East Finchley army veteran raised thousands for Bomber Command memorial to be unveiled this week
Saturday 23rd June 2012 By Chris Hewett
Mr Gimes with Ewan McGregor and the official Bomber Command bear
An army veteran from East Finchley raised thousands of pounds to help pay for the country’s first RAF Bomber Command memorial, due to be unveiled this week.
Dennis Gimes, of High Road, has been involved in the Bomber Command Association (BCA) since 2009 when he became inspired by the story of the 55,573 pilots who never made it home from the Second World War.
The 64-year-old, who spent 10 years in the army from the age of 17, has dedicated the last three years of his life to raising money for a memorial to the once-shunned RAF regiment.
The government was reluctant to formally recognise members of regiment following the ill-fated bombing of the German city of Dresden, in which 25,000 civilians were killed.
But following a long campaign by members of the BCA, based at the RAF Museum in Grahame Park Way, Hendon, a large monument recognising the services of the men will be unveiled by the Queen in Hyde Park Corner on Thursday.
Grandfather Mr Gimes said: “I’ve had a good life, I’ve never wanted for anything, and it is all because of what these men sacrificed.
“I heard their story and I fell in love with those old boys so I thought I just had to do something for them.
“What happened at Dresden was awful, there is no justifying that, but these lads have never been recognised with any medals or publicity. The Bomber Command sank more ships than the Royal Navy – they were a significant part of the Second World War.”
Former Metropolitan Police officer Mr Gimes has personally raised more than £10,000 for the memorial.
He has also helped raise awareness by persuading numerous celebrities and politicians to have their photographs taken with the official Bomber Command teddy bear.
A-list names snapped with the soft toy include Ewan McGregor, Ray Winstone, Brian May and Dame Vera Lynn.
The memorial will be unveiled in front of thousands of Bomber Command veterans and their families in Green Park at midday on Thursday.
The ceremony will end with a flypast by five RAF GR4 Tornado bomber aircraft crewed by today’s Royal Air Force.
This will be followed by a flypast by the RAF’s last flying Lancaster Bomber, which will drop poppies over Green Park as a message of remembrance for the 55,573 Bomber aircrew lost.
Mr Gimes said: “The memorial is nothing to do with the rights and wrongs of killing. It is about honouring those brave men, some of which were as young as 18, who didn’t come back.
“It is a massive thank you to all those wonderful men. They knew their chances of surviving were slim and for a 22-year-old to have the bravery to do that is amazing.”
For Mr Gimes, who learned how to read and write on an education course during his stint in the army, the memorial unveiling is another opportunity to thank the armed forces to which he says he owes so much.
“For a young man coming out of school and not being able to read or write, I never would have thought I’d be doing what I’m doing today. This is what I live for now and it is worth every moment.”
With the DVD and Blu-ray re-release of Shallow Grave, several articles were written (the first two promotional, written by the disc’ distributor):
The Look of Shallow Grave
Few movies feel as cold-blooded as Danny Boyle’s Shallow Grave, a fact attributable as much to its striking and sinister visual approach as its bleak downward spiral of a plot and amoral main characters. In this clip from an interview included in our new special edition of the film, actors Ewan McGregor and Christopher Eccleston talk about how much they like the look of the film, particularly the tracking shots and lighting by cinematographer Brian Tufano (Quadrophenia, Trainspotting) and the dark blues and set dressing of production designer Kave Quinn (Trainspotting, The Woman in Black), all of which help make Shallow Grave the effective chiller that it is.
United Kingdom | 1994 | 93 minutes | Color | 1.85:1 | English
SYNOPSIS: The diabolical thriller Shallow Grave was the first film from director Danny Boyle, producer Andrew Macdonald, and screenwriter John Hodge (the smashing team behind Trainspotting). In it, three self-involved Edinburgh roommates—played by Kerry Fox, Christopher Eccleston, and Ewan McGregor, in his first starring role—take in a brooding boarder, and when he dies of an overdose, leaving a suitcase full of money, the trio embark on a series of very bad decisions, with extraordinarily grim consequences for all. Macabre but with a streak of offbeat humor, this stylistically influential tale of guilt and derangement is a full-throttle bit of Hitchcockian nastiness.
FILMMAKER-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION:
New, restored digital transfer, supervised by director of photography Brian Tufano, with 2.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
Two audio commentaries: one by director Danny Boyle and the other by screenwriter John Hodge and producer Andrew Macdonald
New interview piece featuring actors Christopher Eccleston, Kerry Fox, and Ewan McGregor
Digging Your Own Grave, a 1993 documentary by Kevin Macdonald on the making of the film
Andrew Macdonald and Kevin Macdonald’s video diary from the 1992 Edinburgh Film Festival, where they shopped around the script for Shallow Grave
Inessential Essentials: Danny Boyle’s Shallow Grave Gets the Criterion Treatment
By: Simon Abrams June 12, 2012
Why It’s an Inessential Essential: Today, Danny Boyle is commonly known as “the director of Slumdog Millionaire.” (Or: Olympian designer!) After that, he’s usually “the director of Trainspotting,” or 127 Hours or even Millions. So it’s nice to see that the Criterion Collection’s first DVD/Blu-Ray release of a Boyle film is Shallow Grave, an early film by Boyle but an especially worthy one. Scripted by regular collaborator John Hodge (Trainspotting, A Life Less Ordinary), Shallow Grave is a nasty little neo-noir about three apathetic yuppies that cover up a crime involving a dead body and a bag full of cash.
Juliet (Kerry Fox), Alex (Ewan McGregor in his second film role), and David (Doctor Who’s Christopher Eccleston) are a trio of casually petty young things that are equally bored, cruel and self-absorbed. They tentatively sublet the fourth bedroom in their Edinburgh flat to a stranger, who promptly dies and leaves a suitcase full of money beside his corpse. A decision is hastily made: they’ll keep the money and dispose of the body. The consequences of that decision naturally haunt and subsequently push the film’s group of sociopathic friends over the edge.
How the DVD/Blu Ray Makes the Case for the Film: During his audio commentary soundtrack, Boyle behaves exactly how you’d think he would based on his films. He’s a reactive filmmaker, one that prioritizes sensationalism over moralism. That totally suits a film like Shallow Grave, a movie that Boyle, according to film critic Philip Kemp’s liner notes, originally conceived of as being similar to Blood Simple.
During the director’s commentary (there’s also a separate commentary track that features Hodge in conversation with producer Andrew Macdonald), Boyle professes to have great reverence for British social realists like Ken Loach and Mike Leigh. But he also talks about how the film’s bright, lurid color palette, which he characterizes as “swathes of color,” were his way of getting away from “British realism,” which he said had “become very standard” at the time. Shallow Grave is about the perils of being young, British, materialistic and without a moral compass. But like Trainspotting, Boyle’s follow-up feature and breakthrough film, Shallow Grave, is a young filmmaker’s way of trying to, “just smash it up a bit, if we could.”
Left to his own devices, Boyle tellingly only mentions the film’s political subtext infrequently and mostly in passing. He’s much more interested in talking about trick shots, effect-driven photography and the sense of visual “perspective” he achieved by making his antiheroes’ apartment, the film’s central location, built with an elevated foundation. Boyle did this for the same reason he had his cast lug around a crash test dummy when they simulated carrying a body down a flight of stairs. Boyle knew even then that to properly push buttons, he had to achieve a hyper-real effect. And he did: Boyle jokes that the dummy made his three lead actors mad at him, but that that an air of tension on-set is, “always a good thing.”
Other trivia: Boyle is a great talker and goes on a number of funny tangents during his audio commentary, like when he warns anyone unfamiliar with The Wicker Man, which is playing in the background in one scene in Shallow Grave, not to watch the remake. His anecdote about gauging the success of Shallow Grave on the attendance of a single matinee screening in Hamilton, Scotland is especially funny. Boyle says that his contacts at Polygram Filmed Entertainment, the film’s distribution company, informed him that four people showed up to Hamilton’s first screening, but that that was a very good sign. “If there’s one person there,” Boyle recalled, “it’s going to be ok. If there’s nobody there, they don’t know. It’s bizarre, it’s all statistics, of course.”
Ewan McGregor buys French horn 27 years after he played it on TV debut
Jun 10 2012 Exclusive by Toby McDonald, Sunday Mail
Film star Ewan McGregor has finally bought a new French horn – 27 years after borrowing one for his TV debut.
And, after blowing £3000 on the instrument, the actor paid tribute to his former music teacher.
The Hollywood heartthrob learned his skill in £5-an-hour lessons from Perthshire Brass band founder George Annan.
He was contacted by current band member Rachel Hotchkiss, who invited him to join them at a performance.
Star Wars actor Ewan told her: “Please give my love to George Annan. He’s a brilliant teacher.
“Tell him I bought a horn with a detachable bell!”
Yesterday, George, 69, who is still the musical director at Perthshire Brass, said Ewan was a joy to teach.
He added: “He worked very hard. The French horn is the hardest of all instruments to play.
“I’m delighted he is still playing after all these years.”
Ewan, who went to Morrison’s Academy in Crieff, took private lessons at George’s home in Methven until the age of 16.
And he made his television debut performing on Grampian’s A Touch of Music show – with a French horn he borrowed from George.
George said: “He went up to record it in Aberdeen – going up by himself. He’d a lot of confidence even then.
“During the lessons, we would have a wee chat and he was very assured.
“He said, ‘I am going to be an actor’. He didn’t say, ‘I want to be an actor,’ he said, ‘I am going to be an actor’.
“He had such confidence at a very young age.”
The clip of schoolboy Ewan playing the horn on TV has been repeated frequently after he made it big. In 2010, US chatshow queen Ellen DeGeneres made the actor squirm when she screened it on her show. He said: “That’s never been shown in America.. until now.”
Vol. 7 No. 1 (March 1999) issue
A photograph of his first appearance on TV also made it on to the cover of The Horn, a specialist music magazine.
Ewan’s mum Carol kept a copy and sent it to George, with a note saying: “I think he’s quite proud to be on the cover of such a prestigious publication.”
The actor – who turned down a place in the prize-winning Perthshire Brass’s youth section to concentrate on acting – went on to star in Brassed Off.
The hit movie is about a brass band set against the backdrop of the miners’ strike in the 80s.
Made in 1996, Ewan played Andy Barrow, a miner’s son who falls in love with a manageress sent to close the pit.
The fictional Grimley Colliery Band in the film is made up of a mixture of actors and members of the Grimethorpe Band.
George said: “He did parts of it, but not all the solos. Ewan did mime it but he did it very well – he looked as if he was playing the horn.”
Ewan, 41, told Desert Island Discs in 2002 how as a teenager music, not acting, was his first love.
He said: “By the time I got to 14 or 15, I was much more interested in perfroming Mozart’s Horn Concerto Number 4.
“I don’t know if I can now believe that I was once that good to be able to do that.
“I was concentrating on music, instead of performing plays. I didn’t want to do it until I could do it properly.”
Gritty drug drama Trainspotting has been named the best British film of the past six decades.
The movie - starring Ewan McGregor and Robert Carlyle - triumphed in a Diamond Jubilee poll staged by HMV to find the top screen hits of the Queen's reign.
Monty Python And The Holy Grail was runner-up in the poll, while another Python comedy Life Of Brian was ranked fourth.
A pair of Harry Potter films made the top 10, as did two movies by the late British-based US director Stanley Kubrick, A Clockwork Orange and 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Trainspotting was based on the novel by Irvine Welsh about a group of heroin addicts in late 1980s Edinburgh. The film - also famous for its soundtrack - was made by Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle, soon to take a major role at London 2012 as the artistic director of the opening ceremony.
