cpl Steve Follows]
Staff Sergeant Michelle Cunningham, who serves with 721 Squadron, 11 EOD Regiment, Royal Logistic Corps, is the first female Senior Non Commissioned Officer (SNCO) to pass the High Threat Improvised Explosive Device (IED) Disposal course and has just been awarded a Queen's Gallantry Medal for "displaying complete disregard for her personal safety," extinguishing a fire at an explosives factory in Middle Wallop, Hampshire, last year. Ewan McGregor told the Daily Mirror who sponsor the awards:
"I'm just so amazed by Michelle and her unit's courage. She's fantastic. I would never have the guts to do what she does. Most people, and I'm one of them, would run a million miles from a bomb but Michelle walks towards them and makes them safe. Amazing. It's important that we pay tribute to Michelle and people like her, who are prepared to put their lives in danger like this for others."
She was selected to represent the Army in order that audiences have someone they can relate to. ITV considered that the work of EOD operators fits well with the humanitarian theme of the awards, reflecting work both overseas and in the UK with the latter resonating with the public's heightened awareness of domestic terrorism.
Actor Ewan McGregor paid a surprise visit to British Forces in Basra for the Pride of Britain Awards 2007 [Picture: Cpl Steve Follows]
Despite being the only British female bomb disposal specialist in Iraq, and entering the burning explosives factory in Middle Wallop last year to bring the situation under control after a man had already been killed and firefighters had decided it was too dangerous to enter, Staff Sergeant Cunningham said:
"I'm no hero. I'm just doing a job. I love it. There aren't many jobs where you feel you can make a difference and people thank you."
With her colleagues in the Joint Forces Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group, Staff Sergeant Cunningham gave Ewan a demonstration of their bomb exploding equipment and carried out a controlled explosion on a car before inviting him to don the protective anti-blast suit they wear when defusing explosives.
Ewan visited UK Service personnel from various regiments based at the UK base in Basra Airport and also rode in a Warrior Armoured Personnel Carrier and a Lynx helicopter as well as opening a new medical unit. Major General Graham Binns, Officer Commanding Multi-National Division (South East), greeted Ewan and said:
"It's been a great morale boost that you've taken the trouble, not without personnel risk to come and show your support."
The actor, whose brother, Colin, served in Iraq last year with the RAF's 617 Squadron, flying reconnaissance missions, told the troops at Basra via the British Forces Broadcasting Service's radio at the base:
"We're all thinking about you back in Britain and we're all really proud about what you're doing here. We hope to see you back home soon."
To hear the full interview Ewan gave to BFBS in Iraq, click here.
UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Ewan McGregor and his friend and colleague Charley Boorman recently spoke about their pan-African motorbike adventure known as the ‘Long Way Down’.
The 15,000-mile journey started in May 2007 at John O’Groats, Scotland and finished at the southernmost point in South Africa – Cape Agulhas – in August. Their carefully planned route took them through two continents and across 18 countries in 85 days. Along the way, they stopped off to meet local people, experience different cultures and visit three UNICEF programmes that are helping children and their communities.
Talking to UNICEF, the pair reflected on the harsh reality of life for so many children across the African continent and the people they met through the UNICEF programmes.
It was important to Ewan and Charley to explore parts of Africa that are less travelled. They wanted to make sure they heard what it is like to be a child in some of the countries they passed through – and to see firsthand what is being done by UNICEF.
A long way to travel – and to help
“We wanted to show a wide range of what UNICEF is doing,” Ewan said. “So we visited three different projects [including two] in northern Ethiopia at the Eritrean border – there’s been conflict there over the years. There’s a great deal of landmines that have been laid there and sadly, many children end up being injured by these landmines.
“We went out to Gulu in the north of Uganda,” he continued. “We met some children up there who’d been abducted as young as six and seven. They’d been forced to fight as child soldiers in a horrific rebel army and forced to torture other children, and in many cases go back to their own villages and kill and maim people in their own villages – so that the children are completely cut off from their past, so that there’s no going back.
Ewan and Charley deliver a School-in-a-Box and a Sport-in-a-Box to St. Martin's School in Uganda.
“The third visit was in Malawi,” said Ewan. “I went back there and was lucky enough to see some of the community-based child centres that UNICEF helped to set up, which allow kids to be looked after – children who’ve been orphaned by HIV and AIDS.”
Ewan and Charley were moved by what they saw in Africa and described the sense of sadness they felt at first, followed by a sense of hope.
“The first time you’re there, it’s so upsetting to see,” Charley said. “And then you do the UNICEF projects and you breathe a sigh of relief that someone is actually trying to help. And the more you look into it, the more you realize there are people out there with the same goal – to try and reach children.”
Ambassadors for change
Ewan McGregor, who is also a UNICEF UK Ambassador, said he and Charley Boorman, a longstanding supporter of the organization, are often asked what stands out most from their travels.
“For both of us, it’s the incredible, tireless work of UNICEF's local staff on the ground, working to give children the care and support they need to survive,” he said. “Day in and day out, UNICEF is taking action, preventing babies being born with HIV, helping children orphaned by AIDS, giving kids a chance to go to school. There's so much to do, but without any funding from the UN, they need money urgently to reach every child.”
“Crossing Africa, we realized the enormity of what UNICEF has set out to do,” added Charley. “We want people to help UNICEF and give something – however much it is – to help make the world a better place for every child. We've seen what a difference it can make.”
Travelling with Ewan and Charley were Russ Malkin of Big Earth and David Alexanian of Elixir Films, who are producing and directing a documentary of the journey for the BBC, as well as three cameramen and a medic.
‘Long Way Down’ is also raising money and awareness for the Children’s Hospice Association of Scotland and Riders For Health. To find out more or donate to the Long Way Down fund for UNICEF, visit www.unicef.org.uk/longwaydown. Money raised goes to children affected by poverty, conflict and HIV in Africa.
Amy Bennett contributed to this story from New York.
Ewan McGregor had only been asleep for a few hours when the sirens started wailing.
It was 4.30 in the morning and this was the warning of an imminent mortar attack. The instructions were for everyone to throw themselves to the floor and pull on their armour-plated jackets and helmets.
It sounds like a scene out of a film, but this was for real. And, even though it turned out to be a false alarm, for Ewan it was a stark awakening to the dangers that face our brave troops every day in Iraq.
The Hollywood star had arrived at the British base at Basra just hours earlier - on a very special mission to honour a courageous young woman with a Pride of Britain award.
Despite the obvious risks, he was so impressed by the remarkable bravery of Britain's only female bomb disposal specialist in Iraq that he wanted to present the award to her himself.
It will be shown on the Mirror's Pride of Britain Awards on Wednesday on ITV1 at 9pm.
At the age of 32, Staff Sgt Michelle Cunningham was nominated by the Army for "displaying complete disregard for her personal safety" by singlehandedly extinguishing a fire at an explosives factory, in Middle Wallop, Hampshire, last year.
A man had already been killed and firefighters had decided it was too dangerous to go inside the blazing building.
But, even though she knew she could have been blown up at any minute, she entered carrying two fire extinguishers, went to the heart of the fire, got it under control and made safe hundreds of explosives.
An incredible act of courage. But for Michelle, and her unit, it was just another day at work, where danger is ever-present, facing threats of explosions, booby-trapped bombs, small arms fire and rocket attacks.
Ewan, 36, said: "I'm just so amazed by Michelle and her unit's courage. She's fantastic. I would never have the guts to do what she does. Most people, and I'm one of them, would run a million miles from a bomb but Michelle walks towards them and makes them safe. Amazing.
"When I was told about her, and was asked to come and present the award to her in Iraq, I said Yes because I really wanted to meet her and show my support.
"It's important that we should pay tribute to Michelle and people like her, who are prepared to put their lives in danger like this for others." Ewan got his first real sense of the risks that Michelle and all troops serving in Iraq face even before he arrived in the country.
After taking a military VC10 jet with troops from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire to Qatar, the group transferred to a Hercules transporter for the two-hour night flight to Basra airbase.
As the plane entered Iraqi airspace, everyone aboard, seated shoulder to shoulder, was ordered to put on armour-plated flak jackets and helmets. Then they were plunged into darkness for what is termed a "corkscrew" landing - designed to counter the ever-present threat of being shot down by a missile.
Ewan's visit was a welcome morale boost for the 5,500 British servicemen and women at the base.
One airman, who took his photo on his mobile, joked to Ewan, who starred as Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars: "May the forces be with you!"
Ewan met members of various regiments, who gave him an idea of the wide range of dangerous combat operations they undertake.
In the dog pound, he was attacked by an Alsatian trained to chase terrorists (fortunately, they gave him a protective sleeve to wear first!). He also rode on a Warrior armoured personnel carrier, saw its firepower, opened a new medical unit and flew in a Lynx helicopter.
Greeting him, General Graham Binns, commander of British forces in Iraq, said: "It's been a great morale boost that you've taken the trouble, not without personal risk, to come and show your support."
Ewan, whose brother Colin served until last year in the RAF as a Tornado pilot, said: "I've been so touched and in awe of the people I've met."
Perhaps no more so than the Pride of Britain winner Michelle and her colleagues in the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Regiment. After giving him a demonstration of the equipment they use to defuse bombs and carrying out a controlled explosion on a car, they invited him to wear a protective anti-blast suit, used when approaching explosives.
He said: "I can't imagine what it must be like to don that suit and walk out there in this heat with an explosive device to try and defuse."
As he presented Michelle, from Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, with her Pride of Britain award, Ewan asked why she chose such a dangerous career.
Laughing, she said: "I didn't really. I used to work in Stores, ordering vehicle parts, and was sent on the wrong training course. I kept wondering why they were telling me how to defuse bombs, but I thought it was a cool job."
But, with surprising modesty, she added: "I'm no hero. I'm just doing a job. I love it. There aren't many jobs where you feel you can make a difference and people thank you."
Summing up his visit on British Forces radio, broadcast around the base, Ewan said: "We're all thinking about you back in Britain and we're all really proud about what you're doing here. We hope to see you back at home soon."
WATCH EWAN ON THE MIRROR'S PRIDE OF BRITAIN AWARDS, WEDNESDAY, 9PM, ITV1
Long Way Down covers every aspect of Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman’s latest adventure in intricate detail. From the moment they realised they were going to do another trip just months after returning from Long Way Round, to the preparations for the trip through Africa and even the moment McGregor crashed in London and broke his leg weeks before they were due to leave.
In tomorrow’s MCN we’ve got six pages of exclusive extracts from the latest adventure as well as access to masses of stunning images from the trip.
Here is a brief glimpse of what you can read: “McGregor said: 'Much as I was excited about getting to Africa there was a part of me that was sorry to be saying goodbye to Italy. It was vibrant and vital and the further south we got, the more I’d fallen in love with it. We’d arrived at the hotel in Sicily in plenty of time to chill out, and Charley and I had taken some time out by the pool discussing yet another bike trip. Later David hired a boat to take us across the bay so I could buy some underpants that didn’t pinch my bum when I was riding.
“'I was drinking coffee as thick as treacle, and when I mentioned as much it sparked a discussion about the relative merits of treacle and golden syrup; neither of which Jimmy Simak had ever come across. Charley and I took a dip in the Med which was much colder than it looked: the only thing that kept my heart going was the amount of really thick coffee I’d been drinking.
