Ewan McGregor: From Obi-Wan To 'Ghost Writer'

Ewan McGregor i i

hide captionIn The Ghost Writer, Ewan McGregor plays a ghostwriter who attempts to discover the truth about Britain's former prime minister.

Summit Entertainment
Ewan McGregor

In The Ghost Writer, Ewan McGregor plays a ghostwriter who attempts to discover the truth about Britain's former prime minister.

Summit Entertainment

Ewan McGregor enjoys quirky writing and eclectic roles. The Scottish actor has played a number of different characters over the past decade, in films ranging from small British indies to international blockbusters.

McGregor tells Dave Davies that he knew he wanted to be an actor from a very young age, after hearing stories from his uncle, the actor Denis Lawson.

His breakthrough came in 1996 when he played a heroin addict in the film Trainspotting. To prepare for the role, McGregor says, he spent time with former heroin addicts who taught him how to hold a needle and portray withdrawal symptoms accurately.

McGregor also played a young Obi-Wan Kenobi in the second Star Wars trilogy. Ironically, his uncle — who had a bit role in the original Star Wars — advised him not to take the role, fearing McGregor would be typecast.

Since taking the role in Star Wars, McGregor has kept his resume diverse, playing a poet, an official of the papal court, and the male romantic lead in the musical Moulin Rouge, where he performed his own singing.

In his latest film, Roman Polanski's The Ghost Writer, McGregor plays an unnamed writer working on the memoirs of a former British prime minister, who is under investigation for committing war crimes.

McGregor says he enjoyed working with the "master filmmaker" on the thriller. "As a director, he was pushing us to look for the truth of a scene," he says.

Interview Highlights

On Working With Roman Polanski In The Ghost Writer:

"There wasn't any air of controversy of working with him on set. His case and his situation has nothing to do with me. I wasn't involved in any of that. I didn't discuss any of that with him. I worked with him purely as an actor wanting to work with a master filmmaker, and he's one of the greatest living filmmakers, so I was happy to be his actor."

On Learning To Play A Heroin Addict In Trainspotting:

"We had a man called Eamonn who was our on-set adviser. Whenever there were any drug-taking scenes or heroin scenes, then he was there, and we were able to make sure what we were doing with the syringes and the spoons and the matches was accurate. And also, I needed to find out what it was like to overdose and to withdraw from heroin addiction — because there's quite a long sequence where my character is going through withdrawal, which is a horrendous and painful process — and I was able to question him about all of those things in great detail because he had lived that life and was no longer living that life."

On Playing Obi-Wan Kenobi In The Second Star Wars Trilogy:

"When I got closer and closer to being cast as Obi-Wan Kenobi, I did question whether it was the right thing for me. Up until that point, I'd been involved in mainly low-budget independent films ... and I felt like being part of the [indie British filmmaking] team was my identity as an actor ... I didn't think that 'Star Wars' was quite who I was or what I was about. However, the closer I got, the more I wanted to do it ... I'm very happy with the work I did in 'Star Wars' ... I've always been quite open with the fact that they were technically quite difficult to make. There's a lot of green screen and blue screen, and for the actor, there's very often not another actor to act with — so you were playing to a tennis ball on a stick or a piece of tape on a green curtain, and that's just not easy. That becomes a very technical exercise."

On Doing Full-Frontal Nudity In Many Of His Films:

"Movies reflect life, and in life you're naked some of the time. And movies are about the dramatic side of life — and sex and sexuality and love and romance are definitely in that area of drama. So I think it's obvious that if you're going to have a career in acting, you're going to be called upon at some point to explore those areas."

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