Trainspotting took six per cent of the 24,000 votes in the month-long poll, which saw the noughties as the most popular decade across the entire top 60, accounting for 18 of the titles.
Appropriately in the Diamond Jubilee year, the multiple Oscar-winning film The King's Speech, which starred Colin Firth as the Queen's father King George VI, featured in the top 10.
The highest ranked James Bond film was Goldfinger at 13. HMV is selling many of the films at a discount to mark the Jubilee.
The bountiful game: Ewan McGregor on the fragile existence of babies who owe their lives to Soccer Aid and Unicef in India
Sunday 20 May 2012 By Ewan McGregor
Ewan McGregor on a visit to UNICEF Special Care Newborn Unit in Vaishali, Bihar. Picture: Byrajiv Kumar
It was my first trip to India with Unicef. In fact, it was my first trip to India at all. I had come to the city of Patna in the western state of Bihar to make a short film for Soccer Aid, and I felt I had a good idea of what to expect. I knew people who had travelled in India and they had said, amongst other things, that it was completely frantic.
When I arrived in Patna it was exactly that. Unbelievable, a real assault on the senses. Driving to the hotel from the airport it was a mayhem of motorbikes and animals and cars and rickshaws.
I expected to be overwhelmed by the poverty and I was. It is difficult to comprehend, seeing people living and sleeping on the streets everywhere you look. As we were driving through the city I saw children everywhere, playing in places that children should not be playing. Places covered in rubbish and faeces. It made me realise how incredibly difficult these children’s lives are.
I was in Patna to see Unicef’s work helping to tackle the high rate of newborn mortality in India’s second-poorest state. Nearly half of the population live below the poverty line in Bihar, which means they survive on less than a day. Because of this, when mums-to-be are carrying their babies they struggle to find enough food to keep themselves and their unborn baby healthy. Often, that means babies are born tiny, weak and struggling to survive.
Of the one in 20 babies who die before their first birthday, more than half do so in their first 28 days of life. Malnutrition in pregnant women is a major cause of this high rate of newborn mortality, as it causes babies to be born too early and dangerously small, which leaves them fighting for their lives.
The first stop on our trip was a newborn special care unit in Vaishali, which is a hectic town an hour’s drive away from Patna. The centre was set up by Unicef in 2008 to provide life-saving specialist care for these desperately ill newborn babies, after recognising that the soaring numbers of babies dying in their first 28 days of life had to be tackled.
That’s the way Unicef works in India. It identifies what the problem is, what is missing, then sets up something and shows the government how well it has worked so they can take over responsibility and replicate it across the state and country. The government has now set up four more specialist care units just like the one in Vaishali in other parts of Bihar because of overwhelming demand. It is a collaborative way of working that shows how effective and vital organisations like Unicef can be, even though India is less poor than it once was.
The unit I was visiting was at the end of a short, traffic-choked lane in the centre of the town. I had expected the whole place to be filled with the noises of babies crying, but as soon as we stepped inside I was taken aback by the silence. All the babies were so fragile that their tiny bodies didn’t have the energy to make any noise.
But the centre was brilliant. It had beds for 12 babies; six beds for those who had been born in the hospital that the newborn centre was attached to, and six beds for babies born at a local health centre or at home, still a common practice in much of rural India.
The babies were just tiny. So tiny. Babies who wouldn’t stand a chance at life if this centre hadn’t been there. I couldn’t help but be really impressed. Most of them had little woolly hats on their heads, to keep them warm.
I met one mum, Sangeeta, whose baby was only seven days old. He was born weighing just 1 lbs. Like all the mums waiting for news, she had to wait outside the centre in a room that looks like a bus shelter, swarming with flies. She told me she had to rely on her father and husband to bring her food as she was too scared to leave the waiting room in case the worst happened.
The day before I was there was the first time she had been able to see her baby since he had been rushed to the centre a week ago. He was finally well enough for her to breastfeed him. The risk of infection from mothers, or from contact with anyone other than sterilised doctors is really high, so time between mums and their babies has to be kept to a minimum.
When I asked Sangeeta how her baby was doing she said she was less scared as she knew he was in a good place. She had seen an improvement in him, but she was too frightened and shy to talk to the doctors to find out more. All the women I met at the centre said the same thing to me. They just sit outside waiting, sometimes for up to three or four weeks, not knowing if their baby is going to live or die. It’s terrible.
Some babies don’t make it. That’s what happened for one mum I met in the centre, Musken. She was barely older than a child herself, but she had waited four weeks: 28 long days and nights, without leaving that bus shelter of a waiting room to find out if her baby Munna would survive, only for him to finally lose his struggle for life.
It shouldn’t be like that. No baby should lose their life in that way. But it does show why the care the centre provides is so desperately needed, so more vulnerable babies like Munna have a chance at life.
And there is hope. The doctor was telling me about the survival rate in the centre and I asked him what it was before it was there. He just shook his head at me as if that was a stupid question, because none of them would have survived. Now 80 per cent make it.
The mums and babies who use the centre are mostly from the lowest Indian caste, the Dailats. Without the free treatment the place provides, those mums and their babies would have no hope. This centre is their only chance at life.
I saw proof of that when I went to the home of Daulat and her nine-month-old twins, Priyashen and Avishan. When they were born they weighed less than two pounds each. Tiny, tiny babies. Daulat hadn’t seen a doctor during her pregnancy, and like all the mums I met, her daily diet was just one meal of rice and chapatti. She didn’t even know she was having twins until two babies came out when she gave birth at home.
Her house was a series of dirt floors and brick walls. She had the babies on the dirty floor of the storeroom. It was the grandmother who noticed something was wrong as soon as they were born – so they took a tuk tuk, one of those Indian open-air taxis, to the local hospital before being sent to the care unit.
They were there for 17 days. I asked Daulat what that hour’s ride to the centre was like for her, and she said simply that she was terrified. She told me how happy she had been to have her babies, but that as soon as they were born she didn’t know if they were going to survive. She said they were so small that she could hold them in the palm of her hand. She grabbed my hand and pointed to it, as if to reinforce how small.
The twins, when I met them, were the same age as my own little girl. She is a lovely, big healthy baby, but when I picked up Avishan and Priyashen they felt so small in comparison.
Despite being small even now though, they are happy, healthy babies born into a family that loves them. It could have been so different.
To celebrate their survival their dad bought a cow so the family could feed them properly. “They are my children and I love them,” Daulat tells me several times. Life is difficult for her and her family she says, because they don’t have much, but she loves her babies and wants to provide for them.
I will never forget the babies I met during my time there. I will never forget seeing how tiny they were, and what a sorrowful sight it was seeing them lying on their own in the bed under the heat lamps. They have no human contact.
But that’s what Soccer Aid is about. It’s about donating just £5 which could help make sure a baby like Munna, Avishan or Priyashen, born anywhere in the world, can survive.
They are amazingly resilient little people, the babies and children I meet on my Unicef trips. Those I met in India were no different. Sadly I can’t take part in the game at Old Trafford next Sunday, but there will be a good turnout from us Scots. I’ll be backing Kenny Dalglish and his team. Gordon Ramsay and James McAvoy are playing for him and the ‘Rest of the World’, against the English team.
Make sure you tune in too – and please, make a donation and help a child survive.
• ITV1’s Soccer Aid match will be shown live from 6pm on Sunday 27 May. For tickets, or to donate to Unicef, visit www.itv.com/socceraid. All donations to Soccer Aid will be matched pound for pound by the UK Government.
Ewan McGregor and wife Ève Mavrakis attend the Haiti Carnival in Cannes event during the 2012 Cannes Film Festival on Friday (May 18) in Cannes, France.
The 41-year-old actor joins actress Diane Kruger and fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier on the jury at this year’s festival in the South of France.
“Great day here in Cannes. Films continue to challenge and inspire,” Ewan tweeted.
About his jury responsibilities, he adds: “What a fantastic job. Watching Movies. Tough work! Someone’s got to do it.”
The all-star Haiti fundraiser benefited three celebrity-led charities, Sean Penn’s J/P Haitian Relief Organization, filmmaker Paul Haggis’s Artists for Peace and Justice, and model Petra Nemcova’s Happy Hearts Fund.
The Cannes Film Festival hosted the Haiti gala event to honor Sean Penn’s recent acceptance of the Peace Prize Award and revive awareness on the devastation that hit Haiti in 2010. The event raised over million that will benefit all three organizations, which work to support rebuilding Haiti.
Ewan McGregor revealed he has done no preparation for his role as one of the jurors who will decide who takes home the grand prize at the Cannes Film Festival.
The Trainspotting actor is one of a nine-strong panel responsible for judging the films and awarding the coveted Palme d’Or prize this year.
But he told a press conference: “I looked through the prog yesterday when I arrived and had unpacked all my suits. I lay on the bed and had a look and went ‘F****** hell, there’s some good stuff in here’. But apart from that, I haven’t swotted up on anything.”
Ewan joins actress Diane Kruger and fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier on the jury for the south of France festival.
The group also includes Wuthering Heights director Andrea Arnold and is headed by Italian actor/director Nanni Moretti. American filmmaker Alexander Payne, whose films include Election and Sideways, is also on the jury.
Ewan said it was an “enormous honour” to be part of the panel and he didn’t feel his position judging his peers was a superior one.
“I don’t feel like I’m in some position of great power. There’s no feelings of revenge in this,” he said. “It’s just a celebration of film.”
When Andrea was asked what she thought about there being no films in the competition directed by women, she said: “I would absolutely hate it if my film got selected because I was a woman. I would only want my film to be selected for the right reasons and not out of charity for being a woman.”
Among the films in the running for the prestigious prize are David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis and Walter Salles’s adaptation of the Beat Generation novel On The Road, which features Kristen Stewart alongside Sam Riley and Kirsten Dunst.
Ewan McGregor Drives McLaren MP4-12C at Goodwood Motor Circuit
May 12, 2012 By MR
Hollywood actor Ewan McGregor has stopped by the Goodwood Motor Circuit this week to have a drive in the new McLaren MP4-12C. Ewan is perhaps best known for his roles as heroin addict Mark Renton in the drama Trainspotting (1996), Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequel trilogy (1999–2005), poet Christian in the musical film Moulin Rouge! (2001), and storyteller Edward Bloom in Tim Burton’s Big Fish (2003).
The Goodwood Circuit is an historic venue for both two- and four-wheeled motorsport in the United Kingdom. The 2.4 mile circuit is situated near Chichester, West Sussex, close to the south coast of England, on the estate of Goodwood House. The actor drove the MP4-12C, McLaren’s latest offering, at the track.
The MP4’s twin-turbocharged 3.8 liter 90-degree V8 engine will rev to 8500rpm, with its maximum 592bhp output arriving at 7000rpm. The peak 442lb-ft of torque is available from 3,000rpm, although 80 per cent is available between 2,000-6,500rpm.
This September, not only will we see Brad Pitt trying to sell us Chanel No. 5 perfume, but also Ewan McGregor representing for Belstaff. The Scottish Actor already started shooting the ad campaign with Craig McDean and various male and female models, as reported earlier.
However, this time, we have some Twitgoodies to stare at, before seeing the actual campaign later this fall. Because Ewan was most generous with his followers and he wanted to share the happy moment. And the leather. And the motorcycles. I can’t help but wonder, though, if Brad Pitt were to share his Chanel moment, what would he be tweeting about?
Hollywood heartthrob Ewan McGregor has become the latest Scottish celeb to join the Twitter bandwagon – picking up more than 6,500 followers in two days.
McGregor has already posted snaps of himself beside a flash vintage car and divulged his unusual breakfast habits since signing up to the social media site.