“'It turned out to be a great last day in Europe and in the morning we rode the bikes down to the port at Trapani. The ship was tied off alongside the dock and we were able to ride right up to it. The roll-on roll-off doors were open, inviting almost, but there didn’t seem to be anyone about.
“'We were first in the queue; not that many people appeared to be taking this particular boat today. Everything felt very quiet. I don’t know what I’d been expecting but it hadn’t been this. It was calm and tranquil and I suppose we had arrived pretty early but everyone seemed chilled and when the immigration and customs officials showed up Russ had all the relevant paperwork ready. It was the first time we’d needed to produce carnets for the vehicles and the lists of equipment we were carrying. A little while later our tickets were torn and we were riding up the ramp. Suddenly my heart beat faster. Africa was just a boat ride away.'”
Once again, the Weinstein Brothers have delayed a Ewan film. The last one being Miss Potter, and we all know what kind of fiasco that was for fans in smaller cities trying to see it on the big screen.
A few days ago, Fox Searchlight moved "The Savages," a dark comedy about two self-absorbed siblings (Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney) forced to confront their father's final days, up to a Nov. 30 release from the originally planned date of December 26. That put it head to head with another film about siblings (the improbably cast Colin Farrell and Ewan McGregor), Woody Allen's aptly named "Cassandra's Dream," which the Brothers Weinstein had long planned to open on that very same date. "The Savages" has been generating Oscar buzz since it premiered in January at Sundance, but "Cassandra" has had a much rougher time of it with critics, to put it mildly. Now the invaluable and virtually infallible calendar at Box Office Mojo says Bob and Harvey have blinked and moved their Woody to Dec. 28, a date often chosen for flicks being given an obligatory one-week Oscar qualification run before year's end. Last year, the Weinsteins opened "Factory Girl" and, uh, "The Ex" -- then called "Fast Track" -- in that week, and only in Los Angeles, while we lucky New Yorkers got a fleeting look at "Miss Potter," which never got an extended run here.
At the Donmar Warehouse, public booking doesn’t open until 15 October 2007 for Michael Grandage’s much-anticipated staging of Othello - starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Ewan McGregor and Kelly Reilly and running from 4 December 2007 (previews from 29 November) to 23 February 2008 - but members of the theatre’s Friends scheme, who have only been allowed to purchase a maximum of four tickets each, have already made it a near sell-out.
A suicide car bomb exploded outside the police headquarters in Basra today killing three police trainees and wounding seventeen, in the biggest attack there since British forces pulled out of the city centre this month.
The blast raised fears among local people that the British withdrawal from Basra Palace had been premature and that the Iraqi security forces, who are supposed to take the place of British soldiers, are unable to deal with the threat.
A British military spokesman insisted, however, that the Iraqi police and army were able to cope.
“Although we retain overall responsibility for security across the province we remain confident that the Iraqi security forces will be able to manage this situation,” Major Mike Shearer told The Times.
Britain’s 5,500-strong contingent in Iraq is concentrated at Basra airport, several miles outside the city. Soldiers at the base are currently enjoying a visit from Ewan McGregor, the actor.
[Article continues about the current situation in Basra.]
Live! Ammunition is Raindance’s now-legendary pitching event where your idea for a movie can be heard by the people who matter. Where else would you have the undivided attention of not just one, but FIVE people who could help get your film made? This year that illustrious crowd includes Ewan McGregor, NFTS head Nik Powell and UK Film Council Premiere Fund head Sally Caplan.
To pitch, just drop a fiver in the hat and the floor is yours. You have up to two minutes to convince the panellists to read your script or make your film. They can and will gong you off if you are boring. The best pitch will win all the money in the hat, and, who knows, could be picked up for development.
They have an extraordinary line-up this year for our Festival Live!Ammo! Special. Confirmed panellists so far:
Ewan McGregor is one of Britain’s biggest acting talents, and his incredible career spans arthouse and indie flicks, Hollywood blockbusters, musicals and theatre.
Nik Powell has produced a raft of great British movies including the Oscar-nominated Mona Lisa and Little Voice and Oscar-winning The Crying Game.
Sally Caplan is head of the UK Film Council’s Premier Fund, and as such has an annual budget of £8m to help in the production of British films.
Davide Scalenghe manages the Viewer Created Content Outreach Department at Al Gore’s Current TV, meaning he can get your film seen by millions online.
Malcolm Gerrie has over 25 years worth of experience as a producer and is currently Head of Whizz Kid TV.
Raindance is the UK’s largest independent film festival, showcasing shorts and features from around the world and specialising in directorial debuts. Distinguishing itself from other festivals with its swaggering rock and roll attitude, Raindance runs riot in the West End of London each September/October.
I don't miss boozing... I've had my fill of being drunk
6 September 2007 By Rick Fulton
Ewan McGregor once claimed he was close to being an alcoholic, so pub bosses must have rubbed their hands in glee when they
heard he was filming with movie hellraiser Colin Farrell.
In new Woody Allen film Cassandra's Dream, the pair play broke brothers whose uncle pays them to commit a murder.
But such wild living was a world away from the Celtic duo's off-screen antics.
Ewan — who has been teetotal for seven years — insists he spent any spare time with the Irishman practicing
The dad-of-three, 36, said: "We got out of the car every morning and as soon as we saw each other we would start
running the scenes we had to shoot that day.
"We'd go into his trailer or mine and run the scenes because we had a small window of opportunity to get the scenes
on any day as Woody likes to shoot very quickly — mostly one set-up — and you might have eight to 10 pages of dialogue.
"One scene with our uncle was two or three set-ups and it was more than 10 pages.
"So we worked very hard on having the scenes up to speed. We had a really hard-working relationship."
While he admits they hung out together "now and then" in London, it wasn't in pubs.
Ewan shrugged: "You go there to drink and, since I don't drink, I don't go to bars."
Now he insists his wild youth is well behind him. He said: "I don't have any moment where I miss it. I've been drunk
enough. I've had my fair share.
"Now I have a stamp reading 'reformed scallywag' on my forehead."
In the past, he has even voiced surprise that directors didn't curb his drinking after he hit global fame in Trainspotting.
He once said: "They must have known. I was reeking of booze."
Now, Ewan, from Crieff in Perthshire, enjoys simply spending time with his family.
He and wife Ève have three kids — Clara, 11, and five-year-old Esther plus Jamiyan, also five, whom they adopted in Mongolia.
In fact, the only facet of his Cassandra's Dream role he can relate to is being broke.
Although now a multi-millionaire after playing Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequel trilogy, Ewan had his share of
money troubles as a stuggling drama student. He said: "I borrowed money from a relation once. She was not very happy
about it. But I repaid it without having to kill anyone.
"However, serious money trouble is awful. I can't imagine that kind of despair and panic it might cause."
In truth, Ewan is well aware of the plight of others.
He uses the pulling power of his fame for charity work, as a fundraiser for Scotland's first children's hospice, Rachel
House, and also as a Unicef UK Ambassador.
He said: "Working for Unicef is a great honour. I believe strongly in the work they do. If I can help in any way,
I am happy to.
"It has enriched my life, being able to see some of the projects they do and the simple things that can greatly improve
the lives of children who are in a terrible situation."
His support for Unicef also fuelled his recent major project — his epic bike rides.
He and best pal Charley Boorman raised awareness of the charity during their 19,000-mile Long Way Round journey from London
to New York in 1994
And this year they biked 15,000 miles the Long Way Down from John O'Groats to South Africa.
Ewan said: "The bike trips are incredible. Meeting kids in the Ethiopian mountains is so far removed from where we
"It's good for me to be there to realise how unimportant we are. When you are out in Africa or Siberia on your bike,
none of this matters very much.
"Nobody there has seen my films and nobody gives a s*** because they don't have any food on the table, they have
no medicine and people are dying of AIDS."
But the harsh realities of his Unicef trips have also taken their toll.
In one online diary he admitted he'd reached a point where he couldn't take the poverty and misery any longer.
Ewan said: "On a week-long visit to Malawi they want you to see as many aspects of their work as you can so you can
go home and try to raise money — give dinners where you get rich people to gift their tax money.
"So in five days, you'll go to three or four projects a day.
"I remember standing in a women's ward where the majority of them were dying of HIV diseases.
"So there are moments when it's quite hard to take. "
BUT he insisted there is hope — and that it can appear to you so simply.
He said: "I was in a village in Africa where a troupe of actors were going to do a play about HIV and AIDS.
"All the white people were sitting over here in their Unicef T-Shirts and the actors were playing towards us — but
behind them was the entire village, from babies to old ladies.
"The play encompassed everything I had seen all week about HIV and AIDS and its prevention then beyond them I could
see tiny kids running and playing.
"I thought, 'There is the hope, those kids in the back will be picking up this information about condoms and sex
and how HIV is transmitted.'
"Through the generations and through education, people will know more about it and less people will get the virus."
His bike trips and Unicef visits also take their toll on Ewan's family, taking him away from them for weeks or months
at a time.
He said: "I'd really have to think about doing another one because three months is too long. On my films, if it lasts
a whole school term we try to get the kids in a school there, in Alabama, New York or wherever. If not, I have to try to
get home at weekends."
The family are also trying other ways to be together. Ève even rode part of Ewan's trip through Africa.
He grinned: "Twelve years of marriage and she never expressed any interest to be on a bike.
"Then she decided to come, so she learned how to ride and went through Malawi and Zambia.
"She loved it — and she is very good, too. Maybe she will come on the next trip."
But the dangers Ewan has encountered on his journeys could make this impractical for the family.
During Long Way Round, he was terrified by one man, Igor in Ukraine.
Ewan said: "We ended up in a house that was clearly full of "connected" guys — I am terrified to say Mafia
as they might come and get me. Maybe they weren't Mafia, but definitely that kind of thing.
"Igor had a lot of friends with guns. That was a nerve-wracking, spooky night.
"Then in Kazakhstan we had a gun pulled on us by someone in a car. That was truly frightening.
"They ended up laughing and driving off. It was maybe a form of Kazakh humour — but it didn't feel funny at the time."
Ewan has veered from the sublime heights of Trainspotting, Moulin Rouge and Little Voice to the depth of flops including
Down With Love, The Island and Miss Potter most recently.
Yet he insists he is finding acting much more fulfilling.
He said: "I find it more complicated yet easier. I understand more where to put my focus, not sporadic as it used
"It's now more focused on my work."
'Colin and I worked hard to have our scene right. We had a hard-working relationship'
Ewan McGregor surprised Moto Guzzi fans from across the globe when he rode into the annual Giornate Mondiale Guzzi (World-Wide Guzzi Days).
The star of the Long Way Round and Long Way Down is a Moto Guzzi fan and currently owns a Griso 1100, and after a trip round the factory Museum, Ewan McGregor picked up his new white Moto Guzzi California and rode it back to London.
Moto Guzzi fans rode into the event on the banks of the River Lario in Italy from as far afield as Norway and Denmark, as well as the UK, and the highlight of the weekend was a huge party on the riverbank, where Moto Guzzi owners were rewarded for their loyalty with a selection of awards, including one for the youngest fan (just 16), and the oldest attending Moto Guzzi rider, who was 76.
