Interview By: Rocco Passafuime
Ewan McGregor has had quite a varied and diverse career as an actor. Since his breakthrough as a heroin addict in Trainspotting, McGregor has built a reputation as an actor who is always willing to take any and all risks for his craft.
His daring runs the gamut from playing gay and bisexual characters and repeatedly doing full-frontal nude scenes for movies like The Pillow Book and Velvet Goldmine to singing pop standards in the male lead role of the jukebox musical Moulin Rouge to doing his best Sir Alec Guinness as young Obi-Wan Kenobi in the infamous, yet successful Star Wars prequel trilogy.
Through it all, the now 35 year old McGregor is up to any and all challenges his roles demand. His latest role is as mentor and love interest to children’s author Beatrix Potter in the film Miss Potter. Like many children in Britain, McGregor grew up with his own fond memories of Beatrix Potter’s books.
“I had them read to me, I’m sure, although I don’t remember them particularly being the stories from when I was a kid,” recollects McGregor, “Like Renee and like all the rest of us, I was very familiar with her illustrations and the images. And I’d suppose with Peter Rabbit, the Mr. McGregor reference kind of haunted me and my brother throughout our early years. But it is interesting that our parents would have them read to them as well and possibly their parents as well. And I read them to my kids.”
One particular thing that motivated Ewan to do Miss Potter was the chance to work again with actress Renee Zellweger, with whom he shared lead roles with in the 2003 romantic comedy Down With Love. The chance to work with Zellweger again, who is both the lead actress and one of the film’s executive producers, was one Ewan
“We had a fantastic time on [Down With Love]
“We both enjoyed working with each other very much and kept in touch. Renee called me up and said that she’d like me to read [Miss Potter], which was exactly that, which was a kind of far more free-flowing, sort of finding the scene in front of the camera, and it was beautiful. It was great fun to work with Renee again and we had a great time.”
Playing opposite Zellweger once again, McGregor notes of the special quirks found in his role as Beatrix Potter’s love interest.
“I don’t know about Norman,” Ewan explains, “I think there’s something interesting about when he meets Beatrix. His brothers have said they’re going to publish this book. Immediately, she’s like, ‘It must be about this, this, this, and this.’ And I imagine she must have been quite a tough cookie to deal with. So when she meets Norman, she’s so nervous about being a publisher, but he immediately meets her demands and enthusiasm with those of his own, because he seems to be like a perfect match in terms of their passion towards her work. I don’t get the sense he was trying to prove himself.”
One particularly distinctive quality about Miss Potter is that it’s relatively free from much of the violent and sexual content and cynical mood that movies of recent years have recently gotten much notice and scorn for. When asked about the lack there of in the film, Ewan’s take on the issue of violence in film is that it’s simply a reflection of what’s going on in the world at large at
“I think it’s interesting though that when you reference the violence in films, there is a place for that, I really do,” McGregor believes, “I think it’s a very violent world and there’s an awful lot of the world that just sit there and don’t pay any attention to what they see in the news or what they read about in newspapers. And in a way, for filmmakers, it can be a way to shake society to say, ‘Look, this kind of thing is going on.’ So I think there is a place for it as well. I don’t think there’s overkill. If maybe there’s a lot of violence in movies at the moment, it’s because there needs to be.”