The Trainspotting star may have shot movies on glamorous film sets around the world, but he revealed his love of Scottish cuisine had never waned.
McGregor tweeted his fondness of Scotland’s culinary heritage, writing to one follower: “haggis is great. Good for breakfast too. Go on try it. You know you want to.”
Not afraid to brag to his new found followers, the 41-year-old posted an envy-inducing photo of himself standing beside a plush vintage car.
Looking at home beside the Dutch Spyker model, the actor tweeted: “I got a chance to drive this today. I’m more a vintage car and bike man, but…… was pretty cool! Dutch. ‘Spyker.’”
Within hours of signing up of to Twitter the actor had his account verified after realising he had to compete with dozens of imposter Ewan McGregor’s.
Asking his fans for advice, the actor quizzed: “How do get verified or confirmed or officialised? There seem to be lots of other me’s on twitter, but it would be good you knew it was me.”
The Oscar-nominated actor also took the time to say hi, and possibly embarrass his 15-year-old daughter Clara, with a “morning, love.”
McGregor, who was born in Crieff, Perthshire, sent his first tweet on Wednesday, writing: “First tweet: ‘In Korea in the Shinsegae lounge. I’m on my way to London.’”
The actor had already tweeted more than 50 times since signing up two days ago and couldn’t resist plugging his charity work with Unicef.
Talking of a recent work the charity had done, he said; “In those remote areas. Thankfully UNICEF and there partners have amazing people working hard to ensure they are immunized and protected.”
The Hollywood actor, who has four daughters with French wife Ève Mavrakis, revealed to one fan he wouldn’t be in London for the Olympics in 2012, telling her: “no don’t think so.”
He also said he was still clean, after quitting cigarettes, telling one follower: “I’m not smoking now. Was then wasn’t then was, but not anymore. Don’t ever start it’s a nightmare.”
The actor, who is tweeting under the handle @mcgregor_ewan also tweeted a cute snap of his pet dog, writing: “Sid’s in LA. Feel like I’m missing something all the time.”
The heartthrob’s appearance on Twitter caused mild hysteria from some fans, with one tweeting: “OMG my life is now complete, the man who I have been in love with for nearly two decades has joined Twitter.”
Another new follower added: “I can’t believe my favourite actor in the world got a twitter! A simple “hello” would mean so much,” with one tweeting: “My dreams are coming true! Ewan McGregor is on twitter!.”
Ewan McGregor is reportedly set to star in a new advertising campaign for leisure wear label Belstaff.
The Scottish actor will begin shooting the advertisement in the UK today for the label’s fall collection, according to WWD.
He will join male and female models in the lifestyle campaign which is being shot by Craig McDean. It will take place at Goodwood - an estate in West Sussex which is known for its annual Festival of Speed motor racing competition.
Ewan is an ambassador for the fashion house including its motorcycle range of leather jackets and trousers.
The 41-year-old star is an avid motorcyclist which he has proved in his travel documentaries with best friend Charley Boorman. In 2004 they embarked on a marathon international motorcycle trip from London to New York, via central Europe, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Siberia, Russia and Canada.
The new Belstaff advertisement will break in the September issues of prestigious publications including Vogue, W, Bazaar and GQ.
In a surprising move, HBO has decided not to move forward with its starry series adaptation of The Corrections.
The cabler made the decision after viewing the pilot, which boasted an enviable cast including Ewan McGregor, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Chris Cooper and Dianne Wiest.
Based on the acclaimed Jonathan Franzen novel, The Corrections centers on an elderly Midwest couple (Cooper and Wiest) and their three children who look back on their lives together from the mid-20th century to their final Christmas.
Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale) directed the pilot and co-wrote the script with Franzen.
Ewan McGregor: Salmon Fishing In The Yemen has my fave sex scene in it
20th April, 2012 By Larushka Ivan-Zadeh
“That is my favourite sex scene ever!” twinkles Ewan McGregor, recalling an intimate moment from his latest film, Salmon Fishing In The Yemen. “That’s the kind of sex scene that I love to do.”
Frustratingly for his fans, the scene sees McGregor, a regular fixture on people’s Sexiest Man Alive list, keep his pyjamas on. For once.
“I play Dr Fred Jones, a very repressed fisheries scientist. He and his wife come home from their weekly medieval music practice and have sex [in their pyjamas]. Afterwards he rolls off and says ‘thank you’ and she pats him and says ‘that should do you for a wee while’. Then you realise it’s their wedding anniversary. So it’s probably a once-a-year occurrence. Nightmare!”
Though notorious for frequently getting his lightsabre out on screen, the Scottish Star Wars star insists that he finds sex scenes “really awkward”. Not what you’d expect. But then you never know what to expect from McGregor.
From actioning it up as Obi-Wan Kenobi to warbling alongside Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge and shooting up heroin in Trainspotting, he exhibits a Teflon approach to typecasting.
“I’ve played extreme characters,” he agrees. “But I always try to make them feel real. It’s just a bit embarrassing otherwise, isn’t it? That’s why I haven’t been drawn to mainstream American macho roles. They don’t feel like real people to me. I can’t do big, blustery acting.”
Indeed. If anything defines McGregor’s career, it’s that however “extreme” his characters, they are unassuming on screen.
His agent, I suggest, must be tearing their hair out wanting him to go for the Oscar-bait “look at me!” performances. “I think if the characters feel very real, then they’re less noticeable,” he suggests, thoughtfully stroking his new ginger beard. “I don’t shy away from anything though. There’s always the fear before every role that this might be the one you don’t pull off. I still feel the way I did on my very first job. It’s what spurs you on to try your best.”
Now a 41-year-old father of four daughters by his wife of 16 years, twinkly-toothed McGregor barely looks a day older than he did on that very first job. He may be the only British actor not in Harry Potter, but he could convincingly audition for its lead. What’s his secret? “Well I don’t drink?” he suggests – having overdone it partying alongside Oasis in the 1990s. “But not to look young! I just have a lot of things in my life that keep me from feeling older.”
He’s clearly a bloke who likes to get physical. “Boyish” is certainly his enthusiasm about the various hobbies he’s picked up on movie sets over the years from pigeon fancying (thanks to Little Voice) to fixed-gear bicycle building (“I’ve made four or five now, I like tinkering and trawling eBay for the parts”). However, the latest, fly-fishing, for Salmon Fishing In The Yemen, an adaptation of Paul Torday’s critically acclaimed bestselling novel, hasn’t hooked him.
“I don’t like it very much,” he admits with appealing honesty. “I like the outdoors nature of it, but it’s a hunt of sorts – a battle of man against beast – and I don’t have the desire, really, to catch a fish.” He did, however, appreciate the film’s spiritual take on fishing: “What it reminded me of was my bike trips”.
In 2004 McGregor, his best mate Charley Boorman and one cameraman took a marathon motorbike trip from London to New York via Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Canada for the TV series Long Way Round. “I’m reminded of it every day,” he sighs. “I’ll have a daydream about a moment, or a smell will trigger some memory of somewhere we slept on the side of the road.” And how is that like fishing, then?
“You spend all day in the river and your body’s concentrating on something technical that releases your mind to wander,” he says. “My experience of the bike trips was the same. Stuff that happened at school, things that I hadn’t thought about for years and years suddenly popped into my mind. People talk about it like I needed to get away from my life on the film set. It’s such crap! I’m quite happy on set. If I wasn’t I’d do something else. It was purely for the spirit of adventure.”
From Star Wars to motorbiking round the world, McGregor may not think of himself as macho but he seems to be living the male dream. “It’s not necessarily a male thing,” he counters. “Finding yourself in extraordinary places – I really believe that there’s something so good for us about that kind of travel.” And off he zooms.
Salmon Fishing In The Yemen is out today in the UK.
UNICEF UK Ambassador Ewan McGregor explains why he's speaking up for children. Every day many thousands of children across the world wake up to disease, hunger and conflict. Add your voice to ours. Together we can make a difference for children. http://www.unicef.org.uk/speakup
Friday, March 16, 2012 By Matt Patches, Hollywood.com Staff
In Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, which opened in limited theaters last weekend and expands wide today, March 16, actors Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt prove themselves capable of playing the most adorable human beings on the planet. Based on the book of the same name, the romantic dramedy follows a fish expert (McGregor) and a wealth management associate (Blunt) as they aid a Sheikh hoping to bring the sport of salmon fishing to Yemen. The endeavor challenges both of them, but the results are surprisingly heartfelt, heady and humorous.
Making their task of playing lovely on-screen characters slightly simpler is the fact that McGregor and Blunt may actually be the most adorable human beings on the planet. I sat down with them to talk Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, whether it’s harder for them to play crazy characters or real people, the difficulties of shooting in Morocco (which stood in for Yemen) and what they learn on every film they do. Thankfully, I was also able to get Blunt to show off her Mandarin language skills.
Ewan McGregor on his watchmaker grandfather and how he inspired a love of timepieces
Mar 9 2012 Exclusive by James Moncur
As well as lightsabers, X-wing fighters and talking robots, Star Wars actor Ewan McGregor knows a good watch when he sees one.
The Hollywood superstar’s love of beautiful timepieces is inspired by one of Scotland’s greatest-ever watchmakers - his grandad, Laurie Lawson.
Laurie, who passed away 30 years ago, toured the country fixing anything from tiny wristwatches to huge church clocks and was known as the man who “kept his town ticking”.
When Ewan was young, he spent many a happy afternoon in Laurie’s shop in Crieff, Perthshire, watching his master-craftsman grandad at work.
Shortly before he died in 1981, Laurie gave each of his close relatives a beautiful carriage clock.
Among them was his son and Ewan’s uncle, Scots actor Denis Lawson – who coincidentally appeared in the original Star Wars film.
He also gave the young Ewan a stunning silver pocket watch which is still one of his most treasured possessions.
Ewan said this week: “I’m not a watch buff or a collector, I’ve just picked up a few nice watches over the years, buying them here and there.
“I’ve got watches in my history – my grandfather was a watchmaker and jeweller.
“He learned his trade in Glasgow and then moved to Crieff where I was brought up, and he spent his life there keeping people’s watches going.
“He was in charge of making sure the town clock kept the right time. He also had a rota of people he’d visit regularly, going out to farms, maintaining people’s clocks. The funny thing is we thought it was lovely growing up as kids – but he hated it, bent over these tiny, intricate things.
“He was very good at it though.
“Before he died, my grandfather gave a timepiece to all of the family. I got a beautiful pocket watch that he restored, which is a nice link to him.”
At her home in Crieff yesterday, Laurie’s 89-year-old widow, Phyllis, said: “Laurie was a wonderful watchmaker and repairer – one of the best.
“He died when Ewan was about 11 but played a pretty big part in his life.
“We had a shop in the town with a small workshop in the back and Ewan spent many an afternoon in there with his grandad, keeping him company and chatting to him.
“Ewan was fascinated by Laurie’s work and was very proud of him – his grandad was very well known across Scotland and was a hugely respected and hard-working man.
“As well as the carriage clock, Laurie gave Ewan a beautiful silver pocket watch that he’d spent days renovating.
“Ewan was only young but I think he immediately realised how special the gift was and he’s still got it now.”
Phyllis was introduced to her husband at a party – and he took one look at her watch and described it as “total rubbish” within seconds of them meeting.
To make up for insulting her, Laurie asked Phyllis to dance later in the evening and the couple never looked back.
Phyllis said: “Laurie could dance better than he could make watches and after the initial shock of his insult, he whisked me off my feet and I knew he was the man for me.”
The couple lived in Govan, Glasgow, where Laurie worked for the best watchmakers in Scotland, Edwards in Buchanan Street.