Actor Ewan McGregor says he does not want a role in a Trainspotting sequel.
The 1996 film made the Scot, who played junkie Renton, a star.
And while Robert Carlyle, who played psychopath Begbie, and the film's director Danny Boyle want to make a film of author Irvine Welsh's 2002 sequel Porno, Ewan is adamant he will not be involved.
He claims Porno is repetitive and says he doesn't want to tarnish Trainspotting by making a "poor sequel".
When asked about making a film of Porno, Ewan said: "I really don't think so. I didn't really like the book as much."
And he added of Welsh: "I thought he kind of wrote a sequel to the film in a way, instead of writing a sequel to his novel.
"A lot of the other characters in Trainspotting had disappeared and it seemed to be mainly about the characters in the film. I felt that it was a bit repetitive.
"It was more or less the same story, when he gets all the money at the end.
"I've always said that I loved Trainspotting so much that it would be a terrible thing to damage it by making a poor sequel. People would forget the great movie Trainspotting was."
The 36-year old Star Wars actor, who was born in Crieff, has also come down heavily on the side of UK unionism.
He left Scotland in 1989 to live in London and now sees England as home.
He said: "I like the idea of Great Britain. I love England and I love living here. It's my home and it's easier to see people as British.
"I don't see my friends as English or Scottish. I just see them as people, whether I like them or not."
Ewan has also revealed he sees his children as Jewish.
His French wife Ève Mavrakis, who he married in 1995 in France, is Jewish and they have brought up daughters Clara, 11, and Esther, five, in the same faith.
They also have an adopted daughter Jamiyan, a five-year-old from Mongolia.
The Scot, who has been to Israel several times, added: "My family is Jewish and we went there because of that."
The actor, who last month completed a motorbike journey from John O' Groats to Cape Town in South Africa, will start rehearsing next month to play Iago in Sheakespeare's Othello at London's Donmar Warehouse.
Sun, September 16, 2007 By Jim Slotek and Kevin Williamson
After some misfires, Ewan finally gets quirky 'toon into production.
Weird doesn't always sell. On Ewan McGregor's plate, are a couple of odd projects that can't get as far as day one of shooting because of lack of funding.
Among them: I, Lucifer, in which he would play opposite the Devil, played by Bond himself, Daniel Craig.
There's also Number 13, a period piece with Dan Fogler (Balls Of Fire) as Alfred Hitchcock solving a real murder. "That one just collapsed," McGregor says.
One weird one that is getting made, however, is the animated Jackboots On Whitehall, for which McGregor has already recorded a voice-role. "It's a film about the Nazis invading Britain and actually getting into London. But it's shot with 'Action Men.' What do you call them here? G.I. Joes?"
Wednesday, September 12, 2007 Peter Hartlaub, Chronicle Pop Culture Critic
New films by Ang Lee, Ben Affleck, Terry George and Marc Forster are among the eclectic slate of movies that will screen during the 30th edition of the Mill Valley Film Festival, running Oct. 4 through 14.
Woody Allen's "Cassandra's Dream," will get its U.S. premiere on October 8 at the Century Cinema, Corte Madera, California, at 9:00 PM as part of the Mill Valley Film Festival.
Tickets go on sale to California Film Institute members today and to the public Sunday. For a full screening schedule and more information, go to mvff.com.
Steve McQueen tops the Nation’s favourite bikers, but Ewan McGregor wins the two-wheeled vote
3rd September 2007
They say the old ones are the best and that certainly seems to be true when it comes to the nation’s favourite biker.
In a new poll conducted by the Motorcycle Industry Association (MCI), a quarter of Brits voted screen legend Steve McQueen their favourite biker of all time and The Great Escape their favourite film with a motorcycle scene or theme.
Second place had a clear split between the sexes, with men preferring Terminator 2: Judgement Day and women favouring Top Gun. Following on were Easy Rider, Quadraphenia, The Mad Max films and Blade.
Despite the fact that Steve McQueen was genuinely an avid motorcyclist and even raced in the ‘60s and early 70s under a pseudonym, he was not the bikers’ favourite. Ewan McGregor won the bikers’ vote, possibly boosted by ‘The Long Way Round’ which followed his 19,000 mile journey from London to New York, and his current overland adventure to Africa.
The bikers’ second place went to Carl Fogarty, four times World Superbike Champion, and Valentino Rossi, the multiple MotoGP World Champion came in third.
Those surveyed were also asked who their ultimate pillion passenger would be, if they could ride a motorbike: top of the list was Angelina Jolie, skewed by the huge vote from men; second was Daniel Craig, receiving a huge vote from women; and third place went to David Beckham, who received a number of votes from both sexes.
The least votes went to Vicky Pollard (of Little Britain fame), Victoria Beckham, Gordon Brown and Kate Moss.
Prince Harry and Simon Cowell faired slightly better, narrowly missing the bottom of the pile status.
The research also looked at the image of biking, revealing that almost half the British public associate motorbikes with fun, freedom and adventure and one in five associate two wheels with cutting journey times and avoiding traffic.
Stars have been arriving at the Venice Film Festival, which opened with the British film Atonement, starring Keira Knightley and James McAvoy.
This year's gala - celebrating its 75th anniversary - also sees the premiere of Kenneth Branagh's thriller Sleuth, with Sir Michael Caine and Jude Law.
Among the arrivals on the first day were Rupert Everett and Vanessa Redgrave and director Jane Campion.
The key winners will be unveiled at the festival's climax on 8 September.
Ang Lee, who won the festival's top prize - the coveted Golden Lion - in 2005 for Brokeback Mountain, will unveil his new film Lust, Caution.
Film-maker Tim Burton, whose credits include Edward Scissorhands and The Nightmare Before Christmas, will be honoured with the Golden Lion lifetime achievement award.
Other films in the main competition include Michael Clayton, a thriller starring George Clooney, while Brad Pitt is expected in the Italian city for the debut of his western, The Assassination of Jesse James.
Woody Allen's latest project, Cassandra's Dream, will also be shown, with an appearance by its stars Colin Farrell and Ewan McGregor.
A series of Spaghetti westerns, curated by director Quentin Tarantino will also run throughout the festival.
For the first time a prize for a film with a gay theme or characters will be awarded.
Atonement, based on the best-selling novel by Ian McEwan, is only the second feature film from 35-year-old director Joe Wright.
The film is already being touted as having Oscar potential, including the performance of Keira Knightley.
Knightley told a Venice news conference that McEwan's novel was "a beautifully drawn character study".
At last year's Venice festival, Dame Helen Mirren took the best actress prize for her role in The Queen, and went on to win a host of honours culminating in an Oscar.
Taiwanese authorities have protested about the festival listing Ang Lee's film as originating from Taiwan, China - suggesting the island state is still part of the People's Republic.
China and Taiwan set up separate governments in 1949, but Beijing still considers Taiwan as part of its territory.
Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council blamed China for influencing the festival programme, saying "the black hand of China has entered the pure world of art" in a statement on its website.
China's state-run China Film Group, which is distributing Lust, Caution on the mainland, said they were not involved in any lobbying to secure the Taiwan, China label.
Ewan McGregor is used to mixing with A-list celebrities, but he met an unforgettable star on a secret visit back to Scotland.
The actor was so taken by brave three-year-old Cameron Glasgow, that he swapped movie scripts for kids books to read the
youngster stories at Robin House Children's Hospice near Loch Lomond.
Cameron, of Symington, Lanarkshire, suffers from Hoyeraal Hreidarsson Syndrome, one of the world's rarest incurable killer
conditions. It means he needs blood transfusions up to three times a week and his heart has to work up to 100 times harder
than normal to keep oxygen pumping through his body.
Ewan, 36, popped into the hospice for a surprise lunch to spearhead a new school fundraising campaign, which launches
Cameron's dad, Hamish, 28, said: "Ewan was really down to earth. He was great with Cameron. He was really relaxed
and you could tell he's a really good dad. He spoke about the little girl who he and his wife adopted and how happy she
had made them."
Ewan and his wife Ève Mavrakis adopted five-year-old Jamiyan from Mongolia. UNICEF ambassador Ewan also met homeless kids
when he visited a children's shelter in the Mongolian capital of Ulan Bator. That is where he is believed to have first
Jamiyan is now settled and best of friends with Ewan's other children, Esther, five, and Clara, 11.
Hamish also revealed there was plenty of movie talk when Ewan came to visit.
"He said the favourite movie he'd done was Trainspotting and the one he liked least was Star Wars," said Hamish.
And there was a surprise in store for Cameron's big sister Rebecca, who received a birthday cake from the star to celebrate
her sixth birthday.
Cameron's mum Debbie, 33, said: "We'll struggle to make next year's birthday as memorable as that.
"Rebecca didn't want to hold Ewan's hand. She doesn't like cake much and later said she would prefer crispy cakes
next year which made us laugh.
"But it was lovely that Ewan made Rebecca feel special. She's a very special girl who looks after her little brother,
even though he pulls her hair."
It was a fabulous day after a tough few years, during which doctors doubted Cameron would survive. Debbie recalls feeling
thrilled when she discovered she was pregnant with Cameron.
Already mum to Rebecca, it felt like the arrival of Cameron would complete their family. But just four weeks before Cameron
was due to be born, midwives struggled to pick up a strong heart beat and estimated he was smaller than he should be.
Cameron was a tiny 3lbs 15oz when he arrived on January 20, 2004. There wasn't even time for Debbie to hold Cameron before
he was rushed to a ventilator.
"He was so tiny and everything happened so quickly," said Debbie.
"My husband only just had time to make it from work to the hospital to see Cameron being born. You had to reach into
the ventilator to hold Cameron's hand."
However, Cameron slowly started to put on weight so when doctors said he was well enough to go home after 16 days, it
felt like they could finally relax.
So at four months when the left side of Cameron's body started shaking, it was very frightening.
Debbie said: "He was lying in his cot and his breathing was irregular. He was very hot and his body was shaking."
Cameron was later diagnosed with Hoyeraal Hreidarsson Syndrome, which meant his bone marrow was failing, causing his blood
platelet levels to plummet.
"We were told no one else in Britain has this," said Debbie. "There have been only a handful of cases in
the world and I've never had the chance to speak to any other parent with a child with it. The oldest surviving case was
a 12-year-old boy."
When he was two, Cameron was having up to 35 seizures a week. Although a healthy person has between 150,000 and 400,000
platelets in their blood, Cameron's levels plunged to 8000. It also meant he lost sight in his right eye.
Then in February 2006, during a routine hospital visit to have a feeding tube fitted, Cameron started fighting for breath.
"He turned blue and you could see the panic in his face," recalls Debbie. "I thought he was dying before
After four weeks in intensive care, tests showed Cameron's heart was enlarged as he was also suffering from pulmonary
hypertension, a condition which means the blood vessels in his lungs are too small for a normal flow.
To compensate, Cameron's heart had to work much harder to keep enough oxygen pumping through his body. It was hard to
take in the doctors' words that the average life expectancy for sufferers was just five years.
Then there was a fresh worry when Debbie discovered she was pregnant again. Doctors warned if they had a baby boy there
would be a 25 per cent chance of him also having the disease.
