Ewan McGregor Interview
on His Film "The Impossible" & Family Life
The Road to Hollywood
is no accident that the perennial youthful and stunningly handsome Ewan
McGregor is an international acting treasure who has racked up a list
of impressive credits earning him the Number 9 spot on Channel 4's Greatest
Movie Stars of All Time. His breakout role was in "Trainspotting"
in which he played a heroin addict and since then starred in such films
as the prequel trilogy of "Star Wars" playing Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi,
the love-struck poet in "Moulin Rouge," the son in both "Big
Fish," and "Beginners," as well starring roles in "Black
Hawk Down, "Cassandra's Dream," "Emma," "Ghost
Writer," and "Angels & Demons." Theatre trained, McGregor
also received accolades for his stage performances in "Guys and Dolls,"
Ewan McGregor stars in "The
Impossible," a heart-wrenching story about a family who survived
the Thailand tsunami. Courtesy Photo.
His latest film, "The Impossible," is the
heart-wrenching story of a family's struggle for survival in the wake
of the horrifying tsunami that hit Thailand the morning after Christmas
in 2004. One of the worst natural disasters in history, it tells the
story of determination and bravery under unimaginable conditions. McGregor
plays Henry, the father and co-stars with Naomi Watts as his wife, Maria,
and three wonderful young actors who play their sons - Tom Holland,
(Lucas) Samuel Joslin, (Thomas,) and Oaklee Pendergast (Simon.) The
film is a monument to honoring the best that human beings can be in
the face of unspeakable carnage.
L-R: Naomi Watts, Tom Holland, Oaklee Pendergast,
Samual Joslin, and Ewan McGregor. Photo Courtesy Summit
McGregor recently sat down with a select group of
journalists to discuss the film, along with personal revelations, and
the following has been edited for content and continuity for print purposes.
L-R: Samuel Joslin, Oaklee Pendergast, Tom Holland,
Ewan McGregor, and Naomi Watts play the family on vacation in Thailand
enjoying the festivities the night before the tsunami struck. Photo
Courtesy Summit Entertainment.
What this family went through is beyond belief.
Did you meet the real father?
Ewan: I met him when the family came out to Kolok (Thailand)
where we were shooting, after about a month of filming. I did have telephone
calls with him. They are a Spanish family, but we decided not to play
them as a Spanish family, so I felt like I was concentrating playing
the guy on the page. The character in the script is Henry and I used
the things I learned from the real father about his experience, but
also things I learned from other survivors. I met this amazing woman
in London who was very gracious and told me her story. She lost her
husband in the tsunami and she has three children and her story is very
similar to my character's in that she was with her two younger kids
and her husband and eldest daughter were separated. She didn't know
where they were. So her experience and journey was very similar to his
(Henry) in that she was looking for them. She would find somewhere
safe to leave her kids and then she would search for her daughter and
Was this as physically challenging for you as
it was for your co-star Naomi Watts?
Ewan: It wasn't physically very challenging for me because
I'm not in the water. I think for Naomi and Tom (Holland, who played
the oldest son) the action sequence with the wave was pretty brutal,
but for me not so much.
(Center) Ewan McGregor : "We created a family
that I believed in." L-R: Samuel Joslin as Thomas and Oakless Pendergast
as Simon. Photo Courtesy Summit Entertainment.
You have four children. How was it for you emotionally?
Did you personalize the experience?
Ewan: I suppose you're acting always from two things
- your imagination and from your experience in life, so it's impossible
to remove that. But it's not very nice to think about those things so
I try not to. I didn't make myself think about my kids ever because
I wouldn't do that. But, I had these great little boys, these three
fantastic kids that Naomi and I were lucky to work with and I was able
to think about them. We created this family that I believed in and there
was a reality that we created and I was able to use that. I just thought
about them, really, and how desperate it would be in that situation.
Being a parent, of course, this for me was the first real exploration
of parenthood in my work because I haven't really played a dad before.
I can't think if I have. So a very important, huge element of this movie
is the family, the love of the family.
Ewan McGregor with three
of his children.
As the father of four girls, did you learn anything
about boys from this experience?