He was offered the top job there but turned it down. Instead, the couple decided to move to Perthshire with
their children, Denis and Carol – Ewan’s mother – in 1950.
The family chose Crieff and lived in a holiday home owned by Phyllis’s mum, who used to visit the area regularly throughout the year.
Days after they arrived, Laurie set up shop in the basement of a lawyer’s office.
But trade became so brisk that he was forced to move to bigger premises on the High Street.
The new shop was ideal because it had a huge window that let in lots of natural light – a watchmaker’s best friend.
Laurie quickly built up a reputation as the man who kept Crieff ticking and was responsible for the area’s main clocks, including the one in the town hall.
And, unknown to many in the area, he visited its tower every Hogmanay to ensure the bells went off without
Phyllis said: “Every New Year, Laurie would take Denis and Carol to the town hall to make sure the bells would work properly.
“The clock tower was disgusting with pigeon droppings and dust everywhere and I don’t think the kids enjoyed it too much, but it showed how passionate Laurie was to make sure the clock worked on the most important day of the year. As soon as he heard the first chime of 12 he’d be off though.”
Laurie died of lung cancer in 1981, aged 63, and Phyllis kept the shop going until 2006 when she retired.
The tireless charity fundraiser still has two beautiful clocks – handmade by her husband – standing proudly in her front room that are in perfect working order and chime every hour.
Ewan McGregor: acting is ‘all I ever wanted to do’
March 04, 2012 By Judy Abel
“I would never want to find a niche where I would just repeat myself,” says Ewan McGregor.
NEW YORK - It would be easy for Ewan McGregor to settle into romantic leading man roles.
After all, his magnetic blue eyes, winning smile, and easy manner kind of scream “love interest.” But the 40-year-old Scottish actor is not looking to be typecast. Instead, he says, he loves challenging his acting skills with diverse and surprising work.
“I would never want to find a niche where I would just repeat myself,” says McGregor on a recent morning at a midtown hotel. “The joy of acting is that you get to play other people - I don’t just want to play a version of myself.
“There are bits of myself in all my roles,” he adds. “But each portrayal is quite different.”
McGregor’s roles include a self-destructive heroin addict in “Trainspotting” (1996), Obi-Wan Kenobi in the “Star Wars” prequel trilogy (1999, 2002, 2005) and a gay convict opposite Jim Carrey in “I Love You Phillip Morris” (2009). And last year he starred with Oscar-winning Christopher Plummer in “Beginners,” where he played a young man whose world is shaken as he copes with the news of his father’s homosexuality and cancer.
Perhaps his penchant for transformation drew McGregor to “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen,” which opens Friday. In the film, directed by Lasse Hallström, he stars as Fred, a dull fisheries expert stuck in a loveless marriage and dead-end job. His world gradually shifts when a consultant (Emily Blunt) asks him to devise a plan to bring salmon to the Yemeni desert at the bequest of her wealthy sheik client (Amr Waked). Although Fred is initially outraged by the seemingly impossible request, he ultimately sets aside his scientific sensibilities and opens himself up to faith and passion.
“This is a man who’s locked up, angry and emotionally stuck,” McGregor says of his character. “The project, in his mind, is almost an insult to his scientific belief system and he feels he’s being used in some kind of political game playing. Once he realizes it could be a possibility, it leads him to a place where he starts to have belief and once he does, love is allowed to come into his life in a way it hadn’t before.”
Simon Beaufoy, who adapted the screenplay from a novel by Paul Torday, says he expected an older actor to play Fred. He was somewhat dubious when he learned McGregor had been cast in the role, but ultimately, he says, “Ewan offered a beautiful performance,” despite the challenges.
“It’s always difficult for an actor to play a dislikable character and to make himself dislikable to an audience,” Beaufoy says during a telephone conversation from London. “And it was especially hard for Ewan to make himself dislikeable because he is distinctly likable.”
McGregor, who lives in L.A. with his wife and four daughters, says he knew early on that he wanted act.
“It was all I ever wanted to do,” he says, taking a hefty bite of a bagel with cream cheese. “In school I was interested in music and in art, but they wouldn’t let me take both together because they were interested in turning out people who would work in commerce, so doing music and art meant you were copping out. I wasn’t happy, so I started to get into trouble.”
When he was 16, his parents told him he could leave school. Although he had no sense of how he would launch his acting career, he did not hesitate to drop out.
“I left school with nothing to do - no job - it was a bit of a risk my parents took,” he says, looking thoughtful. “I never really spoke to them about it properly, but I will do it.”
Timing, of course, is everything, and McGregor’s was perfect. A week after he left school, the Perth Repertory Theatre, where he’d applied months before, called him in. The company, which was near his home, was planning a production of “A Passage to India” and needed a lot of Indian extras.
“So I was taken in and blackened up and turbaned up and after that they kept me on,” he says.
He has worked steadily since then and says he never second-guesses his decision to end his formal education. In fact, he says, he would support any of his children who decided to pursue an acting career.
He recently finished filming a pilot for an HBO series, “The Corrections,” adapted from the best-selling novel by Jonathan Franzen, and will return to New York this summer to film the rest of the series. Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dianne Wiest, and Chris Cooper will also star in the series, which will be directed by Noah Baumbach.
McGregor says he is looking forward to the time he will spend in New York because he feels the fans here are more respectful of his privacy than they are in England or Scotland.
“Glasgow is especially tough because ‘Trainspotting’ made such a mark there,” he says. “For years, when I walked around there, people would just yell ‘Rent-boy’ [his nickname in the film], and then they’d try to get me to come for a pint with them. They all thought I was their mate.”
Ewan McGregor's Salmon Fishing in the Yemen poster
Friday, Feb 10 2012 By Simon Reynolds
The new poster for Ewan McGregor’s Salmon Fishing in the Yemen has been unveiled exclusively through Digital Spy.
Based on Paul Torday’s best-selling novel, the film follows government fisheries expert Fred Jones (McGregor) as he introduces salmon into the waterways of Yemen for the purposes of sport fishing.
Emily Blunt co-stars as Harriet Chetwode-Talbot, a consultant who approaches Fred about the job. Kristin Scott Thomas plays Bridget Maxwell, a spokesperson for the prime minister who is looking to use Fred to detract attention from some unwanted publicity.
Lasse Hallstrom (Dear John, Chocolat) directs the movie from a script by Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire screenwriter Simon Beaufoy.
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen will open in UK cinemas on April 20.
Ewan McGregor gets soaked to the skin as he shoots scenes long-awaited adaptation of The Corrections
7th February 2012 By Mike Larkin
It must have been just like being back home for Scottish movie star Ewan McGregor.
For the actor was drenched to the skin as he recorded scenes for the long-awaited adaptation of The Corrections in New York.
The Star Wars favourite was soaked through as he jumped out of a taxi in the Big Apple at the weekend.
It will have been just liked old times for the Perth-born actor, who grew up in the nearby little town of Crieff.
His years growing up in the rain-soaked area of Scotland will have been ideal preparation for his role in the HBO pilot, which could turn into a series.
Ewan, 40, wore a fashionable leather jacket and black jeans as he hauled a pair of suitcases indoors for the surprisingly dramatic scene.
No doubt seeing the Trainspotting star filming the scenes will have fans of the influential novel going giddy with glee.
Where now? Ewan got ready to run into the nearest building after the driver dropped him off with his suitcases
There have been attempts to bring Jonathan Franzen’s 2001 novel to the screen since it was published, which tells the story of the Lambert family - an elderly Midwestern couple and their three adult children.
The children flee to the east coast of the United States to begin new lives free from their parents’ influence.
In the novel itself, the plot goes back and forwards in time in the late twentieth century, focusing on the adventures and mistakes of each family member.
Ewan has been cast as the Marxist academic Chip, who ends up involved with a Lithuanian crime boss after a disastrous affair with a student.
It is unclear at the moment who will play the eldest Lambert son Gary, a successful yet unhappy alcoholic banker.
Out you get: Unsurprisingly the taxi driver did not seem too enthused with helping him get his bags
Family fun: His co-stars Chris Cooper and Dianne Wiest were on hand to help Ewan as he got ready to go indoors
Other cast members include American Beauty star Chris Cooper, who plays controlling family patriarch Alfred, a retired rail road engineer who is struck with Parkinson’s Disease.
Dianne West plays the family matriarch Enid, who attempts to bring the whole family together for ’one last Christmas’ near the turn of the millennium.
The book became almost as famous for its’ author’s run-in with Oprah Winfrey as for the slew of prizes it garnered, including 2001 National Book Award.
She selected it for her book club in 2001, but Franzen expressed his worry that the Oprah logo on the cover would dissuade men from reading the book.
Producer Scott Rudin had been trying to make it into a film since 2001, and following flirtations with the likes of Stephen Daldry and Robert Zameckis, finally confirmed it was being turned into a television picture for HBO last year.
Brothers Colin and Ewan McGregor follow up their documentary The Battle of Britain with a film exploring Bomber Command, a rarely-told story from the Second World War.
The programme was filmed at RAF BBMF, at RAF Coningsby throughout the year, with the main flying sequence taking place during the last major flying day of our display season. The documentary will be shown on BBC One and BBC HD on Sunday 5 February at 9pm.
The film focuses primarily on the men who fought and died in the skies above occupied Europe, with numerous examples of individual heroism and extraordinary collective spirit, and Colin learns to fly the key aircraft of the campaign: the Lancaster bomber. But this is also the story of a controversy that has lasted almost 70 years.
The programme covers six years of wartime operations, and traces the obstacles and challenges that were overcome as the RAF developed and deployed the awesome fighting force that was Bomber Command.
Bomber Command documentary with Ewan McGregor to be aired on BBC
Friday, February 03, 2012
A Bomber Command documentary filmed in Lincolnshire with Hollywood star Ewan McGregor will be aired on BBC One.
Bomber Boys sees the actor fly in a Lancaster Bomber with his pilot brother, Colin McGregor, talk with veterans about their experiences in the Second World War and visit Lincolnshire RAF stations.
The film focuses on men who fought and died in the skies above occupied Europe, while highlighting the heroes of the time.
The 90-minute show covers six years of wartime operations and traces the obstacles that were overcome as the RAF developed and deployed the fighting force that was Bomber Command.
Producer and director Harvey Lilley from Lion Television, which made the show, said Lincolnshire is “a central character” in the feature length documentary.
“It felt like something of a pilgrimage to some of those hundreds of air bases that sprang up throughout the county in the Second World War,” he said.
“They were packed with thousands of young men – all volunteers – who took the fight to Germany in the dark days of the Second World War when nobody else was capable of striking at the Nazi War Machine.
“Colin and Ewan met veterans in the Bluebell at Tattershall Thorpe and stayed at the Petwood Hotel at Woodhall Spa, previously the officers mess of the Dambusters.
“And in an unrepeatable experience for both, they got to fly in the BBMF’s Lancaster, the City of Lincoln, at last year’s Lincolnshire Lancaster day.
“It all helped paint a picture for them of what life was like for the 125 000 young men who fought in the bombing campaign of the Second World War, many of whom – more than 55,000 – paid the ultimate price.”
The brothers filmed at the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight based at RAF Coningsby and the former bases of Faldingworth, Wickenby and East Kirkby, last summer.
Squadron Leader Ian Smith, officer commanding the RAF BBMF, said: “We were delighted to support this documentary and keen to help as much as we could with the project. The documentary will highlight the courage the personnel of Bomber Command had and the ultimate sacrifice that 55,573 of them made. Lest we forget.”
