This weekend saw Ewan McGregor return to his roots with an appearance at the Edinburgh International Film Festival.
From dodgy French accents to returning to the worlds of Trainspotting and Star Wars, it was an enlightening 90 minutes in which we discovered some fascinating facts about the actor.
1. He relished the opportunity to play Jesus (and the Devil) in his new film
Gilles Bruno Mingasson/Mockingbird Pictures
McGregor was in Edinburgh to support the premiere of his latest film, Rodrigo Garcia’s Last Days in the Desert, a look at Jesus’s return from his 40 days and 40 nights of fasting that sees him star as both the son of God and Lucifer. “It was beautifully written,” said McGregor of the script, “the scenes are ones you die to play as an actor.” For sequences where he had to appear opposite himself, McGregor acted against body double, Nash Edgerton.
2. His first acting role was the Sheriff of Nottingham
It may not have been on the big screen, but McGregor’s first part on the stage was that of the Sheriff of Nottingham in primary school.
“I got the role because I was the only person in class who could say ‘Sheriff of Nottingham’ – I was a triumph,” he said.
3. His French accent sounds a bit Mexican
McGregor has recently been filming Disney’s live action remake of their own Beauty and the Beast animated film, with the actor starring as French candelabra, Lumière. He encountered some issues when asked to alter his French accent, so much so it ended up sounding Mexican during his song, ‘Be Our Guest’.
“I was thinking ‘shit I can’t do it!’ and I could see them behind the glass saying ‘shit, he can’t do it!’ It was terrifying. You’re standing there alone and behind the glass are 40 people who don’t like anything you’re doing.”
4. He has Star Wars’ Wedge to thank for getting him into acting
McGregor has acting in his blood thanks to his uncle, Denis Lawson, best know for starring in Local Hero and Star Wars as Wedge Antilles. McGregor recalled wanting to be his uncle when the latter visited him as a boy in the small town of Crieff.
“I remember going to see Star Wars for the first time at the cinema and sat down to watch Uncle Denis in a movie, and the movie was Star Wars! I was six and it blew my brains apart. I remember saying to him when I was nine that I wanted to be an actor, and he told me to come back in eight years and we’ll talk about it… and I did.”
5. He’s up for returning as Obi-Wan Kenobi in a new Star Wars spin-off
Although claiming he’s not a huge sci-fi fan, McGregor admitted he likes the look of the trailer for JJ Abrams’ The Force Awakens – “It looks like he’s absolutely nailed it” – stating he’d be happy to return as Obi-Wan for one of the new sequels:
“I would be happy to do the story between Episode III, that I finished in, and Episode IV, that Alec Guinness starts in, that would be good. Disney should definitely do that.”
6. A Trainspotting sequel isn’t out of the question
Next year will be the 20th anniversary of the release of Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting, a film many fans are keen to see followed-up with a sequel. Luckily, so is Mark Renton himself, Ewan McGregor.
“For quite a long time I didn’t want to do it, and then I changed my mind, I felt differently about it. I’ve never seen a script but [Danny Boyle] knows I’m up for it.”
7. He’s a big fan of Edinburgh musician Blue Rose Code
At one point McGregor moved the discussion to music, making it clear he was a huge fan of Edinburgh musician, Blue Rose Code, and his new album The Ballads of Peckham Rye.
8. He’d love to work with Peter Capaldi on his dream film project
When pushed about any acting roles he regrets missing out on, McGregor made it clear that he was still passionate about current Doctor Who Peter Capaldi’s long-mooted feature, The Jacobite Slipper – “one of the best scripts I’ve read in my life,” according to the actor.
The 1930s-set comedy would have seen McGregor star as a Scottish actor, Leslie Grangely, who has made it big in Hollywood, only to be brought back to the UK to star in a new film about Bonnie Prince Charlie. McGregor would have starred as Grangely, his stand-in and another lookalike brought in when Grangely goes missing.
With the film still languishing in development hell, the actor is now aware it might be too late for him to star: “It’s the first time I’ve got too old to play a part I wanted to play!”
9. He could easily get work as a mime artist
To close the event, McGregor rewarded the audience with an example of his rarely-seen mime skills, proving he has plenty of talent to fall back on if the acting opportunities dry up…
Main image: Edinburgh International Film Festival