Debbie said: "There was an element of fear. Cameron is Cameron and we love him, but we would never want to have another
child with so many problems."
But a pregnancy scan at 20 weeks gave them the news they'd been praying for-they were having a girl who would not be affected.
Debbie said: "I cried. I think they were tears of relief."
Jasmine was perfectly healthy when she was born on November 8 last year.
"We chose Hope as her middle name because we thought she would bring some hope into our lives." said Debbie.
"She is the most contented baby I know and she makes us all smile."
Big sister Rebecca also gives them hope, as tests reveal she is an exact bone marrow match for Cameron.
A bone marrow transplant could boost Cameron's quality of life, but he is not yet well enough for the operation to go
For now, Robin House, where Cameron and his family go for short stays to recharge their batteries, remains a lifeline
Debbie said: "It's a lovely place filled with fun and laughter.
"I didn't know what to expect when we first visited. I followed Cameron about all weekend because I felt it was my
place to attend to all his needs. Once I got to know the team involved in Cameron's care, taking a back seat became easier
because I knew Cameron was being well looked after.
"The support from staff and volunteers is exceptional. It's just like having an extended family and even when we're
at home, the support is still there when we need it.
"We love Cameron. He's taught us that every day is a new adventure and you have to make the most of every day together."
'Ewan was really down to earth. He was great with Cameron. He was really relaxed and you could tell he's a good dad'
YOU CAN HELP TOO
EWAN McGREGOR is today spearheading a new hospice fundraising campaign to encourage schools and youth clubs in Scotland
to sign up for the Rachel and Robin Big Read. He's asking every youngster in Scotland to get sponsored to read to raise
cash for children who benefit from hospice care. Kids can pick a reading challenge to suit their ability, anything from
a book a week to ten words a day and will receive a sponsor form, sticker and certificate. Ewan says: "Here I am reading
my favourite book with Cameron in the library at Robin House." Since Scotland's first children's hospice opened in
July 1996, Ewan has been a strong supporter. The Record was a driving force behind building Rachel House, reaching our £10million
target in 30 months. A second CHAS hospice, Robin House, was opened near Loch Lomond in Balloch in 2005. To sign up, call
Susan Lowes on 0131 444 1900 or email email@example.com.
George Clooney is expected, as is Jodie Foster. Publicists are already beginning to plan their itineraries. Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell are also as confirmed as they can be at this point.
Woody Allen will be around, although likely keeping a low profile, say those involved with his film, Cassandra's Dream. If she wanted to, Cate Blanchett could well walk away with the spotlight. But it's looking like her public appearances may be limited to a red-carpet walk and a crowded press conference - if, that is, she shows up in Toronto at all.
That's the kind of confirmation celebrity-gawkers have to make do with, as they gear up for the Toronto International Film Festival. Even TIFF officials, and the legion of publicists working next month's festival, aren't 100-per-cent sure yet who will be appearing at what events or when.
But prior to Tuesday's announcement of which celebrities and filmmakers are at least expected to attend, most publicity insiders have at least some idea of who may be showing up.
Blanchett is returning to the role of Elizabeth I in the period extravaganza Elizabeth: The Golden Age, which also stars Geoffrey Rush, Clive Owen and Samantha Morton. And it's a premiere, which adds heft to its gala presentation at TIFF - and bodes well for stargazers. But word so far is that the stars won't be making the rounds of press interviews for the film at the Toronto festival.
For autograph seekers, that's not great news. More publicity commitments for the stars mean more time in and out of hotel lobbies, and more occasions to hold out your notepad and felt-tipped marker. And yet, given the fact that Blanchett also stars in the TIFF film I'm Not There, as Bob Dylan in his early electric phase, it's safe to say that Blanchett won't be seen aimlessly strolling around Yorkville pining for attention.
Neither will Clooney or Foster, who have a series of press events being planned for their films. Clooney stars with Sydney Pollack in the legal drama Michael Clayton, another festival gala; while Foster stars in director Neil Jordan's new film The Brave One.
Reese Witherspoon, Jake Gyllenhaal and Peter Sarsgaard are scheduled to arrive to promote the espionage thriller Rendition. Early indications are that co-star Meryl Streep, however, won't be with them.
There are rumours that Susan Sarandon might actually come to Toronto twice during the festival - to promote both In the Valley of Elah and the closing-night gala, Emotional Arithmetic. Her co-star in Elah, Tommy Lee Jones, is also in the Coen brothers' No Country for Old Men and is scheduled to attend TIFF.
Yet another Elah co-star, Charlize Theron, also has another film at TIFF, by long-time beau Stuart Townsend, titled Battle in Seattle. So Theron and Townsend are possibilities, as are the film's other stars, Woody Harrelson and André Benjamin.
There are a few confirmed notables. McGregor and Farrell are promoting Allen's Cassandra's Dream. Viggo Mortensen and Naomi Watts are coming for David Cronenberg's Eastern Promises. Jimmy Smits and Mario Bello are arriving for The Jane Austen Book Club. (Bello is also in Nothing is Private, co-starring Toni Collette.)
Kiera Knightley is coming for Silk (and she also has another TIFF film, Atonement), while Danny Glover is expected to lend support for Honeydripper and Poor Boy's Game. Carrie-Anne Moss is still to be confirmed, but is nevertheless expected to arrive for director Carl Bessai's Normal. The writer Ariel Dorfman and talk-show pioneer Phil Donahue will also be at the fest, talking up their respective documentaries.
Evan Rachel Wood is coming, for Across the Universe. Bono has a role in that film, too. Still, despite his previous and profuse comments about Toronto's beautiful people two years ago (when U2 played Toronto at the same time as TIFF), one publicist close to Across the Universe indicated that she'd be very surprised if Bono showed up this year.
Then there are the other big maybes. Joaquin Phoenix will have press, publicists and paparazzi scrambling if he comes in support of Reservation Road.
It's also too early to tell who of Blanchett's co-stars in I'm Not There will show; they include Christian Bale, Julianne Moore, Michelle Williams, Heath Ledger and Charlotte Gainsbourg.
Reports are that Sean Penn will likely show for Into the Wild, which he directed. If he does arrive, the big question will be whether he repeats last year's smoking-indoors faux pas.
Then there's Brad Pitt. He came in 2006. And he's in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, as James no less.
Words is that Pitt press events at TIFF are being organized - but again, there's that old refrain: nothing totally confirmed. When celebrities are involved, it ain't happening till it happens.
Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman to raise more funds for UNICEF
16 August 2007
During their latest epic motorbike adventure, Long Way Down, Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman teamed up with Buffera Ltd to produce a customised High UV Protection Buff® to help raise money for their charity partner UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund.
A powerhouse casting was announced for the movie "He’s Not That Into You" starring Jennifer Aniston, Scarlett Johansson, Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Connely and Ewan McGregor and they start shooting this September.
Jennifer Connelly, Kevin Connolly, Bradley Cooper, Justin Long and Ginnifer Goodwin are in negotiations to star in "He's Just Not That Into You" for New Line Cinema. Drew Barrymore is set to star in the ensemble comedy and is also producing via her Flower Films banner with partner Nancy Juvonen.
Ken Kwapis is directing "Into You," which is based on the best-selling book that is a social commentary about modern-day relationships and how men and women often misconstrue the intentions of the opposite sex. The book was written by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo, who worked together on "Sex and the City" as a consultant and writer, respectively. Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein, who penned the Barrymore starrer "Never Been Kissed," wrote the adaptation.
Almost in a "'Traffic' of comedy" style, the Baltimore-set movie of interconnecting story arcs deals with the challenges of reading or misreading human behavior. Jennifer Connelly plays a woman stuck in a tired marriage with Cooper's character. Kevin Connolly, meanwhile, is a man pining after a woman, still not cast, who is having an affair with Cooper.
Goodwin is a young woman obsessed with Kevin Connolly's character who tries to set up accidental meetings with him only to run across his friend, played by Long, who takes her on as a "My Fair Lady" experiment.
Barrymore plays a woman perpetually confused by dating, now more than ever in a culture that is more obsessed with technology than actual human contact.
Production is due to start early September in Los Angeles.
Jennifer Connelly, most recently seen in "Blood Diamond," is repped by ICM, while Long, who was in "Live Free or Die Hard," is repped by UTA. Kevin Connolly ("Entourage") and Goodwin ("Big Love") are repped by WMA. Cooper and Barrymore are repped by CAA. Cooper is additionally repped by Thruline Entertainment.
Overseeing "Into You" for New Line are production executives Michele Weiss and Michael Disco.
Q&A with the winners of the Long Way Down ride with Ewan and Charley
14 August 2007 By Rob Hull
Last week Paul Caunce and Peter Elgin returned from a trip of a lifetime riding alongside Long Way Down stars Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman.
The pair paid over £10,000 each at this year’s Riders for Health Day of Champions to ride the last two days of the 15,000 mile adventure.
Here are their thoughts on the activities out in South Africa.
MCN: What was it about Long Way Down that made you want to spend over £10,000 to go?
PC: The only reason I even considered to start biking in the first place was because of Long Way Round. The opportunity to ride with Ewan and Charley was worth a lot to me, certainly more than £12,000, and the fact that it was supporting Riders for Health was a big incentive – Rider is a charity I’ve raised money for in the past and is something I feel quite strongly about.
KE: Like most people who’ve watched Long Way Round, I was captured by the fact that two guys, who obviously have a very close friendship, were able to go on an adventure not knowing what was going to happen. I was caught by the fact they were very grounded, very honest and very real – they’re not up their own arses – they’re just good guys. It was an entertaining programme to watch. I ride a bike everyday and have a GS Adventure like what they used in the Long Way Round, so when I saw in MCN you could buy a spot to ride with them I knew I had to do it.
MCN: What was it like when you first met Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman?
PC: The first person we saw was Ewan McGregor who popped his head round the corner of the door in this room we were in - it was like looking at a TV screen, very surreal. Both were really welcoming, accommodating and approachable. It was like having a couple of regular guys to talk to. They were like I’d hoped they’d be – I hoped they would be easy to talk to and they were. We had dinner with them on the Friday night and I got to sit next to Ewan and straight across from Charley and spoke to them on a one-to-one level – it was fantastic.
KE: Meeting them for the first time was very surreal. Ewan said to me straight away, “Hi Keith, so glad you could make it down here”, and I just stopped dead and came out with some stupid comment. We were invited round for dinner with them and the whole team on a huge long table – Paul and I thought we’d sit at the end out of the way but they were having nothing of it – they plonked us in the middle and gave us the attention we didn’t expect to get – we were part of their evening. I was so nervous but within ten minutes of being there they made us feel at home – they are just normal guys. Charley is amazing – he’s a bouncy character who loves his family but there’s a small boy under there who is dying to bubble out.
MCN: What was the best moment for you?
PC: Having dinner with them on the Friday night was the highlight because I got to ask them anything I wanted to and they had stuff they wanted to share with me. But I did get to ride Charley Boorman’s bike when they were packing it away which was a high point. It was all over and they’d done the MCN shoot, and when they were putting the bikes away they let me ride his bike up and down the street.
KE: Two moments did it for me. The first was sitting at the table when the guys were talking to us and I had to pinch myself to realise I was in their company. And the other was going down a 70mph route with the helicopter flying ten feet above me.