Other filming was carried out in London, Afghanistan, Hamburg and the former wartime air base of White Waltham in Berkshire.
The show will air on Sunday, February 5, at 9pm, on BBC One. It will then be available on BBC iPlayer for catch-up viewers.
With one of the most diverse filmographies around, ranging from musicals to thrillers to animation, Ewan McGregor really is a Jack of all acting trades. It comes as no surprise then that 2012 will see the Perth born star play a number of different roles; from a fly-fishing expert in Salmon Fishing in the Yemen to a giant slayer in Jack the Giant Killer.
One role McGregor enjoyed playing more than most, however, was as a secret agent in Steven Soderbergh’s new film, Haywire.
“I loved the part of Kenneth,” he explained. “He’s this special operative agent. He’s a real scumbag, so it was really interesting to play him.”
Haywire is Soderbergh’s brilliant espionage thriller, which sees McGregor play the boss of a tough female Black-Ops super soldier, played by real life ex-American gladiator, kick boxer and mixed martial arts champion, Gina Carano. “There’s something really intriguing about her,” says Ewan. “I really like her. She is such a sweet girl with a gentle soul but when she’s in the ring, she’s capable of being incredibly tough. She’s an unbelievably brutal fighter.” Certainly, McGregor feels the film benefits from having an actual fighter in the lead role.
“It’s a fight film with the slight difference that the main fighter in it is a woman,” he points out. “In the movie you get to watch a real fighter in the fight scenes. It’s really unusual and realistic, as we’ve got someone who actually knows what she’s doing.”
While filming one particular fight scene with the former World number 3 MMA fighter, things got a little too realistic for McGregor’s liking. “Yeah, I accidentally hit her full force on the side of the head. She immediately asked me if I was ok, though.
“It didn’t bother her that much,” laughs McGregor, “but it certainly almost cracked my fingers.”
McGregor was drawn to the role for more reasons than playing a scumbag and having the chance to work with Gina Carano. The director, Academy-Award winner and twice nominated, Steven Soderbergh, has been an inspiration to McGregor for quite some time.
“I’ve really wanted to work with Steven for years. I almost had a chance to work with him a long time ago on a movie but it didn’t work out for one reason or another. Sometimes when that happens a director doesn’t come back to you, but I was delighted he did with this.
“He’s incredibly experienced and very well practiced at what he does. He shoots everything himself, he operates the camera and he lights the scenes – which is very unusual from a director. He’s just ever present on the set. Occasionally on some movies, you’re not even sure the director’s there but with Steven; he’s right in the middle of things and gives you a lot of freedom as an actor. There’s not a great deal of discussion about character or motivation, but he gives you freedom and then guides you if he needs to.”
As one of the most in demand actors in Hollywood, McGregor has seen his CV grow year after year. 2012 will be no different and the Scot seems genuinely excited when discussing the films that will be added to his ever-expanding filmography.
“In the spring, there’s Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, which is a film I made with Emily Blunt and directed by Lasse Hallstrom. That’s a really sweet, funny film. In the summer, there’s a big 3D Hollywood extravaganza that I took part in called Jack the Giant Killer.
“Near the end of the year there’s a film coming out called The Impossible, which I made with Naomi Watts and Spanish director Juan Antonio Bayona.That’s a true story about a family who were caught by the Tsunami in 2005 in Thailand.”
One of the more unexpected projects undertaken by McGregor this year is his first foray into a major TV series as a leading character.
“I start shooting HBO series, The Corrections, in February, which is an adaptation of Jonathan Franzen’s novel. It’s an incredibly well written series and has a really good cast, too, with Chris Cooper and Diane Wiest. It’s a really nice cast and has a brilliant director, Noah Baumbach, who did The Squid and the Whale and Greenberg. We’re in New York filming that at the moment.”
When it comes to deciding which roles to accept and which to decline, McGregor is well known for not conforming to the usual Hollywood big budget blockbusters. He reveals that it’s the script rather than director, cast or budget that attracts him to films.
“I don’t complicate it. I just look to be engaged when I’m reading it, you know. I think there are different elements that make up a film; an interesting director attached, for example, can change the way you read it. At the same time, though, if you don’t feel connected to the script, then somehow you won’t be able to do your best work. I just look for a story that fascinates me and a character that I don’t feel like I’ve played before. I keep it simple like that, really.”
As one of the hardest working actors in film, McGregor cherishes his time off – whenever he gets some. “I’ve got four children now, so any time off I get, I spend quite a lot of it with my kids and my wife. I also ride my old motorbikes, which is my hobby. They are my passion. I’ve got a collection of old oily British and Italian bikes. I like to keep them going and ride them whenever I can.”
One motorbike McGregor will not be riding any time soon, however, is his BMW R1200GS used in the popular documentaries The Long Way Round and The Long Way Down.
“There are no plans in place at the moment. I don’t think it’ll happen. It takes such a lot of work and time and I’m already away a lot with my work so it’s difficult to use my spare time to go away again for another three or four months. Especially now that I’ve got a little baby at the moment and I don’t want to miss her baby years.
“I ride my bikes almost every day but apart from personal trips that I make now and again and trips with my dad or my brother, I don’t plan on doing any big ones again.”
Staying in L.A and filming in exotic locations around the world, McGregor admits that Scotland will always hold a special place in his heart.
“I always try to spend as much time in Scotland as I can. I try and spend my summers between Scotland and France [Ewan’s wife’s country of birth] so the kids can see their grandparents and I get to be home. It just depends on my schedule, though. It’s not easy to organise school holiday breaks and my breaks.
“If I’m ever filming in Britain, I’ll always make it up to Scotland.”
And he could be coming back to his homeland soon with a third project planned with acclaimed Scottish director David McKenzie.
“I’m speaking to David about another project at the moment. I love working with him. Perfect Sense, which we made together, is a brilliant piece of work by him, as was Young Adam.
“He’s not just a great Scottish director but also just one of the great, great directors in the world. He’s got such a unique, dark vision and I like working with him. We’ve been talking about doing a film that, if not Glasgow based, will certainly be Scotland based.”
Ewan McGregor on Perfect Sense, eating soap, and ‘messy’ sex
February 1, 2012 By Jennifer Vineyard
Which of our senses do we most take for granted? In the film Perfect Sense, a mysterious plague shuts down humanity’s senses one by one, each preceded by an extreme emotion: a profound grief leaves victims with no sense of smell, feeding frenzies precede a loss of taste, fits of rage mean deafness will follow. Ewan McGregor, playing a chef, and Eva Green, as an epidemiologist, meet in the midst of all this and fall in love, even as they themselves lose their ability to smell, taste, hear, or — inevitably — see each other. Fortunately, McGregor has not lost his ability to chat, so Vulture checked in with him about eating soap, taking on his first TV role, and “messy” sex.
Did you spend time with any chefs to prep for your part in Perfect Sense?
I worked with an old friend of mine, Guy Cowans. He has a place called Guy’s in Glasgow, and he’s also a movie-set caterer in Britain. He became the chef advisor for the movie, for all of the sequences in the kitchen. So I worked with him for about a week, observing, about two or three hours a night, and I actually ended up helping out. I spent a few nights doing service, when it got really chaotic. [Laughs.] I used to be a dishwasher and a waiter when I was 14, 15, 16, so I do have some experience with that, but it’s fascinating to watch them keep the orders straight — what steak to cook for how long and all of that. It’s really quite something to see. So I was taught how to make several dishes that we incorporated into the scenes. Guy orchestrated most of it; we wanted it to be realistic, for our movements to make sense, so it looked like we knew what we were doing.
You reunited with Ewen Bremner — Spud in Trainspotting — and you act for the first time with your uncle, Denis Lawson...
That was just delicious. I’ve waited my whole life to act with Denis. He’s directed me [Solid Geometry, Little Malcolm & His Struggle Against the Eunuchs], but Denis is the reason I’m an actor. He’s my inspiration. He’s the only person to speak to about acting. And Ewen, this is our third film together. We’re also in Jack the Giant Killer, acting up a storm together. He pushes himself physically, and goes to great lengths, so he’s really exciting to watch.
You both push yourselves to great lengths in the food-frenzy scene. What on earth are you guys eating?
That was actually olive oil he was pouring down his throat! He’s not swallowing it, but it looks like he is, doesn’t it? My jar of “mustard” was actually custard. It’s all stuff you could eat. The guys in the fish market, they were eating big lumps of raw fish, because that’s difficult to substitute, so the fish stuff was real. Disgusting, huh? I was lucky not to have to do that one. Oh, and the soap — we didn’t have to eat soap. That was a bar of white chocolate, with some kind of foam on it that Guy uses in cooking.
Eating soap is not on my to-do list, although it’s a sweet scene in the bathtub. It made me think about how much your sense of smell and taste affect things like falling in love, memories...
It’s really brilliant. It’s a simple metaphor, that when you fall in love, you lose your senses. We can’t eat, we can’t sleep, and it just takes us over. And that would have been good enough, but then the way David Mackenzie shot it was so believable and true, and it somehow elevated the idea way above what I expected. It was a very deep, moving experience. People come up to me and tell me they’ve had entirely different reactions to it. Some people think it’s about mourning the different phases of your life. It just taps into something interesting about the human condition, and it’s very unique.
What’s your favorite smell or taste, the one you would most hate to lose?
For smell? Oil. Oil and leather. Old metal. Like an oily, old car, an old motorcar or motorcycle. The way when you get off and it cools off, it gives off a rich aroma. For taste? Probably something like a boiled egg with toast, or an avocado with lemon and salt.
There have been a lot of apocalyptic and postapocalyptic scenarios on film lately, but they’re usually played for thrills. This is much more a love story. And you’ve got lots of sex scenes with Eva...
When the world’s about to end, the only thing Eva and I can think about is each other, the need for each other, to fall in each other’s arms. We’ve been reluctantly falling in love, and against our better judgment, at the end of the day — literally at the end of the day for them — what we find is true love. And sex is part of that, an important part of that. It’s as intrinsic to this story as music is in Moulin Rouge. I don’t shy away from being naked. The Pillow Book, that was about a woman’s sexuality, and the idea of not being naked in that is ludicrous. If instead of being naked, you’re clutching at a bed sheet, that’s nonsense. But I don’t like to see the generic Hollywood sex scenes with the bodies glistening — sex is not like it is in some Hollywood movies! Sometimes it’s messy, sometimes it’s guilty, sometimes it’s embarrassing, and you’ve got to tap into that.
You’ll probably have lots of room to explore all of that on The Corrections.
Yeah, but I don’t think we’ll have to go out of our way. [Laughs.] I haven’t seen many of the scripts yet, but it feels like it’s going to be accurate to the book, and really detailed. Jonathan Franzen’s writing it with Noah [Baumbach], and it looks like we’ll have the luxury of time to push deeper through the book and explore parts of the story that aren’t in it. That’ll be a first.
I was surprised you took the role: I thought you turned down being James Bond in Casino Royale because you didn’t want to commit long-term to a role?
Ah, but I didn’t turn down Bond. When they were casting it, they spoke to me, and I was one of the actors they considered, but they never quite offered it to me. It’s an urban myth!
A dirty old man’s laugh honks down the hotel corridor, as if someone has just told a rude joke. That someone is Ewan McGregor, who now opens the door of his suite. “Come in, come in,” he says, his eyes still creased into laughter lines. “We were just ... ” He never says quite what they were “just ... ”, but good humour hangs in the air like a party streamer. McGregor offers a handshake which percolates with the enthusiasm.
