Movie-making with a Scottish lilt
By Alona Wartofsky
"Down With Love" star Ewan McGregor grew up in Crieff, a resort town at the southern end of the Scottish Highlands. His parents were teachers. His older brother joined the Royal Air Force, pilots Tornado helicopters, a vocation McGregor learned to admire only after filming the 2001 war drama "Black Hawk Down."
"Now I respect the work that he does much more than I did when I was at drama school, because I didn't really have any understanding about it," he says.
Inspired partly by his love of old movies and even more by the allure surrounding his uncle, actor Denis Lawson, McGregor left home at 16 to study at Scotland's Perth Repertory Theatre, eventually moving to London and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Parts in a couple of British miniseries launched his career, and one also changed his life: On the set, he met his future wife, French production designer Eve Mavrakis. They and their two daughters now live in North London.
McGregor's first big role, the cynical journalist in the dark 1994 comedy "Shallow Grave," was his first collaboration with director Danny Boyle, screenwriter John Hodge and producer Andrew MacDonald. That team collaborated again on "Trainspotting," an international sensation that proved a landmark in British cinema.
"We needed a film that had our stamp on it instead of an American stamp," says McGregor. "It seemed, at the time anyway, that Danny and Andrew and John were truly committed to being a kind of British visionary filmmaking team."
But the trio's next collaboration with McGregor, "A Life Less Ordinary," was perhaps too idiosyncratic to appeal to American audiences. Boyle had talked publicly about giving McGregor the lead in their next effort, "The Beach," but that part eventually went to a more bankable star, Leonardo DiCaprio.
McGregor has pointed out that the betrayal of friendship was a theme of both "Shallow Grave" and "Trainspotting." Now, asked about his relationship with Boyle, Hodge and MacDonald, he says only, "I don't have one with them anymore."
But maybe McGregor doesn't need them anymore. After "Trainspotting," his box office pull briefly seemed questionable; "Velvet Goldmine" and the thriller "Nightwatch," both released in 1998, were both considered disappointments. But he was nominated for an Emmy Award for a 1997 guest appearance as a thief on the television drama "ER."
Then he landed the coveted "Star Wars" role and was cast in "Moulin Rouge." For McGregor, filming the musical was just the way he envisioned moviemaking as a child.
In his current role, playing a Rock Hudson-like womanizer, he shares the screen with Renee Zellweger.