Kieran, here. Today, we celebrate the birthday of one of the screen’s most magnetic (and gallingly non-Oscar nominated) stars, Ewan McGregor.
Looking at McGregor’s filmography, there are definite peaks and valleys though that's to be expected with any performer who has been active for over two decades. For McGregor, a lot of the valleys occurred in recent years, but man…those peaks are impressive, aren’t they? The best of Ewan McGregor makes us hopeful for what the future holds for the talented Scotsman. He makes his feature-film directorial debut this year with American Pastoral, which he also stars in alongside Jennifer Connelly, Dakota Fanning and “Orange is the New Black” breakout star (and awards magnet) Uzo Aduba. He also has a sequel to Trainspotting, the role that put him on the map, in the works. Rather than speculating about who he should work with, what projects he should choose and what direction he should take, we do what is done far too seldom for actors who have given us indelible screen performances—we simply say 'thank you' and 'more please'.
His 5 Most Impressive Turns
5. Big Fish (2003) – I gather this will be a polarizing choice but have any of Tim Burton’s recent outings given us a turn as impressive and lived-in as McGregor’s here? McGregor is versatile, but he shines brightest and shows great skill when he's playing bright-eyed optimism as evidenced by Big Fish (and the top choice below.)
4. Trainspotting (1996) – Confession: I’m not as enamored with Trainspotting as most, but his performance is justifiably lauded and definitely worth your time. He renders addiction believably and charismatically in this black comedy. It’s an understandable worthy introduction to McGregor.
3. Beginners (2011) – It was McGregor’s co-star Christopher Plummer who (very deservedly) won an Academy Award for Mike Mills quirky and plaintive romantic drama, but McGregor anchors the piece so skillfully. McGregor imbues Oliver with beautiful specificity and world-weary warmth. Definitely worth a revisit for anyone who hasn’t seen the film since 2011.
2. Velvet Goldmine (1998) – When McGregor’s Curt Wild enters Todd Haynes’ colorful, electric narrative, a powerful shift is clearly felt. The way Brian’s (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) eyes light up with literal heart graphics when first gazing upon Curt Wild is completely appropriate. McGregor’s magnetism is undeniable. You can hardly take your eyes off of him.
1. Moulin Rouge! (2001) – How McGregor starred in a Best Picture nominee yet failed to land a slot on the 2001 Oscar Best Actor roster (which included Sean Penn for I Am Sam!) is still hard to fathom. Nicole Kidman’s sly, exuberant turn as the mysterious Satine wouldn't work half as well if it hadn't been a duet w/ Ewan McGregor’s career best. He certainly deserved to be a Best Actor nominee and I'd argue the winner.
Happy 45th Birthday, Ewan!
What’s your favorite Ewan McGregor performance?