INT: Down With Love #2
Ewan McGregor really is a cool guy. Very much like his character in DOWN WITH LOVE yet nothing like him at all. In looks, it's completely different but both characters possess a kind of inate charm and charisma. Another slight difference being I can't imagine McGregor's Catcher Block every saying fuck. Or cock. But beyond that...
How did you tap into your suave, debonair inner-self?
I think that the whole process was about re-living the films that I watched as a kid. I watched all these films when I was young and I dont know why because I wasnt born in the 60s but I remembered all of them when [director] Peyton [Reed] sent me the films that were referenced in ours. I knew them all and Id seen them many times so it was just about getting in touch with that. When I read the script, I knew exactly what it was all about. I had the references I suppose and then it was just getting the chance to be all my favorite actors on screen...Cary Grant, all of those guys.
What about all the tools those guys use, like the martini glass...
I always come with my own tool. [Laughs]
Once they dress you up in the clothes and put you on that set, is the transformation easy?
The process was really really hard and Im finding this more and more as I go along. Its become a part of my process to not imagine Ill be able to pull this one off. Its happening to me more or less every time I start a job now. I think, I really cant fucking do this one. Ive had to kind of realize that thats becoming part of it and in a way thats what makes it so exciting because then a couple weeks later you find that you are on set pulling it off. On this one, I am coming off a film that I made in Scotland called, YOUNG ADAM, which was the polar opposite of this. And they were really back to back.
I got back from Scotland to my home in London, I think it was a Saturday and I started rehearsing this on that Monday. I mean, literally one day off between the two of them. The film in Scotland was a very low budget, dark, 50s, erotic, introspective film about a loner, a guy whos given up his moral self. Here I was playing...not camp, but the opposite of that whereas the Scotland film was totally inward looking and my character hardly said anything at all...The comedy in these 60s movies is much more played up than the way we would play it in a contemporary romantic comedy for instance, where you dont play the comedy.
That seems to be a rule Ive heard since I started acting, Oh, you mustnt ever play the comedy. And here I was on set really playing the fucking comedy. For the first week of rehearsals I couldnt get into it. I really couldnt and I think when you speak to the other actors youll find that it did take a lot of effort to find this, because its something thats a style that hasnt been explored since the 60s. I was delighted to see that it doesnt look like hard work w but some of it really was because it was a quite difficult thing to do.
Did you notice the music adds an interesting element to the film? It's almost like extra dialogue...
I hadnt seen any of the film until I saw it finished, so I couldnt tell you how it was working before the music as opposed to afterwards other than it never works without the music. Any film doesnt and Its one of the big mistakes that studios will never seem to learn that they test films without the score and then get really scared because things arent working...but its not finished. Em, I had this experience when I directed a tiny short film in London and I heard the exact same thing from the people who put the money up for me to do it.
I didnt have any dialogue in my film. It was a completely silent movie. It was about a guy, a lost musician trying to write a tune. The dialogue, if you like, was the broken tune in his head trying to put it together. They screen tested it without my knowledge to a bunch of people before I had any music on it. It was like playing it without any sound. They came back and said, Youve got to cut this because its not working at all. I said, Its not finished. They went, Well, no, but youve really got to cut, its 12 minutes long. Youve got to cut it down to five. Its just not working. I said, Its not finished. They said, Well, no, its not working. Its not - fucking - finished! Its a lesson nobody seems to learn.
Were you ever a player? Can you relate to that character at all?
Well, weve all had those days, surely. I was never quite as, well, I should be careful of what I say... People will be writing in saying, Ohhh yes, he was. I related to him, but more in terms of those movies that I watched and those leading men. I was never a playboy because I could never afford the suits and all that stuff when I was up to no good. But, I had my day I suppose [laughs].
Did you have a swinging bachelor pad?
I did have a swinging bachelor pad once. When I did my very first job, a television series, I was living in the very far, outer reaches of eastern London at the time when I got the job and it was the first time Id ever been paid to act. I rented a small, one bedroom flat in a really nice area of London called Primrose Hill, and it was right next to the park. It became the kind of apartment where all the parties would begin and end. Very often me and my friends would meet on a Friday and it would be off and they would all leave on sometime Sunday night. It was my version of Catcher Blocks pad. It was about a quarter of the size of this room [laughs].
The music video that runs through the credits looked so smooth. Did you and Renee enjoy that?
We shot that in a day not very long ago actually...just picked it up. We kept hammering the producers to let us do a song. I cant believe we were trying to persuade them into letting us do one. I was going, Look, I did MOULIN ROUGE, Renee did CHICAGO, shouldnt we do a song? Dont you think? And they went Well, well see... I said, Youll see? What the fuck are you talking about? Let us do a song! Eventually, we ended up persuading them that it would be a good idea that we did a song. [Composer] Marc Shaiman wrote a beautiful one. We recorded it in LA and then we ended up shooting this beautiful dance number for it, which was great fun. We shot it like it was a 60s TV show. It was fun playing to the different cameras and trying to find the right camera.
Has your life changed since STAR WARS?
Not at all really. I mean, I think whats been interesting has been that very little has changed, to my relief I suppose. It was one of the things I spent a lot of time wondering about before I started to do STAR WARS. I questioned it a lot because its not my bag really...I certainly wouldnt have liked to get nailed down to playing one kind of part and Im not particularly interested in having fans. A lot of the baggage that could have come along with it worried me. However, the nearer I got to getting the part, the more I wanted to do it. I went with my gut so I went after it but really there has been precious little change, which is great. I love being in the films.
The only big thing thats changed is that children have seen me act, whereas I dont think theyve seen the films Ive made up to that point, or at least Id certainly hope not! [Laughs] So now theyve seen some of my work and I like that. I love it when kids come to talk to me about STAR WARS and ask me how a light saber works. Other than that, I just get on with it. I think that the impression is that for six or seven years of your life youre kind of STAR WARS bound and if youre lucky you get to do other jobs. The reality is that I spent four months making the first one and then three or four years later spent four months making the second one. Im just about ready to start making the third one.
Can you tell us about BIG FISH with Tim Burton?
Its a beautiful story and the idea that its being directed by Tim Burton, you know... it couldnt have been directed by anyone else. Tims not fantasy but fantastical you know? As the father looks back on his life and his son is trying to reconcile his relationship with his father, as hes looking back I get to play the young version of the father. But with all his exaggerations and enlarging of the truth. Tim really just nailed it. It was beautiful to play because it was such an ease.
Tim kinda just let you go. I felt set free on it. It takes a very courageous director to do that and a very self-assured one to rely on everyone else. Its a mistake a lot of directors can make where the terrible temptation is to be in fucking control of everything and every single element because youre the director. Ive directed short films and I know that. I relate to that and I see it, but it takes a very self assured guy to let you fly. There were real moments of being in a Tim Burton movie that I would walk on the set and would go FUCK. This really is a Tim Burton movie. [Laughs] There he is....
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