MCN: Was the arrival like in Cape Town?
PC: It was a fantastic feeling – you could feel it in the atmosphere. We could see how happy and proud Ewan and Charley were to have completed the journey and the huge ride from Cape Aghulis to Cape Town was superb because loads of South African bikers joined us – when I turned round while riding there were bikers as far as the eye could see.
KE: It was phenomenal. There was a special arrival lunch at Cape Aghulis for select people only, and Paul and I both attended which was something superb. And the ride into Cape Town was great – especially to see how special it was to Ewan and Charley.
MCN: Were there any particular funny moments?
PC: While riding there was a helicopter doing some aerial shooting literally ten feet above my head – it was like something from a James Bond movie. You’re on sweeping mountain road with steep cliffs and the blue sea and a helicopter filming while you’re following Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman – it was incredible.
KE: Both guys were really good fun and there were so many moments. It was so great to be there with them and at the end of it all I got them to sign my leather bike jacket which I’ll keep forever now. I’m still having flash backs of the journey and have to remind myself I went and it wasn’t just a dream.
MCN: So was it worth all that money?
PC: I tell you what, if they ever do Long Way Up, to do the same thing again I’d pay at least double if that’s what it took. I think Long Way Up is on the agenda, but if it ever happens I would absolutely love to be part of that in any way.
KE: I would seriously do the same thing again. We were involved as part of the team and we were part of Long Way Down. I can put my hand on my heart and say Ewan and Charley know me by first name and I’d like to thank everyone who gave me the opportunity to go.
Ewan McGregor urges dads to take up reading to their tots
Hollywood star heads up campaign to find the nation's top storytelling father
Dads... They're happy to join in with the physical rough-and-tumble play with their children but, when it comes to sharing a bedtime story, it seems they're still lagging way behind mums in the reading rates.
That's why Ladybird books has launched its Daddy Cool campaign in time for Father's Day, and fronted by Hollywood-hottie Ewan McGregor, to persuade dads that reading to their kids is cool, and to find the nation's top storytelling father.
Ewan, dad to daughters Clara, 10; Esther, five; and Jamyan, four was a keen reader to all three: 'The importance of sharing a book with your child can't be overestimated,' he says.
Click here for mums' recommendations of books your tots will love.
I'm writing this in the "Three Bells" pub at Terminal 3, Heathrow Airport. I've found a comfy corner as I'll be here a while. I left the house (in Perthshire) this morning at 11.30 - still packing at 10am - and I was dismayed to see all the concrete blocks outside the terminal building at Edinburgh airport. Such a shame that Scotland is now embroiled in terrorist threats.
Carol McGregor, during a 2005 visit to Pakistan for Sightsavers International.
Last week, I received an email from Haroon in the Pakistani Sightsavers International office, being very apologetic and sympathetic about the bomb threat at Glasgow Airport. He was just re-thanking the Scottish people for all their generosity after the Pakistan earthquake when Scotland sent more than £2m.
All this fanaticism affects us all.
I am very excited about the trip to Malawi to get publicity for SSI and, needless to say, it'll be wonderful for me to see Ewan in Lilongwe.
The logistics of the "meeting" are, to say the least, difficult. Timings have changed from them arriving one day early to three days late! I am in touch with David Alexanian, the producer of Long Way Down, and now he assures me they won't be more than two days late!
We had hoped to meet up on the Saturday but now it's looking like Monday or Tuesday. I hope this doesn't disrupt the SSI project visits too much.
Ewan knows nothing of my visit. I follow his progress on the BBC website and last night I watched a clip of him falling off his bike and hitting his head, albeit in a helmet, on the road. Not nice to see. I know it happened more than a week ago, but he was so down in the interview, I just wanted him to give it all up! He won't of course.
Eve (Ewan's wife) is now out in Malawi and joining Ewan at the Tanzanian border to ride with him for two weeks. She doesn't know I'll be there either. I do admire her courage for undertaking all the training and even learning to ride a motorbike in the first place.
Chris Moyles on Radio 1 gave Ewan a hard time this morning in his weekly interview because his wife was joining him and Charley's (Charley Boorman, Ewan's travelling companion) wasn't. What will he say when his Mum also turns up! I'll only be with them over one night though and will not interrupt their trip at all.
I just hope it all goes to plan.
Terminal 3 is just packed with people of all nationalities. It's such a drab place, but work is going on to improve it, hopefully.
I met up with Ann (SSI media manager) right on time and we checked in at the only desk that didn't have a queue – Ethiopian Airways, first to Rome and then on to Addis Ababa before another flight into Malawi.
Friday July 13
The flight was late into Addis Ababa, which looks like a nice town – from the airport window. Some high rise buildings, no skyscrapers and a lot of trees. Two mosque towers.
The flight to Lilongwe was delayed one and a half hours but no problem with the flight. Met at airport by Ronnie Graham, east central Africa regional manager for SSI. I first met him in Bangladesh. It was nice to see him again and meet Johnny – the local driver.
Drove straight to the country lodge where we are staying. The room is very African with high wooden ceilings, all wood furniture and mosquito nets around the bed.
Met Sandra - an advocate for the Malawi government - for dinner. We hear the mortgage rate was recently 45% but has now dropped to 18% under the new government, which is still in a minority situation (like Scotland).
Ann came to tell me Ewan was on Channel 3! Can you believe I'm in Malawi and watching Ewan in Young Adam on TV!
Saturday July 14
Breakfast at 8.00am, then we were on the long and bumpy road to Lilongwe. I worry about Eve managing these "corrugated iron" type conditions on her bike.
David phoned today from the Malawi border, around lunch time so Ewan and Eve will now have met up.
Met Georgina, the photographer who flew in from Nairobi this morning to take photos for SSI. Had dinner with Georgina, photographer, Sarah Epstein from UNICEF, and Ann.
I so admire these young women for the jobs they do. Ann had previously worked in Peru. Georgina has photographed women in conditions at the mines in Congo and Sarah has dealt with child prostitution in Thailand and AIDS in Africa.
Sunday July 15
We left for Lake Malawi at 10am. Went to Livingstonia Beach Lodge Complex, lovely beach and waves on the lake! Beautiful spot.
Had a buffet lunch then went on to a tropical fish farm, miles from anywhere, but near the lakes. Divers catch the fish and they are put in a variety of tanks. All beautiful colours. They are sold all over the world.
Then went on to a crocodile farm - absolutely fascinating. Ranging from babies to full grown old ones about 10ft long. Vicious looking things, but so still they almost looked dead until they move and then it's very fast (farmed for their skin and also meat).
A long drive back in the dark. Lots of people on the roadsides and bikes – no lights at all. Really dangerous.
Monday July 16
Left at 8am to see an opthalmic screening programme at Mchingi. Meet the ophthalmologist, Michael. He does this screening only once a year and probably 200 people to see in a day. First, they register, then sit outside on the ground, wait their turn to see a very basic eye test by a nurse. Then they go on to see the doctor, who prescribes creams or drops and refers to the hospital for cataract operations.
They go that afternoon, have the operation tomorrow.
Then to a village to visit two women who have had cataract operations and had their sight returned. A TV camera was with us all day from Malawi TV. SSI haven't been on local TV since 2001.
Living conditions are just so appalling – hens, pigs, goats all wandering through their village and the children are just filthy.
We caused great excitement and a lot of laughter which was good. The husband of the lady who had her sight restored was very pleased because prior to the operation she could not do "the housework as HE found it difficult to carry the water!"
We then visited a local hospital - a general hospital with an ophthalmologist and beds only in a general ward.
I find these hospitals quite difficult; the smell of bleach and lots of people is quite overpowering at times.
The general wards were so crowded. The men's ward had mattresses on the floor and even just rush mats, for people who had just had operations. Families were with patients and were sitting on beds and it was such an overpowering place.
We were escorted into the theatre and watched two cataract operations on adults. The hygiene is so poor. Only the area around the eye is swabbed. The floor under the operating table is soiled and even the sheet they lie on is stained and dirty.
The ophthalmologist was very nice but said his hand shakes when there are visitors! Such delicate work. I felt a bit emotional with it all and when I changed out of my white wellies and green gown I was glad to leave.
Back at base we decide on tomorrow's plans for meeting Ewan. I'm so excited about that.
Tuesday July 17
Up at 6am and away at 7am to visit two schools. Had a bit of a tummy upset and worried about the long journey. However, I took an immodium and Georgina gave me a sachet of Diaralyte and I manage to overcome it. Not really at my best but did interviews at both schools.
The first one had 1,552 pupils and just ten teachers. Big campus but no resources.
I went to see a seven-year-old boy, called Andrew, who has only just been integrated into a P1 class. He is blind and very badly co-ordinated. A teacher found him and discovered he'd been kept indoors all his life. The teacher has very little help in coping with him – but she seemed to handle him fine. He was the size of a three-year old.
The next school was larger and more organised. An older boy was using visual aids – a small telescope and a magnifying glass and seemed to be coping well in the large class.
They were learning English, by rote, but were enthusiastic and the teacher was good. The walls were brown, the floor, where the pupils sit, was hard earth. The teacher had a wooden desk in one corner, otherwise no furniture.
It is a slow process but with the help of SSI, these pupils with visual difficulties are being found and are now in learning. Vincent was with us from the Malawian Education Department for Special Needs. I wonder what he would think of the equipment and resources at a school like Kingspark (where I worked in Dundee).
We left around 11am and drove back to Kumbali Lodge to prepare for Ewan's arrival!
We just got to the barrier before the hotel, when a vehicle came up behind us followed by Charley, Ewan and Eve on bikes.
We had a really quick drive into the hotel so that Ewan wouldn't know I was there. I dashed for my room to basically hide, until it was time for me to go to the reception to surprise Ewan.
It worked so well. He had no idea and when I gave him a coke and a glass he was amazed! It was a wonderful moment and so lovely to see him again. Eve was there too and it was a very special moment.
We met up again at 5.30pm for a trip to Lilongwe to a drinks reception at the British Ambassador's residence.
We later had a lovely dinner together but as the motorbikers have to be up early everyone left by about 10.30.
Ronnie gave Ann, Georgina and I a present from the SSI office – a Malawi apron, an African cloth and a plate from Mammamia (a local restaurant).
Wednesday July 18
Said goodbye to Ewan, Eve and Charley at 7am. I told Ewan we would be in Cape Town when he arrives and he was delighted. I didn't think it warranted another surprise, especially when Jim (his father) will be riding a bit with them.
Left the hotel at 10.45 for the journey home. Lilongwe, Lusaka, Addis Ababa, Rome, London, Edinburgh.
BBC America presents one of the UK's most popular all-time television franchises. Irreverent, witty, and refreshingly honest, the award-winning Top Gear is a motor show like no other.
Featuring super-cars, stunts, time trials, and road tests, each week Top Gear assesses the performance of some of the most desirable cars around. But it is the sharp wit of its presenters, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May, that makes Top Gear more than just a motor show.
Led by Jeremy, the Top Gear team takes cars to the limit and beyond to find out if they're as good as their manufacturers claim. Full of stunts, challenges, and special features, Top Gear is exciting, inclusive, and passionate - there are no boring stats and impenetrable conversations about camshafts and tire pressures. Instead, Top Gear accelerates away from the competition with authoritative information, entertainment, and loads of style.
