Wednesday, February 29

Ewan McGregor

It all started with Dirk Bogarde.  I have had a thing for British actors for as long as I can remember.  I was not bowled over by everyone.  Some Anthonys and Peters slipped under my radar, but Scotsman Sean Connery was one whose movies I usually did not miss and I think Englishman Daniel Day-Lewis is about the finest actor who ever drew breath.  I like a couple of Ruperts... Everett and Graves... and Jeremy Irons, Ralph Fiennes and Irishmen Liam Neeson and Kenneth Branagh soon followed.

I had a real field day once when three of them. Englishmen Linus Roache and Tom Wilkinson and Scot Robert Carlyle, appeared in the same film, Priest.  And I've gotten a lot of pairings and more trios from this crowd which always fires my pistons.

About 15 years ago or so, I started going through a change which continues to expand to this day.  I developed a crush (now I'm red-faced) on a goodly number of those blokes from across the pond.  Here are but a few... from England are Daniel Craig, Clive Owen, Jude Law, Hugh Dancy, Jonny Lee Miller, Eddie Redmayne, Tom Hardy and another trio from the same film (A Single Man), Colin Firth, Matthew Goode and Nicholas Hoult.  (Be right back, I am going for a cold compress.)  Scotland also gave us Gerard Butler.  From Wales comes Christian Bale and the lesser-known Michael Sheen.  And we won't forget the Emerald Isle and its gifts of Colin Farrell, Jonathan Rhys Meyer and I am counting Michael Fassbender, who although born in Germany, is half Irish and raised in Ireland.

Finally, though, we must return to Scotland which gave us one more, Ewan McGregor.  God, it just makes you wanna roll your Rs, doesn't it?  Or roll in the heather on the brae.  One interesting thing about my "thing" for McGregor:  I much respect his acting prowess but I think he has made a ton of films that range from pretty bad to horrid.  A few more films I am not sure about one way or the other.  Probably no other actor's body of work that I will mention on this blog will affect me the same way.

The first time I saw him was in a little film I quite admired called Little Voice (1998).  His role was a little more peripheral than some of his costars, but his earnestness, great voice and dazzling smile (one of the best in the business) captured my attention and I wanted to learn more.  Soon I went back and watched Trainspotting (one of the rawest films I've encountered on the drug scene), The Pillow Book (which I quite disliked but which started his penchant for full-front nudity), Emma (which I quite liked, but another small role), Nightwatch, A Life Less Ordinary, Rough Trader and Eye of the Beholder, none of which I cared for.  He played James Joyce in Nora, which I liked but it wasn't successful, and the war film Black Hawk Down, which was an ensemble piece that I didn't like as much as the public seemed to.

Then came Velvet Goldmine (co-starring Christian Bale and Jonathan Rhys Meyer), a loud, wild ride through London's glam rock world of the 1970s.  It was an unflinching look at sexuality and contained nude scenes which would make it not for the faint of heart or right of Rick Santorum.

I admire that my buddy makes many of those little independent films and easily moves to big-budget ones like the second batch of Star Wars films (as the young Obi-Wan Kenobi) that started in 1999.  I have to confess that I have seen none of them.

Along came Moulin Rouge (2001), where he played a poet wooing a courtesan played by Nicole Kidman, and he acquired a whole new audience.  We happily discovered the boy could sing; his voice soared with that gorgeous smile adorning that handsome face.  He sang again with Renee Zellweger in Down with Love (2003), a hoped-for successful homage to the old Doris Day-Rock Hudson movies but it bombed.  In 2006 he reunited with Zellweger in a delightful version of Miss Potter (Beatrix for the uninformed) but his role was a small one.

McGregor and Albert Finney played the same role in the charming Big Fish (2003), about an incorrigible storyteller, one of the best films he's ever done.  The same year he made the dreary and very sexual About Adam.  The Island was over-hyped and ultimately unfulfilling and Stay was just plain dreadful.  I enjoyed the camaraderie playing Colin Farrell's brother in Woody Allen's Cassandra's Dream but then came a spate of truly awful films, Incendiary, Deception, The Men Who Stare at Goats, I Love You Phillip Morris, Amelia and Haywire.  Angels and Demons was more successful and The Ghost Writer I am still trying to understand.  Beginners was a definite treat, getting all the attention it deserved.  About to come out is Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, which I am looking forward to.

Actually, truth be told, I am always looking forward to a Ewan McGregor film.  I wish I liked more of them and thought they were worthy projects for him.  He certainly works a lot and perhaps he has mistaken quantity for quality.  I will give him the benefit of the doubt and continue to buy a ticket for his films.  I am completely taken in by this handsome Scottish lad with the florid smile, innate intelligence and visceral acting style.

I hear he now lives in Los Angeles.  Maybe I should journey back there.  We could don some kilts and share some scotch eggs and scones and good conversation.

NEXT POSTING:  Favorite Film #49

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