If Ewan McGregor is suffering exhaustion or sleep deprivation from making at least two movies a year and being a father of four young girls, there’s no way you could tell in person. Married for 20 years to the French production designer Eve Mavrakis, McGregor finally moved his family to Los Angeles after years of commuting from London to jobs and auditions. Listening to him describe his home life with four daughters and his wife makes McGregor sound like a slacker, but don’t be fooled for a second - beneath that blokey, everyman exterior beats a very serious and determined heart.
“I’m a better actor because there’s a lot of emotional drama in my house – there’s not so much football, but there’s a lot of drama and as an actor, that’s a good training ground,” he says, with a smirk. When he’s not away on set, McGregor says he loves hanging out at home, has no routines and hates to exercise.
He dropped out of school at the age of 16, with the blessing of his parents, and worked at a series of odd jobs from dishwashing to trout farming, before making his way to the Perth Repertory Company. By 1993, he landed a couple of British TV drama series (including Kavanagh QC, where he met his future wife), before his major breakout part in movies with Shallow Grave in 1994, where he played a journalist. Trainspotting the following year was his second hugely successful collaboration with director Danny Boyle, in the role of charming junkie Mark Renton which launched him on the world stage in no uncertain terms. There are talks of a potential second outing for Renton in a movie tentatively called Porno.
Initially inclined to look down on Hollywood movies in favour of more edgy, indie projects, by 1999, he was accepting work from George Lucas, playing Obi-Wan Kenobi in the first of three Star Wars movies. This role made him a major international star, with his pick of roles. He has generally shown pretty good taste in movies, often playing writers or journalists. He even played James Joyce in the biopic Nora, which he also produced with the production company he established with Jude Law and Sadie Frost, Natural Nylon. He again played a writer in Roman Polanski’s Ghostwriter.
“I remember some of the movies I’ve done incredibly fondly. Shallow Grave was 22 years ago, but I can remember the dialogue, like it was only yesterday. Trainspotting was an amazing experience because of Danny. What that film became and how important it was for my career, when Brit pop was just kicking off – it was a great time to be young and British. The last time I shot in the Scottish Highlands was on Trainspotting, when we get off the train and look at the mountain and say the shit about being Scottish. The air is really clean and the heather smells really good. Working with Roman Polanski on Ghostwriter was amazing and Ridley Scott on Black Hawk Down was incredible. I’m really happy and lucky to have done so.”
He has his pick of scripts, as you might imagine and when he’s not filming, he’s reading scripts at home, in between school runs. Although he makes it sound as though he’s completely indolent when he’s not working, McGregor’s passion for motorbikes is something which has seen him take to the road a few times over the past few years on long odysseys which are definitely not for the faint hearted. In 2004, he and his friend Charley Boorman did a 22,000 mile roadtrip from London to New York, via Europe, Russia and Canada. Three years later he went from London to Cape Town.
“That was what I consider to be my greatest challenge and success to date.”