- Simon Garner
Actor of the Week: Ewan McGregor
Actor of the Week has been a feature of ours for over a year now, and we’ve celebrated so many fantastic talents. This week, we do so with another, and it’s an actor who has done a tremendous amount for us at Life of Films, as well as so many others. From drug addict to Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, McGregor has covered a lot of ground, endearing himself to many different audiences.
McGregor’s first major role came in the form of Alex Law in Shallow Grave, which was directed by Danny Boyle. Boyle obviously liked what he saw, as he subsequently cast Mcgregor in the landmark film Trainspotting. Trainspotting sees McGregor play Mark Renton, a heroin addict who has one more hit then decides enough is enough. He locks himself away to go through the cleanup period, and once he’s initially clear, he encounters a scenario that sets it all off again. Trainspotting went on to become a british cult classic, due to many factors, but one of them undoubtedly being McGregor’s turn as Renton. As a result, this film is widely recognised as the one that gained McGregor widespread recognition. McGregor recently reprised his role as Renton in the Trainspotting sequel, T2 Trainspotting.
The first film I saw McGregor in was the first of the Star Wars prequels; Episode I - The Phantom Menace, a role which he reprised for the subsequent two chapters, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. McGregor’s role in these films was as that of a young Obi-Wan Kenobi, detailing his journey from young Jedi Padawan learner to full Jedi Master and teacher of the Jedi-turned-Sith Lord, Anakin Skywalker aka Darth Vader. The prequel trilogy never hit the heights of the original Star Wars trilogy, and largely had a love-or-hate reaction, with debates continuing to this day! One thing that is for sure, however, is the quality of McGregor’s performance as the young Kenobi. Following in Alec Guinness’ footsteps as the much-loved Jedi Master was to be no enviable task, yet McGregor knocked it out of the park, nailing the signature accent and wisdom. One particularly excellent ingredient McGregor brought to the role of Obi-Wan was the raw emotion. This is displayed numerous times throughout the trilogy, but most notably when his own Master, Qui-Gon Jinn, played by former Actor of the Week winner Liam Neeson, dies, as well as after the battle on Mustafar in Episode III. This is a role I will be forever grateful for, as McGregor was respectful to Guinness’ work, but also made the younger version his own. Starring in the prequels also saw him work alongside another former Actor of the Week in Natalie Portman, who played Padme Amidala.
By now, McGregor was a household name, and went on to star in numerous big projects as a result. 2009 saw him star alongside yet another former AotW winner, this time being Tom Hanks, when they both worked on Angels and Demons. Angels and Demons was the follow-up to the incredibly successful The Da Vinci Code, which follows the goings-on of Robert Langdon, played by Hanks. In Angels and Demons, McGregor plays Camerlengo Patrick McKenna, a man of a number of faces and one who plays his part in a great twist which, I have to say, caught me off guard. Whilst not nearly as successful or well received as its predecessor, Angels and Demons still, for me, delivered in most areas, and is undoubtedly an enjoyable film to watch if you haven’t already.
Like many AotW winners, McGregor has branched out to many different forms of acting. A popular turn of his was as Christian in Moulin Rouge! Starring, again, alongside an Actor of the Week winner in Nicole Kidman, Moulin Rouge! saw McGregor take up a singing role, serving as another reason why he deserves his place as one of my generation’s top actors. Whilst I am not a fan of a musical per se, I am nothing but respectful to an actor or actress stepping out of their comfort zone to better themselves.
Other notable projects McGregor has had a hand in are Black Hawk Down, A Million Ways to Die in the West, and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, for which he was nominated for a Golden Globe.
For me, McGregor will always be a favourite, down to the spin he put on Obi-Wan Kenobi, and I always look out for his next work as a result. If he was to be cast as Kenobi again for the rumoured Obi-Wan standalone film, I would be the first to say ‘hello there’! Cheers Ewan!