One for the most successful and interesting phenomenons on UK television, Top Gear defies genre. Part factual and part entertainment, the Emmy-winning car show doesn't fit into any standard category. As well as test drives and car trials on location, Top Gear features a live studio audience, star guests, and celebrities driving decidedly non-celebrity cars. Famous names appearing this season include actors Ewan McGregor, Ray Winstone, and Sir Michael Gambon as well as celebrity chefs Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver.
Eighty-five days after setting off from John O’Groats, actors Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman have completed their Long Way Down voyage by reaching Cape Town, South Africa.
Three months and 18 countries had gone by when the duo crossed the finish line on Saturday afternoon against the spectacular backdrop of Table Mountain.
When asked about the 15,000 mile journey Ewan McGregor said, “It’s been incredible. It feels like a real privilege.
“You just don’t see some of the remote villages that we have ridden through unless you are an aid worker – these are real mud-hut, thatched roof-villages, not really places tourists get to go.
”We have had our ups and downs though, as you would expect.”
Charley Boorman agreed with his riding compatriot. He said, “It’s been great, but I’m, starting to worry about stopping it, you know, because our life for the last twelve weeks has been just been riding the bikes, watching the landscape change around us, and meeting people, and doing amazing things, and it’s going to stop.
”And I’m really sensing that, and I’m starting to worry a little about that, you know, the idea of it ending is kind of sad. But it’s good, we’re here and we’ve done it.”
To find out even more about the journey check out the August 8 issue of MCN where we speak exclusively to the Long Way Down pair.
Television adventurers Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman were greeted by champagne, media and roaring motorbikes as they cruised into Cape Town on Saturday to complete the final leg of their journey from the north of Scotland to the tip of Africa.
It was the end of their Long Way Down tour - a three-month journey from John O'Groats in Scotland to Cape Agulhas and then Cape Town, covering 24 000km on BMW R1200GS motorbikes.
It followed their televised journey through Asia, Long Way Round, which is being aired on DStv.
Their travels drew to a close on Milnerton beach on Saturday, where the pair, looking tired but happy, were met by fans, journalists and photographers.
McGregor is the star of blockbusters such as Star Wars and Moulin Rouge, while Boorman has been in several films, including Deliverance and The Serpent's Kiss.
McGregor said they had done the tour, to raise money for disadvantaged children, to experience Africa rather than just hear about its poverty and conflict through the media.
"It was a time for reflection one of the wonders of Africa is that it is a very complex continent," he said.
According to McGregor, the journey had awoken him to the plight of Africa's children. He had met a number of Ethiopian children who had lost limbs after stepping on landmines.
Proceeds of the tour will go to Unicef's "Unite for children, unite against Aids" campaign, which focuses on helping children affected by poverty, conflict and HIV and Aids.
Boorman and McGregor will be in Cape Town for a few days before a holiday reunion with their families "somewhere in Africa".
They have faced blinding sandstorms, flash floods, rampaging rhinos and even the odd burst tyre, but after 15,000 miles they have finally reached their goal.
Ewan McGregor and his friend and fellow actor Charley Boorman have completed an attempt to motorbike from John O'Groats to Cape Town.
Yesterday, after the gruelling trip which spanned three months and took the pair through 18 countries, they reached the finishing line.
The epic journey - dubbed the Long Way Down - will help raise money and awareness for three specially chosen charities; CHAS (Children's Hospice Association of Scotland), Unicef and Riders For Health, which distributes medical supplies and food to remote parts of Africa by motorbike.
Trainspotting and Star Wars star McGregor was euphoric after reaching his South African destination.
"It's been incredible, just incredible," he said. "Some of the places that we have passed through are almost indescribably beautiful, like something out of an Indiana Jones film. It's a great feeling and a real privilege to have achieved our goal.
"We've had the opportunity to see such different ways of life to ours and have travelled to remote places very few people have access to. The sense of freedom and exploration has been incredible."
Boorman added: "We were both up for an adventure and Africa has certainly given us that. There have been times when it has been unbelievably hard going but that has been countered by amazing riding and extraordinary people."
The intrepid pair were followed on every mile of their journey by a documentary camera crew.
"From sandstorms to floods, mosquitos to rhinoceroses we've encountered everything on Long Way Down," said film-maker Russ Malkin.
The journey will be shown in a BBC2 series this autumn.
British actors Ewan McGregor, right, and Charley Boorman pose for a photograph after reaching Cape L'Agulhas, Africa's most southern tip where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet Saturday Aug. 4, 2007. McGregor and Boorman had left Scotland 85 days ago and traveled through Europe and Africa by motorcycle, in a trip dubbed 'The Long Way Down.'. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
British actor Ewan McGregor,left, and Charley Boorman ride towards Cape Town, South Africa, after reaching Cape L'Agulhas, Africa's most southern tip where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet Saturday Aug. 4, 2007. McGregor and Boorman had left Scotland 85 days ago and traveled through Europe and Africa by motorcycle, in a trip dubbed 'The Long Way Down.'. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
British actors Ewan McGregor, second left, and Charley Boorman, right, are tracked by a helicopter on their way to Cape Town after reaching Cape L'Agulhas, Africa's most southern tip where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet Saturday Aug. 4, 2007. McGregor and Boorman left Scotland 85 days ago and traveled through Europe and Africa by motorcycle, in a trip dubbed 'The Long Way Down'. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
British actor Charley Boorman fools around on his motorcycle as he and Ewan McGregor ride to Cape Town after reaching Cape L'Agulhas, Africa's most southern tip where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet Saturday Aug. 4, 2007. McGregor and Boorman left Scotland 85 days ago and traveled through Europe and Africa by motorcycle, in a trip dubbed 'The Long Way Down'. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
British actors Ewan McGregor, left, and Charley Boorman lead a pack of motorcyclists on the way to Cape Town after reaching Cape L'Agulhas, Africa's most southern tip where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet, Saturday Aug. 4, 2007. McGregor and Boorman left Scotland 85 days ago, travelling through Europe and Africa by motorcycle, in a trip dubbed 'The Long Way Down.'. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
With Table Mountain in the backdrop, British actors Ewan McGregor, left, and Charley Boorman, wave to fans on their arrival in Cape Town after reaching Cape L'Agulhas, Africa's most southern tip where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet Saturday Aug. 4, 2007. McGregor and Boorman had left Scotland 85 days ago and traveled through Europe and Africa by motorcycle, in a trip dubbed 'The Long Way Down.'. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
British actors Ewan McGregor, left, and Charley Boorman celebrate on their arrival in Cape Town after reaching Cape L'Agulhas, Africa's most southern tip where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet Saturday Aug. 4, 2007. McGregor and Boorman left Scotland 85 days ago and traveled through Europe and Africa by motorcycle, in a trip dubbed 'The Long Way Down'. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
Actors Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman celebrate the end of "Long Way Round" in Cape Town, August 4, 2007. The tour aimed to raise awareness of children's issues to the international community. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings (SOUTH AFRICA)
British actor Ewan McGregor is seen with Table Mountain, background, after he and Charley Boorman reached Cape L'Agulhas, Africa's most southern tip where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet Saturday Aug. 4, 2007. McGregor and Boorman left Scotland 85 days ago and traveled through Europe and Africa by motorcycle, in a trip dubbed 'The Long Way Down'. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
British actors Ewan McGregor,left, and Charley Boorman ride the final yards to Cape L'Agulhas, Africa's most southern tip where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet Saturday Aug. 4, 2007. McGregor and Boorman left Scotland 85 days ago and traveled through Europe and Africa by motorcycle, in a trip dubbed 'The Long Way Down'. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
In three months they’ve covered over 24 140 kilometres through 20 countries, but now Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman are relaxing and celebrating the success of the Long Way Down at the ArabellaSheraton Grand Hotel, Cape Town.
The epic adventure started at John O’Groats, the northernmost point in Scotland and saw the pair ride across Libya, through the deserts of Sudan and the wastelands of Ethopia. Then they rode through the jungles of Uganda and Rwanda, Tanzania and Botswana, before travelling down the Skeleton Coast and into South Africa. The final stretch of the journey will take them to Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point of Africa on 4 August before travelling to Cape Town for an arrival celebration.
The journey, in support of UNICEF, the Children’s Hospice Association Scotland (CHAS) and Riders for Health, is being filmed for the BBC and will air later this year.
Before they left, producer and director Russ Malkin of Big Earth said: “If we all turn up in Cape Town healthy and happy, that will be the most amazing moment in my life.”
He, Charley Boorman, Ewan McGregor, David Alexanian of Elixir Films and their team will be enjoying four well-deserved days to relax at the ArabellaSheraton Grand Hotel in Cape Town before returning to the UK.
“We host many famous guests from all over the world, but Ewan and Charley are definately two of our most unusual arrivals, having travelled through Europe and down the length of Africa on motorcycles,” said Heinz F. Grub, General Manager of the ArabellaSheraton Grand Hotel.
“We are proud to be associated with the event and look forward to the celebration of their success on 4 August. After all the festivities, they will have some time to wash off the travel dust and rest what must be very weary bones. We’ll ensure that they return home relaxed and reinvigorated.”
LIKE millions of others, Keith Elgin tuned in every week to watch Ewan McGregor's epic motorcycle journey around the world.
Little did the Edinburgh garage owner know that three years later he would be joining the Star Wars actor and his sidekick Charley Boorman on their latest adventure.
The 48-year-old lifelong motorcycle enthusiast won a charity auction for the chance to ride beside the pair on the last stretch of their trip from Scotland to the tip of South Africa.
He was due to meet the pair at a secret location hundreds of miles north of Cape Town today where their three month "Long Way Down" trip will come to an end.
Keith, who owns Keith Elgin Motors in Morningside, said he had "religiously" followed the original Long Way Round adventure on TV.
He said: "I've ridden bikes all my life. I was just smitten by watching the Long Way Round. For me, it epitomised the freedom and exhilaration of the sport.
"I've always wanted to go out and do something like that, but it's hard to take the time off to do it."
McGregor and Boorman set off from John O'Groats in May on the latest 15,000 mile journey, to raise money for Unicef and other children's charities.
Back in Edinburgh, Keith spotted an advert in a motorcycle magazine offering the chance to join them.
"They decided to auction two places to join them on the last day for charity.
"I only found out the day before. I had to do it by telephone. I paid £10,000 which was a huge donation to charity, which I raised by selling a bike. But it's a once in a lifetime experience. When I was 15, I was counting down the days till I got my licence.
"I always remember having motorcycle pictures on my wall. But the longest journey I've ever done is around Scotland with a friend."
His donation will go to help a charity, Riders for Health, which distributes medical supplies and food to remote parts of Africa by motorbike.
Keith flew to Cape Town on Thursday, where he was lent a BMW motorcycle for the journey. They will spend all day biking along dirt tracks and main roads in South Africa, reaching Cape Town this evening. They will be accompanied by a BBC camera crew.
He said: "They're keeping the location pretty quiet, but I've been given an itinerary. The guys will be looking after me. They seem pretty grounded guys. I've already met Charley at a bike show at Ingliston and he seemed really nice. They obviously have a very close friendship.
"There's a big party on the finishing line, which should be interesting. They know quite a lot of famous people.