Dressed in a black T-shirt that sits tight on his lean frame, jeans cuffed at the ankle and black bovver boots, which he slams on the coffee table in front of him, he really doesn’t look that far removed from Renton, the character from Trainspotting that made him famous more than 16 years ago. Not that he looks like a heroin addict. But the clothes, the boots on the table, the pasty skin — the only difference might be a good haircut. Even at 40 years old, he doesn’t seem to have aged at all. Los Angeles, which is where we are now and where he is living, appears to agree with him.
In a 20-year career, McGregor has made nearly 50 films — an exhausting average of two movies a year. In the past he’s been accused of being a little “promiscuous” with his film choices, and it’s made him a little defensive. (“Can you tell me why it is ridiculous for an actor who’s working to work a lot?” he once said, not without justification. “Why is it?”)
Today, McGregor is fresh from an all-too-rare four-month break — which could also explain his youthful, carefree demeanour. “I finished shooting a film in September, and I just felt I’d worked my a*** off for years,” he explains. “I felt like I just hadn’t stopped. Which I hadn’t. And I realised one day that I didn’t have to work if I didn’t want to. It was like the sky suddenly opening up. I called my wife and suggested that I didn’t work for the rest of the year. And it’s been lovely.”
“Lovely” is a word that appears often in McGregor’s vocabulary. As does the F-word. An odd combination, perhaps, but one that perfectly explains a Scottish lad who quit school at 16 and came to inhabit the sphere of acting luvvies. His accent tells the same story of merging worlds — a soft Scottish burr, but “a wee bit actorified”, he says himself. “I did go off and make a couple of documentaries,” he continues, fixing me with his blue eyes. “But I didn’t make a movie, and it was great to be at home. We’ve got a new baby, and those are beautiful months that you won’t get back if you’re not there.”
This year, McGregor will break his record with four films due for release (at the mention of this he raises his fist in a triumphant gesture). The first is Haywire, a complex action thriller directed by Oscar-winner Steven Soderbergh, in which he plays the owner of a private undercover operations agency opposite Michael Fassbender and Michael Douglas; in the comedy Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, he plays a fisheries expert opposite Emily Blunt; Jack the Giant Killer is a big-budget, effects-heavy fairy tale with McGregor as captain of the king’s guard; and in The Impossible, due out at the end of the year, he’s a father who loses his wife and eldest son in the 2004 tsunami in Thailand.
Never could you call him typecast. In fact, rarely is there an actor who has dived, chameleon-like, into such a vast array of roles — he moves from family-friendly popcorn fare to art-house oddities without missing a beat. “Well, I’m lucky,” he says matter-of-factly. “Because I think diversity is what it’s all about.” After Trainspotting came a slew of successful independent films such as Brassed Off, Little Voice and Peter Greenaway’s The Pillow Book. In 1999, he became a younger Alec Guinness — and an action figure — as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars trilogy. Then the US roles flooded in — Moulin Rouge, Black Hawk Down, The Island, The Men Who Stare at Goats, Angels & Demons, Beginners — and he found himself working with directors such as Roman Polanski and Woody Allen. Then there’s the string of leading ladies, a list that includes Nicole Kidman (whom he affectionately calls “Knickers”), Emily Blunt (“I could make film after film with her”), Renée Zellweger, Naomi Watts, Tilda Swinton, Scarlett Johansson ... He won’t name his favourite on the grounds that it “wouldn’t be very gentlemanly, would it?”
Haywire, which sees him clearly relishing playing a villain, is a complicated film that even McGregor admits needs a few viewings to fully unravel. And it’s packed to the rafters with fight scenes. He talks briefly about being a little caught out when a fight scene was added to the film some nine months after the main shoot, when he was anything but fit. Given that he had to go up against martial arts champion Gina Carano, who plays the female lead in the film, this was something of a nerve-racking moment.
“I hadn’t done any training, I hadn’t even been to the gym, suddenly I was in four hours fight rehearsal for two days. I almost couldn’t walk after that. Every muscle in my body hurt. And there I was up against someone who is inordinately fit.” At one point he accidentally punched Carano in the head, causing her to ask him if he’d hurt himself. (He had.)
Filming The Impossible was, if anything, more painful. The tsunami scenes were created with minimal digital effects, meaning McGregor and his co-star Watts had to spend long periods submerged in a gigantic water tank in Spain. He admits he “howled like a baby” when he read the script, which is based on the experiences of a real family. “I was very wary about this film,” says McGregor. “It’s a story about something terrible that happened in recent history, where many, many people lost their lives and the idea of making a movie about it didn’t sit very well on my shoulders.
“But I’ve never really explored being a father in a film before, and I’ve been a father for 15 years, so I agreed to read the script. The story is about a dad who gets split up from his wife and his eldest son, and he has the two youngest sons with him, aged seven and five. And he puts his little boys up on the roof of the hotel while he goes to look for his wife and eldest son. And he can’t stop searching for them. I wouldn’t want to spoil the film, but when they find each other ... I was just crying my eyes out. And that’s why I think it’s valid to make the film because it’s all about the human spirit and a unique look at what makes us tick.”
Three years ago, he and his wife of 16 years, Ève Mavrakis, moved to Los Angeles with their four children, Clara, 15, Esther, nine, Jamiyan, nine, and the baby.
“I didn’t have any desire to live in Los Angeles,” he explains, when reminded of a 2001 interview in which he swore he’d never do any such thing. “I moved to London when I was 18 and I just thought this is where I live. But our friends here in LA said you should see this house, so Ève and I saw it and just fell for it.” They bought it in 2005, rented it out and stayed there now and again. “And then every time we came to stay, we liked being here more and more and then we just decided — on a whim, I suppose — to try living here. And we like it very much,” he pauses to reflect. “The truth is I have to go away to work, and Ève finds it easier to be here with the kids when I’m away.”
The couple met on the set of the television series Kavanagh QC in 1995 — she was working as a production designer. After 16 years, he appreciates “that lovely feeling of being with someone for a really long time ... you know each other so well and you’re so comfortable in each other’s company. I get asked what’s the secret to a happy marriage a lot, and there’s no answer to it without trivialising it. You can’t just say ‘if you do this or do that, you’ll have a great marriage’ because it doesn’t work like that. There’s no secret other than to be in love with the woman you’re sharing your life with.” The extended absences can be hard, he says, but they’ve learnt to live with them. “It’s just the way it is. It’s how I make my living, and it’s how I support my family. And we just get on with it.” He paints a picture of family life that is anything but showbizzy.
“There’s a very British, disdainful image of Los Angeles, which is straight out of the pages of gossip celebrity magazines,” he says, rather earnestly. “There’s this idea that if you live here, you’re knocking about at parties with the Beckhams all the time, but that bears no relation to my life at all. When you’ve got four children, your world revolves around them and their friends.”
When he’s not running around organising children’s parties, he’s usually in his garage, where he keeps his collection of vintage motorcycles. His love of motorcycling is well known after making the television series Long Way Round and Long Way Down with his friend Charley Boorman, but the extent of his collection is a revelation. “I’ve got some lovely, lovely old motorcycles that date back to 1929. There’s about 15 of them, and I’d be quite happy to just stand and look at them all day,” he says wistfully. “I have a very basic mechanical knowledge, and I like tinkering with them. And then I love to ride them, of course. It’s like meditation for me.”
Ironically, spending too much time in Los Angeles when he’s not working is the time that McGregor finds himself fretting over his career. “I try not to worry about where I am in this business. But it’s easier to worry here than at home because Los Angeles is all about the film business. At home you feel you’re judged on your body of work as a whole, here it’s more about your latest box-office figures. It’s not a very comfortable feeling.”
Raised in Crieff, Perthshire, the son of two teachers, McGregor always wanted to act. His parents let him leave school at 16 to join the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London and within a year of leaving he was starring in the Dennis Potter television series Lipstick on Your Collar; within two, Shallow Grave, and shortly after came Trainspotting.
Fame arrived with all its disadvantages. McGregor laughs as he tells the story of when he was strip searched by US customs. “It was after Trainspotting, and the customs guy took me into a booth. It was absolutely that he’d seen me in a movie about heroin and therefore assumed I’d be carrying heroin on me. I sort of took it as a compliment. Obviously I’d been quite convincing.” Returning to Scotland after Trainspotting wasn’t easy either. “I was in Glasgow five or six years later and people were calling out in the street: ’Renton, f****** Renton’. Everyone wanted to take me for a pint. I found I was doing a lot of very fast walking, head down, because it was very difficult to wander about.” These days he’s more accustomed to being stopped in the street. “I really don’t mind if people come up to me. As long as they’re polite about it, I’m happy. I don’t like people who are pushy and sometimes people will come up and tell me that they didn’t like me in something.
“I want to say ’Just don’t bother. If you didn’t like me in something keep it to yourself. Don’t come across the street and put yourself out to tell me I was s*** in something. I don’t want to know’. But people love to do that.” Talking of Scotland gets him misty eyed. He talks unemotionally about what he misses of London — the theatre, his house in St John’s Wood which is rented out, chatting with people in Regent’s Park while his “dog sniffs other dogs’ bums”. But Scotland invokes a zeal in his voice that gives away the patently passionate man beneath. “It’s funny but it’s a very Scottish thing to love the place more the less you’re there. It’s easy to love Scotland from afar. But I do yearn for it. I yearn to take a motorcycle ride and lose myself in the Highlands. It’s the one thing I don’t often do.”
Another thing he doesn’t often do, is drink. It’s been 11 years since his last sip of alcohol. “I was a father, a husband, I had a burgeoning career and I was drinking too much. Something had to give and I didn’t want it to be any of the other ones that went. So I stopped drinking. It wasn’t a big deal,” he says, a trace of irritation in his voice. Does he mind talking about it? “No, it’s fine. It’s just that when you boil down my interviews, it’s always that I take my clothes off and I don’t drink.”
This does seem a little unfair. There’s more to McGregor than abstemiousness and a penchant for nakedness. But he does have a reputation for taking his clothes off in films. There are so many that he’s even joked that nudity is written into his contract. “The truth is I don’t mind doing nudity if it’s called for,” he says. “I’ve not done it in some films when asked to, because I felt it was gratuitous, but films reflect our lives. I love romantic films, and part of that in our modern world is sex. I don’t want to be the guy getting out of bed clutching a pillow to his d***, because people don’t do that in real life. If you’ve just spent three hours making love to a woman in bed, you’re not going to be worried about her seeing you when you get up to go to the toilet. At least, I wouldn’t be.” He laughs.
Of course, the nudity has got him into trouble before now. He recalls the time when his parents, who he still visits in Perthshire when he can, decided to go to a screening of The Pillow Book. “It’s an amazing film and I loved doing it. But I remember my parents sending me a fax saying, ’We’re going to go and see The Pillow Book tonight in Edinburgh, son. We’re going with the farmer and his wife’. They live in the middle of nowhere, next to a farm, and they wanted to take the farmer. And I suddenly thought ’God, do they have any idea what’s in the film?’” For those who haven’t seen it, McGregor spends much of The Pillow Book completely naked and at one point shares a love scene with a 75-year-old Japanese man. McGregor tried to warn his parents that the film was “quite racy”, but it was no use. They went, and his father faxed his response the next day. It simply read, “I’m glad you inherited one of my major attributes.”
Ewan McGregor is beaming behind the wheel of his rusty 1960-something Volkswagen pickup in the parking lot of The Standard Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. A left and then a few blocks and then one more left on South Main Street, and he’s at yet another parking lot, this one deserted for the day’s shoot. Still sporting the tailored navy suit and brown tie from the last few frames shot in the hotel, he’s quickly out of the battered VW and ogling one of the day’s props, the photographer’s midnight blue 1964 Mustang, the one with the tiny little side-view mirrors that look like they belong on a dentist’s tray, and the missing “D” on the hood that renders its make “FOR.”
