Ewan McGregor talks about reconnecting with childhood and his kids through Winnie-the-Pooh
OFTEN HAILED as one of the finest actors of his generation, Ewan McGregor, who returns to big screens today as a grown-up Christopher Robin, has played a diverse line-up of roles across a multitude of genres, styles and scopes. Most recently seen playing brothers Emmit and Ray Stussy in the award-winning series “Fargo”, he made his breakthrough as the heroin-addicted Mark Renton in “Trainspotting” and went on to star as Obi-Wan Kenobi in “Star Wars: Episode I –The Phantom Menace”, as Christian in “Moulin Rouge”.
Ewan McGregor plays a grown-up Christopher Robin in the film of the same name.
He made his directorial debut in 2016 with “American Pastoral”, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name. McGregor also starred in the film opposite Jennifer Connelly and Dakota Fanning.
We put some questions to him about his latest role as Christopher Robin.
HOW FAMILIAR WERE YOU WITH THE CHARACTERS CREATED BY AA MILNE?
I remember the books, obviously. They were read to me when I was a little boy and I remember being very fond of them, and I read them to my children as well. I had a bear like Winnie the Pooh…it was a sort of old fashioned bear with arms and legs that had those funny joints. It wasn’t a Winnie the Pooh bear, but it was very much like him. And when I acted with our Winnie the Pooh it reminded me of my old bear.
Winnie the Pooh goes for a wander in the forest.
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE ANIMAL CHARACTERS IN THE FILM?
The creatures that they’ve made or designed for this film are amazing. They’re amazingly full of character just sitting still.
WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO THIS ROLE?
I was quite charmed by the script and loved that they made Christopher Robin a man my age and that Winnie the Pooh comes back to him at a difficult time in his life. I found that really moving. Christopher Robin is the father of a daughter who he’s not very close to, and he recognises that and would like to be closer to her. And certainly, you get the feeling that she would like to be closer with her dad as well, and there’s something about this coming together of a father and his daughter that really appealed to me as a father of girls.
WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE SETS?
Looking at our sets and the stuff we’ve done outdoors on the streets where we’ve turned the streets of London into 1949 London streets, it looked so real. I’ve done lots of period things and the danger with period films is that they can become sort of in your face and you can see the period. But on this film somehow it didn’t….it just felt very realistic. And I think it was due to our talented production design and costume design.
HOW WAS IT WORKING WITH DIRECTOR MARC FORSTER?
Because of Marc and the people he chose to make this film with, like our director of photography Mattias Konigswieser, who did an amazing job, and the beautiful exterior and interior sets…everything looked absolutely beautiful and classic and real.
TALK ABOUT HAYLEY ATWELL, WHO PLAYS YOUR WIFE EVELYN IN THE FILM.
I love Hayley. Hayley and I did a Woody Allen film with Colin Farrell some years ago called “Cassandra’s Dream”. I think it might have been her first movie out of drama school, but it was fun working with her on that. So I was happy when Marc told me that he was thinking about casting her in this.
HOW ABOUT BRONTE CARMICHAEL, WHO PLAYS YOUR DAUGHTER MADELINE?
Bronte’s lovely…she was so natural and, again, so real. She is so lovely when she’s acting because she’s totally unaffected. I don't know if it was her first film or not, I think it might have been (her parents are actors too, I think, and they’re lovely people), and she was just really, really good and a total sweetheart.
Bronte Carmichael plays Christopher Robin’s daughter Madeline.
HOW WAS IT WORKING OPPOSITE A STUFFED BEAR?
In this film we had to do takes with the hero teddy bears (they call them stuffies)…now I don’t know if that was an Americanism or a filmism, but they were basically teddy bears. So when I did the first takes, I did those with Pooh, and what Marc Forster did brilliantly was cast players for Pooh, Tigger, Kanga and Eeyore, actors who stood in for each of them. The film wouldn’t be nearly as affective, and the acting wouldn’t feel as real and as good if it wasn’t for those actors playing the characters.
HOW DID THE STUFFED ANIMALS LOOK?
They looked beautiful and very real with a sort of aged look to them…like Winnie the Pooh had a little balding patch on his tummy. They all looked like they had been in a toy box for 30 years.
WERE YOU ABLE TO RELATE TO THE CHARACTER OF CHRISTOPHER ROBIN?
I really like Christopher Robin. I really liked playing him, and I felt like I wanted to play him –not him particularly – but this character, I feel like I’d had in me for a long time.
WHAT DO YOU THINK AUDIENCES WILL TAKE AWAY FROM THE FILM?
I think people will be surprised and I think it’s probably what Walt Disney wanted from the beginning….a film that is for children, but not just for children.