On 31 March, City Connect celebrates the birthday of Ewan McGregor OBE, the Scottish actor who has had widespread success in mainstream, indie, and art house films. He is perhaps best known for his roles as heroin addict Mark Renton in the drama Trainspotting (1996), Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequel trilogy (1999–2005), and poet Christian in the musical film Moulin Rouge! (2001). He has also received critical acclaim for his starring roles in theatre productions of Guys and Dolls (2005–07) and Othello (2007–08). Ewan McGregor was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2013 New Year Honours for services to drama and charity.
In 1994, McGregor earned critical praise for his performance in the thriller Shallow Grave, for which he won an Empire Award, and which marked his first collaboration with director Danny Boyle. His international breakthrough followed in 1996 with the role of heroin addict Mark Renton in Boyle’s Trainspotting, an adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s novel of the same name. The film was the first of several times that McGregor would appear nude on screen.
McGregor played the male romantic lead in the 1998 British film Little Voice. In 1999, McGregor starred in the blockbuster Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace as the young Obi-Wan Kenobi, a role originally made famous by Sir Alec Guinness in the original Star Wars trilogy. In 2001, he starred in Moulin Rouge! as the young poet Christian, who falls in love with the terminally-ill courtesan Satine, played by Nicole Kidman. The role was a perfect platform for McGregor to display his impressive singing voice.
McGregor reprised his role of Obi-Wan Kenobi for the subsequent prequel Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones in 2002. In 2003, he starred alongside Renée Zellweger in Down With Love. He also portrayed the younger Edward Bloom in the critically acclaimed film Big Fish alongside Albert Finney, Jessica Lange, Alison Lohman and Billy Crudup. During that year, he also received critical acclaim for his portrayal of an amoral drifter mixed up with murder in the drama Young Adam, which co-starred Tilda Swinton.
In 2005, McGregor appeared for the final time as Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. He took very special care—especially in Revenge of the Sith—to ensure that his portrayal of Obi-Wan’s mannerisms, speech timings, and accents closely resembled Alec Guinness’ version. Also in 2005, McGregor played two roles—one a clone of the other—opposite Scarlett Johansson in Michael Bay’s The Island, and he appeared in Marc Forster’s Stay, a psychological thriller co-starring Naomi Watts and Ryan Gosling.
From June 2005 to April 2007, McGregor starred alongside Jane Krakowski, Douglas Hodge, and Jenna Russell in the original Donmar Warehouse production of Guys and Dolls at the Piccadilly Theatre in London. He played the leading role of Sky Masterson, made famous by Marlon Brando in the film of the same name. McGregor received the LastMinute.com award for Best Actor for his performance in 2005, and he was nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Musical in 2007.
In 2007, McGregor starred opposite Colin Farrell in the Woody Allen film Cassandra’s Dream. From December 2007 to February 2008, McGregor starred as Iago in Othello at the Donmar Warehouse alongside Chiwetel Ejiofor as Othello and Kelly Reilly as Desdemona. He reprised the role on BBC Radio 3 in May 2008.
In 2009, he co-starred with Jim Carrey in I Love You Phillip Morris and appeared in Amelia alongside Hilary Swank. Also in 2009, he portrayed Camerlengo Patrick McKenna in Angels & Demons, the film adaptation of Dan Brown’s novel of the same name.
In 2010, McGregor starred in the film The Ghost, a political thriller directed by Roman Polanski and adapted from the Robert Harris novel, The Ghost, with the screenplay written by Polanski and Harris. It also starred Pierce Brosnan, Kim Cattrall and Olivia Williams. McGregor was awarded with the European Film Award for Best Actor for his role as the Ghost Writer. In the same year, Ewan McGregor also had a starring role in Beginners, a romantic comedy-drama film written and directed by Mike Mills. It tells the story of Oliver (Ewan McGregor), a man reflecting on the life and death of his father (Christopher Plummer) while trying to forge a new romantic relationship with a woman (Mélanie Laurent) dealing with father issues of her own. Beginners premiered at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival, where the Los Angeles Times heralded it as a “heady, heartfelt film” with a cast who has “a strong sense of responsibility to their real-world counterparts”.
In 2011, Ewan McGregor played the role of Kenneth in Haywire, a action-thriller film directed by Steven Soderbergh, which also starred Gina Carano, Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas, Channing Tatum, and Michael Fassbender. In the same year, McGregor also has a starring role in the movie Perfect Sense directed by David Mackenzie and starring Eva Green as the female lead. The film premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival to mixed reviews.
In 2012, Ewan McGregor starred in Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, a British romantic comedy-drama film directed by Lasse Hallström and also starring Emily Blunt and Kristin Scott Thomas. The plot centres on a fisheries scientist (McGregor) who finds himself reluctantly involved in a project to bring salmon fishing to the wadis of the Highlands of Yemen, a project which surprisingly changes the course of his life.
Also in 2012, Ewan McGregor starred in The Impossible alongside Naomi Watts who was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress, a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama and a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role. The film is based on María Belón and her family’s experience of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
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