McGregor’s fondness for motor sports is well documented. A known gearhead, he has twice in the last decade embarked on cross-continental motorcycle trips — one around the northern hemisphere and one down the length of Africa. Both were broadcast as miniseries. On this day, he has his vintage Spanish test bike, another of the shoot’s props, lashed down in the bed of the pickup. He is still grinning when he takes the bike down the ramp, and later when a neighbor leans out a window to complain about its apparent lack of a muffler.
A day earlier, in the Spanish-style back patio of a Santa Monica café, no muscle cars or motorcycles or other toys in sight, that McGregor smile, the one he deploys with a glance to the middle distance when he makes sort of Zen pronouncements about his life or career, is on frequent display. Somewhere between content and amused, it is what a screenwriter might call a “knowing smile.”
It’s there when he offers, in his still-detectable Scottish lilt, his take on his family’s move three years ago to Los Angeles: “I always just assumed that I’d live in London forever. But I don’t, and I quite enjoy that.” Or his decision just more than a decade ago to quit drinking: “It was effortless, because it was the only thing I was prepared to give up. I wasn’t prepared to give up my career or my child — I wasn’t about to lose my children... 11 years. Easy-peasy.”
Or artifice in film, a favorite topic of disdain: “I hate scripts that read like other movies....That’s why I’ve never really nailed the Hollywood ‘hard man’ role, because I don’t really believe it. I don’t know guys who have great exit lines every time they leave the room.”
And later, in a discussion of his long résumé of sex scenes: “I love it when scriptwriters write, ‘They climax together,’ and I go, Oh yeah, really?” McGregor’s is the look of a man at total peace with how much he has figured out. And at 40 — more than half a decade removed from the Star Wars prequels and Moulin Rouge and that moment when there was a chance at all-out global megastardom — McGregor seems to have quite a bit figured out.
Yes, Ewan McGregor, who made his star turn 15 years ago as a nihilist junkie in Trainspotting, who always seemed willing to wear eyeliner and go full frontal, is 40. Though over tea, he doesn’t quite look it. Los Angeles has rendered his complexion a shade tanner than a son of Crieff, Scotland, should be capable of, and he’s dressed young: light-washed Levi’s, black leather Chuck Taylors and a black T-shirt with an elaborate Rorschach screen print. But when conversation turns to getting his teenage daughter to join the family for a shoot in London last summer, he doesn’t just sound middle-aged. He sounds like any other slightly harassed dad in the subdivision.
“We can’t really drag her out of L.A. anymore, not with a team of wild horses,” he says with a laugh.
He’s been married to his wife, Ève, a production designer he met early in his career, for 16 years. The couple have four girls, ranging in age from 1 to 15. Over the years, he’s been largely guarded about his family life, but in conversation, he tends to define himself as much as a father as an actor.
“I’ve tried very hard to keep them out of the way, because it’s nothing to do with anybody, and it’s not fair on them,” he says. “We have a group of friends where some are in the business, some are not in the business — and all walks of the business: a lawyer, a writer, a director we know — and their kids and our kids are all friends. It’s not some kind of showbiz party around our house on the weekends. It’s far from it. It’s like real life.”
At times McGregor’s low-key cool and motorcycles and downright sane approach to the fame-family divide seem of another era. Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward and Westport come to mind.
Take, for example, an aside he offers about Haywire, which is in theaters Jan. 20 and is the ostensible reason for our sit-down. Helmed by Steven Soderbergh, the international spy thriller stars Gina Carano as an agent on the run, and McGregor as one of several GQ-ready spooks — played by Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas, Michael Fassbender and Channing Tatum — who either employ or are out to extinguish her. Soderbergh, McGregor explains, put the cast at the preproduction mercy of a former Israeli special agent, who had them all packing fake blue .9 mm pistols to set the level of paranoia just right.
“I didn’t take my gun anywhere... I don’t want to be that guy who’s getting drawn on in the supermarket, when I’ve got my kids around, because I’ve got a rubber gun down the back of my pants,” he says, cracking up. “I kind of chickened out of it... Well, I got the point.”
Getting the point seems to be a McGregor specialty, and why not? He has been working for almost 20 years and has 50-something films to his credit. He is presumably set financially (though he refuses to take the bait when the subject of a back end on Obi-Wan Kenobi action figures is broached: “It wouldn’t be gentlemanly to talk about that”). He’s taken on a variety of work since, including a few that didn’t quite land as intended. If something less than megastardom followed that early-Naughts hot streak, McGregor seems perfectly at ease where he is now. He’s been on a bit of a new streak lately, which started in 2010 with Roman Polanski’s The Ghost Writer and continued last year with Mike Mills’ terrific Beginners, in which he played an angst-ridden, grief-stricken thirtysomething casting about Los Angeles with Mélanie Laurent and a Jack Russell terrier.
He has, in short, achieved the sort of work-life balance that would be maddening to the world at large if he didn’t tend to be such a goddamn nice guy about the whole thing. Unprompted, he twice rearranges the proceedings at the café to keep a very pale, very sweaty reporter out of the baking SoCal sun. He pitches the umbrella himself on the second go-round.
“[It’s] almost unnervingly natural, how relaxed he is,” says Carano. A mixed martial artist by training and a total acting novice before Haywire, she has a unique perspective on the matter.
“He’s so smart. Everyone else was so excited, and he’s just relaxed and cool and has all the smart, witty things to say, but he’s kind of quieter,” she says, recalling the cast’s first meeting in a hotel. “And then we all went downstairs and I see this guy take off on his motorcycle — the coolest, most antique motorcycle — and it was Ewan. I was like, ‘That’s Ewan McGregor.’ He’s just way too cool.”
Haywire and Beginners aside, McGregor is moving toward more familiar domestic territory on-screen these days. He’ll play, as he puts it, “a proper dad” in this year’s The Impossible, about a family upended by the tsunami in Thailand in 2004. Despite his being a father for nearly as long as he’s been working, it’s something of a first.
“It’s nice to feel like you’re working on grown-up films and playing a grown-up person,” he says of the development.
In March, he’s especially against type as a buttoned-up Scottish fisheries expert in Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. Lasse Hallström, the Swedish-born director of Chocolat and The Cider House Rules, who worked with McGregor on Salmon Fishing, cites the actor’s “sense of irony” as one of his greatest strengths. “Privately, he has a wonderful sense of humor,” the director says.
At the café, McGregor considers what’s left to accomplish. He says he’d like to direct, unaware of or, more likely, unbothered by the cliché. But acting, he says, is still an end itself.
“If every now and again one’s like a step out, that’s fine,” McGregor says of his role selection these days. “I’d like to feel I’m still climbing the ladder, if you like, but at the same time, it’s not the be-all and end-all. Because I’m really happy where I’m at.”
By now McGregor’s tea bag is on the glass tabletop, and the sun is starting to let up a little bit. It’s the time of day when, one imagines, the dutiful parents of the L.A. metro area line up their cars for the post-school pickup. Or maybe it’s the perfect hour or two to be on a bike, tooling around Southern California. Either way, our allotted time is drawing to a close and McGregor is soon back off to the real world.
But not without one last bit of insight.
“Your ambition,” he says with that smile, “can be to carry on doing what you’re doing.”
Ewan talks about how he got involved in Haywire, his feelings on not being involved in more of the action scenes, karaoke, does he prefer two takes or fifty, and which of his previous movies do people always want to talk to him about. In addition, McGregor talked about starring in Bryan Singer’s Jack the Giant Killer which arrives this summer.
One thing is clear from Buzzine’s sit-down with Ewan McGregor: when Steven Soderbergh asks you to be in his film, you say “yes.” With a résumé including such cinematic gems as Sex, Lies, and Videotape, Traffic and Contagion, Soderbergh has won the awe and respect of his peers in the industry. With his latest film, Haywire, he follows a double-crossed spy as she struggles to survive and get back at those who betrayed her. McGregor discusses the grueling fight scenes, working with mixed martial arts fighter Gina Carano, and what a rare joy it is to be in a film with a strong female lead.
How were you informed about the movie and Carano’s role in it? How were you sold on the movie?
The script was very, very strong. It was a really good piece of writing. It had good strong elements from, obviously, fight movies, which I am not familiar with particularly. There was a spy element: what it is like to be an undercover spy — James Bond. And at the center of it is this incredible strong female lead, which is unusual in a film like this, I think. So it was very intriguing, and for me personally, the opportunity to work with Steven was very strong. He’s a filmmaker who, I think, is on all of our lists, in terms of people you really want to work with.
Did you ever fear for your life going toe-to-toe with Gina?
No, not at all. We were in very safe hands with Gina because she’s so precise. I really never felt there was ever an issue or worry to get hurt. I didn’t feel like that. The only time I did get hurt was when I accidentally punched Gina in the head. I had three punches. One, two, and the third punch had to go right over Gina’s head and I messed it up. I punched her solidly right in the side of her head, and she came straight up to me and said, “Are you okay?” And I was trying to be very butch, “Yeah, I’m fine,” but I had broken three fingers, and Gina didn’t feel a thing. We were in very safe hands. The only scary thing is Gina’s fitness is just unbelievable. Because I watched her do some of the fight scenes in New Mexico with stunt men, and they would do a take, and at the end of the take, Steven would say “cut,” and the stuntmen were, like, destroyed. They would be like [heavy breathing noise], sweating, and Gina would be like, “All right, ready for another take?” We were doing a fight in sand. My fitness is not very great. My worry was more about being able to keep going through the day. It was a long day.
Was there any worry about this being her first lead? Did you help her, give her any acting tips?
No, there wasn’t any worry about it, not at all. We did our first scene together in Spain — Barcelona, which was then reshot. We had a very long scene. It was the scene that takes place in Gina’s apartment in San Diego, when I go ask her to go to Ireland. It was going to be placed after the job was finished in Barcelona, then I go to Barcelona to meet her. We had this long walk down the staircase, all one shot, ’til we walk over to this hand rail which reveals all of Barcelona below. It was a lot of dialogue and there was no cut, so we had to get it right from start to finish, and she just nailed it over and over again. It was never a worry.
Did you have to overcome the idea of hitting a woman?
I think my fight is very different. I’m fighting for my life. So, as Channing is instigating it, I didn’t have the same because I’m defending. My Kenneth would not really, in reality, have lasted that long. So I didn’t feel like that. I did note that it was a very different experience than the fights I’ve had with other guys, because what’s missing is the bullshit masculine. There’s always an element of that when you’re pretending to fight with another stunt guy or another actor. That was missing, and what was left was this great care for each other and working together with that removed. And that was lovely. I thought it was great.
But it is different, don’t you think? Because you’re in there and throw the coffee, and lay into her in a violent way. And my fight was kind of more about “get me out of here.” In fact, to the point where he turns and runs and tries to climb an unclimb-able cliff. Poor old Kenneth.
What did you guys learn from her that you weren’t expecting?
I just never felt that I was working with somebody that was doing their first job. I knew that going in, and then it never crossed my mind really. I felt there was a complete ease, working together. So it was seamless really. It never crossed my mind.
How do you choose such a variety of movies and roles to be in?
There are a lot of factors, I suppose, but the most important thing is the script. The story. That has to come above and beyond any other factor when I decide to make a film, because I have to be connected to it. When you’re reading a great novel and you don’t want the book to end, I want that feeling when I read the script. And I want to see myself in the character that I am reading for, by the time I get to the end of the script. If those things happen and you feel a connection, the other factors come in. Who’s directing it? But if you don’t have a feeling reading it for the first time, from experience, it won’t come later. So it comes from that. And because that’s the way I choose films, they are all different with different people. That’s what I love about it. You get this opportunity to dip into different people’s lives, and each film’s set has a different atmosphere and different heart. So they are all different, and I love that about it.
