Ewan McGregor nearly turned down Star Wars as it was too mainstream, saying he was ‘the Oasis of the British movie industry’

·2-min read
Ewan McGregor nearly turned down Star Wars as it was too mainstream, saying he was ‘the Oasis of the British movie industry’

Ewan McGregor has said he was reticent to play Jedi master Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequel trilogy.

In the mid-1990s, when the Scottish actor was cast in the George Lucas science-fiction series, he was most famous for his work in edgier films from British director Danny Boyle, including Trainspotting and A Life Less Ordinary.

In an interview released Monday (29 August), McGregor explained how his image initially dampened his enthusiasm for the Star Wars role.

“I really had to think about it,” McGregor said on the podcast Smartless, hosted by actors Sean Hayes, Jason Bateman, and Will Arnett. “It came right after that Trainspotting period and by that time I was so full of myself.”

He joked about his mentality at the time. “I am Danny Boyle’s actor. I am f***ing urban grunge. I am the Oasis of the British movie industry,” he said, laughing.

Eventually, though, McGregor’s boyhood affection for the original Star Wars movies forced a change of heart – a decision he says Boyle also encouraged.

Elsewhere in the interview, McGregor, 51, spoke at length about working with the director, starting on the 1994 thriller Shallow Grave.

Ewan McGregor filming the sequel to ‘Trainspotting’ (Getty Images)
Ewan McGregor filming the sequel to ‘Trainspotting’ (Getty Images)

That movie was Boyle’s first as a director, as well as McGregor’s first time starring in a feature film. It was also the first film from producer Andrew Macdonald and writer John Hodge, McGregor remembered.

“It was all of our first movies,” he said, reminiscing about bringing the film to the Sundance Film Festival in the US. “It sort of felt like we made a mark on British cinema.”

It was on that US trip that Boyle gave him the script for Trainspotting, a movie about a group of heroin addicts living in Edinburgh. McGregor remembers his immediate reaction as he read the script on the flight home: “F***ing hell, its the role of a lifetime. Isn’t it?” he said in the interview. “It’s one of the great leading roles.”

But screenwriter Hodge didn’t believe McGregor was right for the main role of Renton, according to the actor. In a previous stage adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s 1993 novel, Renton was played by actor Ewen Bremner, who also starred as Spud in the film and its 2017 sequel T2 Trainspotting.

Ewan McGregor in ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ (Disney Plus)
Ewan McGregor in ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ (Disney Plus)

McGregor said it was his bigger physique that was behind Hodge’s hesitation and so McGregor went on a “diet”.

“I was a nasty drinker back in the day,” McGregor said. “I just started drinking white wine and clear stuff – the alcoholic sort of dieting. It seemed to work actually to a degree.”

McGregor would eventually win critical acclaim for his performance in the 1996 film, which is ranked among the 10 best in the history of British cinema by the British Film Institute.

Earlier this year, he also reprised his Star Wars role in the Disney+ series Obi-Wan Kenobi.