Ewan McGregor was, at one point, on track to be a gigantic movie star.
Instead, his career has become something much more interesting and unusual and hard to pinpoint, and I’m glad. McGregor made such a strong impression with his first few major film roles in the Danny Boyle films “Shallow Grave” and “Trainspotting,” and by the time he was cast as Young Obi-Wan in “The Phantom Menace,” he appeared to be on track to be one of the biggest actors of his age.
His heart does not appear to lie in the blockbuster mainstream world, though, and he’s spent years now moving back and forth between the indie world and Hollywood, and his choices seem to me to be genuinely motivated by his own particular interests. Well before Michael Fassbender was getting teased about his equipment on the Golden Globes by George Clooney, Ewan McGregor was the Guy Who Liked To Show His Junk, and the contrast between that and his appearances in the “Star Wars” films and a “Nanny McPhee” sequel and “Robots” is pretty startling. Not many people are able to effortlessly switch modes like that, but I think it’s in no small part because McGregor is so quietly charismatic.
Talking to him about his work in “Haywire” was a pleasure, and I wish we’d had more time so we could also discuss films like “I Love You, Phillip Morris” and “The Ghost Writer” and “Beginners,” all of which are really strong reminders of just how good he can be. In “Haywire,” he plays the uber-shady Kenneth, the guy who gives Mallory Kane (Gina Carano) her assignments right up to the moment where he double-crosses her and sets her up to die.
We talked about Soderbergh and Carano and what it takes to make a first-time actor look good on film, and while it was a brief chat, it was a good one. Here’s hoping we find time someday to sit down with him for a long-form talk about his entire body of work. He’s certainly worth it.
“Haywire” opens tomorrow.