Ewan and Ève made a lovely couple as they walked down the red carpet at last night’s Golden Globes Awards.
Ewan’s co-star in Beginners, Christopher Plummer, won the Best Actor award Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture for the same film. In accepting his award, Plummer was playful to his co-star, Ewan McGregor, who acted the role of his son, Oliver, in the film, as well as to writer and director Mike Mills.
“I want to salute my partner, Ewan — that wily Scott — Ewan ‘my heart’s in the highlands’ McGregor. That scene-stealing swine from the Outer Hebrides,” Plummer told the audience gathered for the Hollwood Foreign Press Association’s annual awards. “Also, a 21-gun salute goes to Michael Mills, whose talent and wisdom made Beginners such an enchantingly human story.”
Boorman and McGregor planning another Long Way Down?
16 January 2012 By Visordown News
Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman are talking about a third motorcycle adventure, according to Boorman.
In an interview on Saturday Morning Kitchen, Boorman talked about his motorcycle adventures with actor-pal McGregor and said that the duo were in discussion about a third adventure follow-up to Long Way Round and Long Way Down.
The pair hit the headlines in 2004 when they started off on their Long Way Round motorcycle adventure, riding east from London to New York. In 2007, the pair's next trip was called Long Way Down, where they rode from Scotland to South Africa.
Since the Long Way episodes, Boorman has filmed By Any Means and Extreme Frontiers. In By Any Means, Boorman headed from Ireland to Australia, using any transport available. The program often showed Boorman freaking out when locals tried to make him to anything slightly off-track. In Extreme Frontiers, Boorman heads across Canada on his motorcycle and suffers a panic attack when diving in Lake Huron. Karl Pilkington, eat your heart out.
Here’s a nice new UK trailer courtesy of Lionsgate for Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt’s new movie, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. We saw a US theatrical trailer for the movie just before Christmas and although this trailer has the same intro dialogue, it give us rather a lot more footage. Blunt and McGregor star alongside Kristin Scott, Amr Waked, Catherine Steadman and Tom Mison. It’s directed by Lasse Hallström and we can expect to see it 9th March.
Spend time chatting with successful actors and you’ll hear all manner of serious talk about how hard it was to commit to a certain role and the deep, dark places plumbed in service of nailing it. Ewan McGregor, 40, is not like that. He likes to work, he works a lot and he finds satisfaction in the many roles he’s landed over the years, if not loads of personal drama. Currently, he has five movies in play: Perfect Sense, The Impossible, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Jack the Giant Killer and Haywire.
In Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire, out this month, McGregor portrays a private military contractor of execrable moral fiber who betrays one of his chief assets — a gorgeous assassin played by Gina Carano — triggering an epic confrontation. But while several of the films McGregor has made lately concern skullduggery and calamity, he’s not feeling particularly dour himself. He’s a happy guy, living in L.A. with his family and maintaining a stable of the kinds of classic motorcycles you work on as often as you ride.
Born in Crieff, Scotland, McGregor dropped out of high school at 16 and enrolled at London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama. After some dues-paying, he broke through in 1996’s Trainspotting; since then he’s convincingly portrayed Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequels, a love-struck poet in Moulin Rouge and the loyal if conflicted son of a man who came out late in life in Beginners — in addition to 40-odd other roles over 20 years.
McGregor has a reputation as a low-maintenance actor, a working man among divas. We talked about Haywire, his taste in motorcycles, his unfortunate inability to fake a punch and how, um, “fate” changed his life.
HEMISPHERES: How is it that you have five movies coming out this year? Have you mastered some sort of cloning technology?
MCGREGOR: It’s just kind of the way it went. They aren’t coming out all at the same time, but there are quite a few of them. I’ve been working a lot and now I’m taking a break.
HEMISPHERES: In Haywire, you play a guy who’s a pretty nasty piece of work.
MCGREGOR: Yeah, we based it on somebody who shall remain nameless.
HEMISPHERES: Give us some hints.
MCGREGOR: You just have to look at the haircut. It’s somebody in the private security business. That’s all I will say.
HEMISPHERES: Wow, now you really sound like a spy. What was it like working with Steven Soderbergh?
MCGREGOR: He’s so relaxed making a film. He’s made so many that he just knows what he’s doing. He sits on the dolly, lights the scene, rehearses the scene, looks into the camera and then shoots the scene. Seven or eight takes would go by without very much direction from him. Then something would happen, the scene would shift somehow, and he’d simply say, “Let’s move on.” It was as if he was waiting for that thing to happen on its own, without forcing it in any way. I’ve wanted to work with him for a long time. We almost did Once Upon a Time together but it didn’t work out. It was lovely that he came back to me with this. I just liked it; I thought it was really an interesting idea — and complicated, like a lot of his work.
HEMISPHERES: Haywire sort of harkens back to the classic spy movies.
MCGREGOR: It reminded me of the Bond films, with the idea of this private soldier/special agent whose boss turns on her. I was trying to play the kind of guy who provides violence for a fee, who puts people in harm’s way and doesn’t care who gets hurt as long as he makes money.
HEMISPHERES: He ends up paying a price, though. Speaking of which: What’s it like to get beaten up by a girl?
MCGREGOR: Gina Carano is unbelievable. I watched her really destroy some stunt guys. Her usual job [as a world-class mixed martial arts fighter] is to hit people, so I think it was hard for her to get used to not actually hitting them. But she ended up doing amazing work. She was very careful with me. There was a sequence of three punches we had to do where I punched with the right and then with the left and then I swept right, directly over her head. She was supposed to duck but didn’t quite, and I hit her right in the head. She grabbed me and said, “Are you OK?” She didn’t feel a thing. I almost broke my finger. How many times do you punch someone in the head and have them ask you if you’re all right?
HEMISPHERES: I’m not answering that. You’ve worked with some great directors, a list that includes Roman Polanski, Baz Luhrmann, Danny Boyle and Woody Allen. Not a bad run you’ve had.
MCGREGOR: Sometimes when you’re on the set you have to pinch yourself. You look across and Woody Allen is sitting there giving you nods. Or, like you said, Polanski. It’s incredible. I love it.
HEMISPHERES: Do they have anything in common, the great ones you’ve worked for?
MCGREGOR: I think they have a vision. A lot of directors for hire can make films for studios, and make films the way other people want them to be made. The great ones can’t do that. They can only make the film that they want to make.
HEMISPHERES: Are you finally taking a break now?
MCGREGOR: I’ve got some publicity to do, but I’m at home with my family. It’s nice. I get a chance to be at home and ride my motorbikes.
HEMISPHERES: Which bike is currently your favorite?
MCGREGOR: Probably the three early-’70s Moto Guzzis are the ones I ride the most. They’re sort of old and industrial. A lot of people don’t like them, but I really do. I have one that looks like it’s just been pulled out of a river — it looks terrible, but actually it can beat most people away from the lights. I love riding old bikes because it’s satisfying keeping them going, and you can be nostalgic about who might have ridden them before you.
HEMISPHERES: Let’s talk a little bit about how you got started as an actor. If your uncle Denis Lawson hadn’t been in the business, you might not have ever left your hometown.
MCGREGOR: My Uncle Denis — I recently worked with him in this film Perfect Sense that’s coming out. It’s the first time I’ve gotten to act with him. I grew up watching him. He’s my real inspiration, and I can absolutely see his acting in mine. Sometimes I’ll call him up and say, “I just saw me doing you in a movie!”
HEMISPHERES: And your parents were fine with your quitting school and following in his footsteps?
MCGREGOR: Yeah, I was 16 when I left, and I was working in the Perth Repertory Theatre a week later. I was one of the stage crew putting up the sets, but they would give me little walk-on parts. I was suddenly working somewhere that embodied all my dreams and all my hopes, working with professional actors and being part of the magic. It was great. It was like coming home for me. I thought it was where I belonged.
HEMISPHERES: Not to be reductionist about it, but you’re especially well known for a couple of things: one, your willingness to disrobe for roles, beginning with Trainspotting, and two, the fact that you don’t drink.
MCGREGOR: I’ve never believed that you need to live a chaotic life in order to be a great actor. I used to live that kind of life, and I was good at my job, but I just sort of scraped by. Now, I feel like I’ve got more control over it, more choice. But you’re right. Most of the stories now boil down to the fact that I don’t drink and the suggestion that I’m naked all the time. I’m the naked sober guy.
HEMISPHERES: I’ve read that you’re willing to watch your films but you hate watching or reading your interviews. Is that true?
MCGREGOR: Yes, I find it really embarrassing. I was walking down the street in London last week and there’s a magazine that the homeless people sell called The Big Issue, and on the front cover it said, “Ewan Tells Us How Fate Changed His Life.” I had forgotten I even did that interview. It’s embarrassing, the idea that I’m on this magazine cover telling the world how fate changed my life. But I love being in the movies, I’ve wanted to be in the movies since I was a kid, and there’s still a part of me that looks up at the big screen and says, “Wow, I’m in that movie — that’s amazing!” I still get a buzz out of it.
David Carr, who covers media and culture for the New York Times, prefers vintage bikes with pedals.
The 40-year-old actor - who raises four daughters, Clara, 15, Esther, 10, Jamiyan, 10 and a 12-month-old baby whose name has not been disclosed, with wife Ève - thinks it would be a “perfect” existence to divide his time between creating works of art and being with his family.
Asked what he would do if he ever gave up acting, he said: “I like the idea of being a sculptor. Just me alone, making something - that solitary existence. And then you come out and you’re back into the house with all the kids. That would be perfect.”
Despite living in an all-female household, Ewan insists he never finds his domestic situation overwhelming.
He told the new issue of America’s GQ magazine: “I never feel battered by it. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Ewan - who has travelled across the globe for a variety of TV shows - recently revealed he plans to take some time out from work and would like to take up a new hobby during his break.
He said: “It’s difficult to reconcile going way on my own for four months. So I don’t have any plans to do any more at the moment - although I’m quite fascinated with South America. I really want to start paragliding. It’s the closest one can get to being a bird and it’s all natural. In the next few months I’m going to look into this.”
January 2012 By Devin Gordon, photograph by Peggy Sirota
There’s no good reason to dislike Ewan McGregor, so here’s a really petty one: He’s one of those annoyingly unflappable guys who can stuff their life to the brim and carry it off like it’s a fleck of dust on their shoulder. He works constantly. Always has. In the sixteen years since he made his toilet-spelunking splash as a raffish junkie in Trainspotting, McGregor has been in thirty-eight films. He’ll star in three during the first six months of 2012, and there’s a fourth—a 3-D version of The Phantom Menace—that he claims not to have known about. “They’re actually going to rerelease it into the cinema?” he asks. “Well, that’s interesting.”
Add to that work schedule a packed personal life: The 40-year- old Scotsman is the father of four girls, and he seems genuinely taken aback by the suggestion that it could ever get overwhelming. “I never feel battered by it,” he says. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
The battering he saves for on-screen. His first film in 2012 is Haywire, an enjoyably scuzzy, cold-blooded action flick directed by Steven Soderbergh. Aside from the fun of “getting my head kicked in,” he took the part for the chance to work with Soderbergh before the director makes good on his recent threats to retire from filmmaking. And if the actor were to follow suit and walk away from movies? “I like the idea of being a sculptor. Just me alone, making something—that solitary existence.” At last, the buried wish for a respite from life’s mayhem! But no: “And then you come out,” he adds, “and you’re back into the house with all the kids. That would be perfect.”