Ewan: Boys are physically more demanding. There's more
sporting occasions, it seems. (laughter) Not quite as much emotional
drama. My house is a perfect house for an actor. There's just so many
drama. It's like Shakespeare every day (laughter) whereas
with my boys, it was more about football and table tennis. But I loved
them so much. I saw the little one, Samuel, in London two weeks ago
when we had the premiere there. I hadn't seen him for a long time. I
have seen Tom a lot because he's doing a lot of the publicity for the
film, but the little boys haven't. So it was so nice to see the little
guy. We created a really nice bond and we were very comfortable in each
other's company and I like them very much. I was worried that maybe
that was gone and it would be awkward and for the first three or four
minutes it was a little awkward, and then it was straight back to being
where we were.
You are constantly working. How does that impact
on your family?
Ewan: Movies take three or four months to shoot and
there's always a gap in between them. When I'm around, I'm totally around
and when I'm gone I'm often gone for some stretches of time, but I often
can come back. From Thailand, for instance, I made several trips back
home because there's lot of the film that I'm not in so if I wasn't
needed for two weeks or a week, I would go home. Also, any school holidays
or breaks in their schedule, they would come to me. We make it work.
It's all right. It's the way it's always been.
McGregor gave a tour-de-force performance as the
young writer. Courtesy photo.
You're ageless. How do you keep fit and looking
Ewan: I've got quite a lot of make-up on. (laughter)
I'm active. I like to be moving around. Sometimes it's difficult. When
we spend summers in London or Paris, we always drop weight because you
walk hundreds of miles like in New York or any city except this one
(referring to LA) or Bartlesville, Oklahoma where I recently
worked. They're the kind of towns where you don't get out of your car
so you don't have that natural burning of calories in your day-to-day
life so I like to go and do it myself. So I like to cycle. I kind of
like the sub culture of bicycles. I like to run. I'm pretty much a stranger
to the gym. I don't like working out in the gym, but I do stuff in my
house or I quite like getting on my bike and riding fifteen or twenty
miles or something and it becomes an adventure, whereas being in the
gym is just boring.
I actually know people who grew up in Bartlesville.
What were you doing there?
Ewan: You do? Bartlesville is a sweet little town. I
was there making a film called "August: Osage County" which
is the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Tracy Letts and we shot there
for eight weeks and it was great. It's an amazing play and it's kind
of interesting when you're acting on amazing writing. You can have a
cerebral understanding that something is good when you read it, but
when you start playing it, when it's really good, then you really feel
it. In that particular play, there's lots of amazing writing. There's
a dinner scene where all of the characters from the play are around
the table in one place at one time. It was a fourteen or fifteen page
scene and we shot it over three days. When you were playing that scene,
you had a heightened understanding of just how good the writing is.
Who else is in the cast?
Ewan: Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper, Dermot
Mulroney, Sam Shepard, Juliette Lewis, and Abigail Breslin.
How was it working with the iconic Meryl Streep?
Ewan: She's amazing, oh my God, and doesn't disappoint,
I can assure you.
Do you plan another long motorcycle trip?
Ewan: We don't have any plans to do that at the moment.
I've got a 22-month-old baby and I'm not going to leave her. When I
spend time away on my work, I can't reconcile going off for four or
five months to do that trip on my own time, if you like, so I'll do
it when they're older.
We must ask this question. Why do you think there's
so much attention to the possibility of another "Star Wars?"
Ewan: There is going to be another one. There's not
any interest in whether I'll be in it, but there is massive interest
in the films themselves because they are massive, legendary movies and
the original idea was that there would always be nine stories and George
(Creator of the series, George Lucas) told me he wasn't going
to make the last three so everyone assumed that would be it and that
there would just six. So people are excited that it will be completed.
"I'll be there if they need me." Courtesy
Would you be opposed to going back if they wanted
to cast you in a role?
Ewan: I'll be there if they need me. (laughter)
I wouldn't want to see someone else playing Obie-Wan Kanobi. Alec Guinness
isn't available. (laughter) (He died at the age of 86 in 2000.)