"Being in the limelight is the one thing that scares me more than anything else. The whole trip is being filmed for a BBC series. But I think I'll get used to it."
He said one regret was his wife Mandy, a vet, and three children were not accompanying him. He said: "I'm hugely indebted to my wife. She's backed me all the way. I did it with her blessing. I'm just sorry she's not able to go too."
Cassandra's Dream to play at the Toronto Film Festival
Thurs., Aug. 2, 2007 By Tamsen Tillson
Julie Taymor's movie musical "Across the Universe" and Woody Allen's London-set crimer "Cassandra's Dream" have been programmed as Galas at the 32nd annual Toronto International Film Festival.
Fresh from its out of competition screening in Venice, the North American premiere of "Cassandra's Dream" from Woody Allen is the tale of impecunious brothers (Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell) who venture into crime in order to better their lives.
ROME -- A bevy of pics from both Hollywood and Blighty will disembark at the star-studded 64th Venice Film Festival, which will also see robust lineups from Europe and Asia and a balanced mix of established auteurs and younger filmmakers.
Woody Allen's London-set crimer "Cassandra's Dream" is unspooling out of competition, with Allen and key cast Colin Farrell and Ewan McGregor expected the first weekend. Also non-competing is the international bow of Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini's "The Nanny Diaries," toplining Scarlett Johansson as a nanny in a wealthy Manhattan household, from the Weinstein Co.
Tim Burton will be feted with a Golden Lion for career achievement during a special Tim Burton Day that will feature the 3-D version of his pic "The Nightmare Before Christmas."
Venice, the world's oldest film festival, is celebrating its 75th anni this year; fest held its first edition on the Excelsior terrace in 1932. However, this edition is the Lido's 64th because WWII and 1968 student protests forced it to skip a few years.
Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman begin final stint on Long Way Down
26 July 2007 11:16 By Rob Hull
Long Way Down stars Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman are encountering the final stages of their motorcycle ride that culminates in Cape Town next week.
In a live interview on the Chris Moyles show with Scott Mills this morning on BBC Radio 1, Ewan McGregor told how the pair were due to arrive in Namibia today.
”We are currently in Botswana at the moment on a deep sand road on the way to Namibia,” said McGregor.
“We had been in Botswana for only an hour and had seen elephants, snakes and giraffes.”
Ewan McGregor’s wife, Ève Mavrakis, has finished her eight-day stint with the pair and McGregor told MCN she had coped very well with the motorcycle riding.
The satellite signal in Botswana meant the phone communication continuously went dead, and there wasn’t enough time to hear from Charley Boorman.
The duo are due for arrival in Cape Town where they will be joined by the two individuals who paid for the chance to ride the last two days with the boys at this year’s Riders for Health Day of Champions.
For the full update from Ewan McGregor check out next weeks MCN, on sale from August 1.
Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman take the ‘Long Way Down’ to support landmine education
24 July 2007 By Amy Bennett
NEW YORK, USA – Riding a motorcycle from Northern Scotland all the way to South Africa may not be the most expedient form of travel. But for Goodwill Ambassador Ewan McGregor and UNICEF supporter Charley Boorman, it is the trip of a lifetime – an adventure which is helping to raise funds and awareness for children.
In 2004, the two friends and fellow actors took their first groundbreaking motorcycle journey called Long Way Round which helped bring attention to the humanitarian efforts of UNICEF in the Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Mongolia. Inspired by what they saw, they were both motivated to become long-term supporters of UNICEF.
Now their second trip, Long Way Down, is taking them through Ethiopia, Uganda and Malawi where they are meeting children affected by conflict and HIV/AIDS.
The journey is being catalogued as a documentary as well as a book, DVD, CD and interactive website. The documentary is being produced and directed by Russ Malkin, who also produced ‘Missing Face’ a film in which Ewan and Charlie report from Southern Africa on how children’s lives are affected by HIV/AIDS.
‘An essential life-saving intervention’
The Long Way Down team recently visited the Tigray region in Northern Ethiopia, which was heavily mined during the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea from 1998 - 2000. Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced during the two year conflict around Tigray and returned to find their homes, land and schools were heavily mined. Ewan and Charlie met with mine-affected children and talked with UNICEF staff about current programmes.
“Educating children about landmines is so vital for children’s futures,” said Mr. McGregor. “With landmines and unexploded ordnance lying in homes, fields, rivers and schools in Ethiopia and other countries, I can really see how UNICEF’s Mine Risk Education is an essential life-saving intervention.”
Successful programmes for vulnerable children
Since 2000, UNICEF has actively reduced landmine incidents in Tigray through a successful Mine Risk Education programme. Curious children in this area are particularly vulnerable to landmine accidents when they go out to search for wood, play or pick cactus fruits.
The Mine Risk Education programme in Tigray has reached over 200,000 youths through school clubs, educational performances and counselling. Children learn what mines look like, what to do if they find themselves in a mine field and how to react if someone else is hurt.
UNICEF is also supporting a programme for disabled children who have lost limbs to mines and hopes to provide mobility tricycles for 3,000 children in order to enable them to reintegrate into society.
Although 80 per cent of the landmines have now been cleared in Tigray, Mine Risk Education remains a life-saving intervention in case children wander into unsafe areas.
Follow the ‘Long Way Down’
As a charity partner of Long Way Down, UNICEF is helping to raise money for children affected by conflict, poverty and HIV across Africa.
A Long Way Down television series will air on the BBC during the Autumn/Winter season of 2007. It will air around the world at a later date. To get updates on Ewan and Charley’s trip visit www.longwaydown.com. To find out more about how Long Way Down and UNICEF work together, visit www.unicef.org.uk/longwaydown.
The film stars Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman interrupt their 15,000-mile bike trip the length of Africa to tell tales of guns, sandstorms and the joys of going unrecognised
Deep in the African bush Sarah Finlay and Henry Douglas, two Scottish conservation workers, were in conversation about the future of Kenyan rhinos when they heard the sound of motorbike engines. They looked up as the bikes approached, trailing blood-red dust, and when the riders dismounted heard the unmistakable burr of home.
“This was the last place I expected to hear a Scottish accent,” says Finlay, “never mind bump into a Hollywood movie star. We couldn’t believe it when we realised who it was.”
Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman, last seen on these pages disappearing eastward in 2004 aboard two BMW off-road motorbikes, have swapped the snow of Siberia for the sands of the African savannah. The pair are en route to Cape Town after setting off from John o’ Groats in May, and are now crossing Malawi, more than halfway through a trip that takes in 20 countries, including Libya, Ethiopia, Sudan and Rwanda.
The journey hasn’t been easy. The pair have had to contend with sandstorms that reduced visibility to a few feet, border crossings guarded by fidgety soldiers, damaged bikes and an indigenous population whose favoured fashion accessory is an AK47 assault rifle. It is about as far from the glamour of Hollywood and the pampered life of film stars as you can get, but according to McGregor he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s been incredible,” he says via satellite phone during a break in the riding. “It feels like a real privilege. You just don’t see some of the remote villages that we have ridden through unless you are an aid worker – these are real mud-hut, thatched-roof villages, not really places that tourists get to go. We have had our ups and downs, though, as you would expect.”
Named by them the Long Way Down (as opposed to the Long Way Round, their previous east to west trip that saw them ride from Britain through eastern Europe and via Alaska to New York) this latest trip will see the pair travel 15,000 miles over some of the most inhospitable terrain and lawless countries on earth.
The two riders are accompanied by a cameraman, Claudio Van Planta, on a bike, while two Nissan pickups travel a few hours behind them and carry a five-man team made up of a medic, security adviser and camera crew. Each rider also has a camera fitted to his helmet to capture more intimate moments of life on the road.
McGregor and Boorman first met on the set of Philippe Rousselot’s film The Serpent’s Kiss in 1996. Charley is the son of the director John Boorman, starring in many of his father’s films such as Deliverance and Hope and Glory. But it’s their shared love of bikes that has cemented their friendship: McGregor has been riding bikes since he was a teenager and Boorman recently competed in the Paris-Dakar race.
The first trip in 2004 was originally billed as a chance for them to escape the luxuries and distractions of modern life as well as the celebrity gossip columns. However, it turned out only to feed people’s fascination. Far from being a non-profit-making call of the wild, the DVD and the book of Long Way Round earned them a reported £3.5m, while the television rights went on to sell in 40 countries including the United States, Australia and Japan.
Still, there is no doubting that both McGregor and Boorman are enjoying the isolation and anonymity their ride is affording them, up to a point: on passing through Tunisia – a country used as a location for the Star Wars films that McGregor starred in as Obi-Wan Kenobi – he was a little put out that nobody recognised him.
A trip like this opens up a certain part of your brain. After the Long Way Round someone warned us that it would be an addictive thing to do and that has been the case. It’s also about seeing a different way of life to ours.
Travelling on a bike makes a difference, too: you feel more exposed to the elements – if it rains you get wet, if you go through an area where there’s a burning tyre you smell burning rubber. You feel part of it all. And of course you can fall off and hurt yourself.
Some of the riding has been hard. There was a period in Sudan where I had a rough day in deep sand and I have never really cracked how to ride in it. I have fallen off a lot.
What happens when you get into deep sand is the front end starts wobbling and you feel like you are losing all balance. You tend to let the throttle off so that you slow down, and tighten up your arms, which immediately puts all the weight on the front wheel, which means that you will just fall off. You have to train yourself to do the opposite: keep the power steady to push it through the sand but put your weight slightly further back. I am getting better at it.
We have also faced the complexity of Africa: some of the places you pass through are beautiful, like something out of an Indiana Jones film or the National Geographic. In Ethiopia we were riding through villages you fantasise about: mud huts and straw roofs, little kids running around in raggedy clothes and snotty noses and just so friendly. But you know also they have no sanitation or medication or access to clean water.
You’re faced with this contradiction of the fact you are having a great time, you really have a sense of exploration and adventure and at the same time you are seeing something that makes you sad.
People do have guns here, but it doesn’t seem to worry me any more. Someone said that in eastern Europe everyone carried a gun but you didn’t see it, whereas here everyone carries a gun but you do see it. That’s true, but I think here they are more of a fashion accessory than anything else. I hope.
The only time I have been worried is when we were doing this section in Egypt and going through a lot of road blocks. There were these guys in long shirts and they had these long rifles. They didn’t look like policemen and yet they were operating these road blocks.
I don’t really miss anything about home. You sometimes miss your families and friends and everyone has their off days, but it tends to hit you when you are not doing anything and we have been riding pretty solidly – we have set ourselves a target of reaching Cape Town within three months. There’s certainly no material thing that I have at home that I miss.
And that is another great thing about being here: you have only what you can carry and there is something liberating about just having what you need, on your bike. A tent, a roll mat, water, a little bit of food, a bit of petrol in your tank and a vague idea of where you are going and that’s all you need. There is something beautiful about that.
The worst day so far was in Libya. We were camping on the beach and all of a sudden the wind changed and this huge sandstorm kicked up.
The tents were being blown away and we were all just trying to bash the tent pegs back down with everyone holding on desperately for the morning.
In the morning the wind had died but was still bad and then we had to get on our bikes for a big ride to the Ethiopian border. I remember that was about 15 hours in this massive sandstorm. Sometimes Ewan was about 15 yards ahead and I couldn’t see him. He said it was like someone was pouring millions of tons of brown sugar in front of you. We ended up at Tubruk at 1am shattered.
But the riding has been amazing, despite the falling off. One of the great things about biking is that everything changes slowly. It is not like you have just been dropped off in an aeroplane in the middle of this unfamiliar place. So you see the people’s faces changing slowly and the countryside and the atmosphere of each place and it all follows logically.
For me Ethiopia has been the biggest surprise. There aren’t many cars because everybody walks with their stuff, so you have everything on the road: camels and goats and cows and all the people carrying everything. In Britain you see these things in magazines about the best roads to ride and I just think that Ethiopia eclipses everything.
The other big surprise has been going through so many countries where people at home automatically think it’s dangerous: so Sudan is a dodgy place, Libya “oh that’s dodgy”, but if you go to these countries they are fabulous. I know that there are problems in Darfur but where we were up in the north, and following down the Nile, it was great.
We have seen the problems, too. In northern Uganda where the LRA [Lord’s Resistance Army] have been fighting we visited a Unicef project that was looking after former child soldiers and spoke to a boy and girl who were about 10 years old. They had been raped, forced to kill people . . . it was unimaginable.
You have a lot of time to think about things here because a lot of the time you are in your own helmet doing your own thing. Your mind wanders and you think about all sorts of things that you haven’t thought about for a long time. I lost my sister to cancer about 11 years ago and at home you don’t have time to think about things but here you have all day. My sister pops into my mind every so often so I have a nice think about her. It’s a great therapeutic thing.
Travelling with Ewan has been great. We are still speaking to one another – through a mediator – although you have ups and downs when you travel like this. You can feel great in the morning and not so great in the afternoon. If one of us is feeling low or needs time alone the other one knows it.
We know how lucky we are. Apart from anything else it’s great fun to be able to see all of this around us every day, to be with your mate and to be riding bikes through Africa.
Actor and adventurer Charley Boorman is reknowned for his adventures in 'Long Way Round', a motorcycle trip which he embarked on with his good friend, actor Ewan McGregor.
On May 12, 2007, Charley set out on another journey with Ewan: this time from John o' Groats in Scotland, to Cape Town, South Africa.
Boorman explained "The highlight of my motorbike career was definitely riding the Dakar Rally in 2006, and having the story made into a TV show and DVD called 'Race to Dakar.'"
Last year fellow racer Patsy Quick became the first British woman to ever finish the Dakar (EVER!) as she rode her KTM for three weeks from Lisbon to Dakar. Described by her husband and mentor as a real-life Lara Croft this amazing, motivating woman overcame all odds to achieve her dream.
Selling antiques and riding off-road bikes is an unusual blend of interests but Patsy is an unusual woman. She says you have to be something of a schizophrenic to finish the Dakar and then lead a normal life. "There was a huge anticlimax".
Join them both live at the Journal Tyne Theatre as they re live their amazing adventures.
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Coty Prestige announces agreement with Ewan McGregor
Tuesday July 17, 2007
The actor will be the face of Davidoff's newest male fragrance Coty Prestige, a division of Coty Inc., announced today that it has signed an agreement with actor Ewan McGregor to be the face of Davidoff's newest male fragrance, set to come out in early 2008.
"Ewan McGregor is a natural choice to represent Davidoff's newest male fragrance. Not only is he one of the most talented actors of his generation, but he also has a charisma and an authenticity that will be very important for the new Davidoff fragrance," said Francoise Mariez, SVP International European Marketing Licenses, Coty Prestige.
McGregor has signed on to do a television spot and print ads for the Davidoff fragrance for a worldwide campaign. The scent and style of the new male fragrance will dawn a new era for the Davidoff fragrance portfolio.
Earlier this month, UNICEF Ambassador Ewan McGregor and UNICEF supporter Charley Boorman took a day’s break in their pan-Africa motorbike adventure Long Way Down to see UNICEF’s work educating children about the risks of landmines and unexploded ordnance and assisting the victims.
The pair visited Tigray region in Northern Ethiopia, which was heavily mined during the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea from 1998 - 2000. Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced during the conflict, only to later return to find their homes, land and schools heavily mined.
Children were - and still are - particularly vulnerable to landmine accidents as they go out to search for wood, to play or to pick cactus fruits. They are naturally curious and naively pick up shiny and interesting objects, putting themselves at high risk.
Since 2000, UNICEF has actively reduced landmine incidents in Tigray through one of UNICEF’s flagship and most successful Mine Risk Education programmes.
UNICEF helps communities to educate children about the dangers of mines and unexploded ordnance through drama and peer education. Children learn what mines look like, what to do if they find themselves in a mine field and how to react if someone else is hurt. Though 80 per cent of the landmines have now been cleared in Tigray, Mine Risk Education remains a life-saving intervention for children because there are still pockets where unexploded mines and ordnance lie. If and when war breaks out again, the next generation of children will be armed with the knowledge they need to save themselves from mine accidents.
The Mine Risk Education in Tigray has reached over 200,000 children through school clubs and out-of-school peer education. UNICEF has also used radio programmes and over 55 listening groups come together to listen to the programme and commit to disseminate information.
“Educating children about landmines is so vital for children’s futures. With landmines and unexploded ordnance lying in homes, fields, rivers and schools in Ethiopia and other countries, I can really see how UNICEF’s Mine Risk Education is a totally essential life-saving intervention” said Ewan McGregor.
UNICEF is also responsible for counselling and supporting victims of landmine accidents and has a new disability programme for disabled children including those who have lost limbs to mines. UNICEF hopes to provide 3,000 children with specially designed mobility tricycles that will enable them to go to school and reintegrate in society. The bikes are specially designed to help children travel on rough terrain and UNICEF, as part of its Mine Action advocacy work, is calling on all countries to sign, ratify and implement the Ottawa treaty banning anti personnel landmines. Ethiopia signed the Ottawa treaty in 1997, ten years ago, and ratified the treaty in 2004, becoming a state party to the treaty in 2004. Many other countries such as the US and China still produce, use and trade in landmines and are not state parties to the Ottawa treaty.
Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman need protection on Long Way Down motorcycle trip
By Marc Potter 10 July 2007 16:22
Superstar motorcycle riders Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman have called on a crack team of UK experts to provide them protection during their 15,000 mile trip.
But the intrepid motorcyclists currently riding from John O’ Groats to Cape Town in South Africa for the Long Way Down programme, haven’t called on military experts. Instead they’ve asked UK firm Buffera to make them special Long Way Down UNICEF Buffs to stop their necks getting burnt on the trip!
Both Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman will be using the specially-designed UV protective buffs during the Long Way Down, and all proceeds of sales of replica Buffs will got to charity partner UNICEF.
Ewan McGregor said: “People ask about or travels all the time and what stands out for us the most. For both Charley Boorman and I it’s the incredible work of UNICEF on the ground, working to give children the care and support they need to survive. So please dig deep to give something – however much it is – to help UNICEF.
The Buffs are made from Coolmax Extreme fabric and are designed to wick moisture away from their skin. It blacks out 95% of all harmful UV rays and can be worn as a balaclava, neck warmer, face mask or headband.
Actors Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman have answered questions sent in by readers about their latest long-distance motorcycle trip, which sees them cross at least 20 countries.
The duo, who set off from John O'Groats in May, have now reached the border of Kenya having travelled through Ethiopia.
The journey, dubbed Long Way Down, is being filmed by the BBC, and the pair are keeping a regular diary on the Long Way Down website.
You seem to be heading into some dangerous areas on this trip. Are you doing anything differently precaution-wise? Kristie Weerts, St Louis, USA
(Charley and Ewan) We take more security with us when we are advised to by local fixers or the local tourist board. But whenever we can, we try to travel on our own.
Isn't it incredible how desert sand can reach parts you never thought possible? How are you dealing with sand rash, sweat rash and scorpions in the boots? Noelle, Kuwait
(Charley) We're not getting any at the moment and that's down to wearing the right gear. Babywipes are of course excellent for cleaning all parts of the body, I won't go into too much detail here!
What's the best thing you've eaten on your journey so far? Simon Clough, Dubai, UAE
(Charley and Ewan) The best food we've eaten was in Sudan. It was amazing. They really do have damn good food in Sudan.
What music do you like to listen to on your travels? Ryan Pominville, Hudson, Wisconsin, USA?
(Charley) I listen to a lot of things. The Stereophonics are very good and I also like the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. But generally I put my iPod on random and listen to anything that comes on. It could be Beatles to Beethoven. I listen to anything!
How difficult is it to return to the calm of home life after such an epic journey? Clare, London
(Charley) I don't know, I haven't returned home yet! I think it's very important to go away with your family and not immediately settle into home life again.
Being away on your own you learn to live independently and when you return to your family you need to get to know each other again. I find a holiday with the family is great for this.
Who can pull the biggest wheelie? Nick Barwick, Bristol
(Ewan) There's no question here, it's got be Charley by a mile!
(Charley) Yeah, I'll have to agree with that one.
What items are in your right trouser pockets at this very moment? Al Cordola, Hitchin
(Charley) My passport, wallet, phone, camera and some money. Hope no one is going to mug me now!
Are you having the same type of emotional swings that you did on your previous trip? Cheryl, Los Angeles
(Charley and Ewan) Yes, absolutely. You can go from highs to lows very quickly.
In Long Way Round, a number of locals helped you and even took you in on occasion. Has the same happened on the Long Way Down? Craig Neve, Newcastle
(Ewan) Yeah, lots of times, people are incredibly generous and giving. Hopefully you will see their generosity come through in the show.
(Charley) Yeah, we've met lots of fantastic people, and people have taken us into their houses and fed us. Maybe it's because they take pity on us because we're on bikes and we're all covered in sand and mud! The people we have met have been incredible. The less people have, the more they have to give.
Would you like to just do a trip without the presence of cameras and go simply as friends? Mark Crane, Watford
(Ewan and Charley) We love the trips we do with cameras and love them without. They each have their special moments and have different feelings attached to them.
A serene watercolor landscape mixed with the message "Hope this helps. Hope it makes a difference. Hope, Hope, Hope.", makes this mug from actor Ewan McGregor a simple-yet-powerful work of art. 50% of Whatever It Takes' proceeds will be donated to Trade plus Aid and UNICEF.
This mug is being sold for $19.99 until July 14, 2007 from amazon.com and Macy's.
Scots star Ewan McGregor is to keep his female fans happy after getting his kit off for another film role.
The Crieff-born Star Wars hero - who also bared all in Trainspotting and Young Adam - strips off to play a womanising businessman in legendary director Woody Allen's new movie, Cassandra's Dream.
The £13 million flick also stars Colin Farrell as Ewan's brother and rising star Hayley Atwell. She plays a seductress who creates a dangerous rivalry between the siblings, then leads them into a life of crime.
The movie - which also stars ex East-Ender Tamzin Outhwaite and The Full Monty's Tom Wilkinson - will be unveiled at the Venice Film Festival in August.
38- Ewan, 01/07/2007, Marsabit, Kenya (3 pictures, 2 videos: At the Kenyan border (also on the site's main page and in the official Long Way Down site's videos for registered members) and A bird's eye view).