“Miss Potter” is not Ewan McGregor’s film, and that’s just fine with him. Check out the poster, and all you’ll see is Renée Zellweger’s smiling face, but it is McGregor, the sometime Jedi/crooner, who nearly steals the show as her shy and awkward love interest.
The movie, which opens in limited release December 29 (just in time for Oscar consideration), fits into the “Finding Neverland” mold. Zellweger plays famed author Beatrix Potter, the woman who brought “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” to life. McGregor took some time to talk to MTV about his latest flick, whether he worries about schmaltz and his plans to get naked again.
MTV: That’s some facial hair you sport in this. Was the mustache real or not?
Ewan McGregor: Real. [Director Chris Noonan] sent me a photograph of the real Norman Warne, and he had the most extraordinarily long mustache you’ve ever seen. Years and years must have gone into this mustache. I had time, so I grew mine for two or three months.
MTV: Do you worry about the schmaltz factor with a film like this?
McGregor: I didn’t read it as schmaltzy. If I had, I wouldn’t have wanted to do it. I only saw it as a very true and beautiful piece about [Potter] and her life.
MTV: “Moulin Rouge!” was another film of yours that might have fallen into schmaltz territory if not for a filmmaker like Baz Luhrmann.
McGregor: I never had anything but absolute trust in him. When I first met Baz years before, he described what he wanted it to be and he described what was on the screen at the end of the day. It was absolutely that. And I never wavered. It went over budget and over schedule and over everything, but through it all, I was absolutely sold on it. I’ve never worried about schmaltz. You can lose trust in a director for other reasons. Sometimes with new directors you feel like you’re getting direction for the sake of them directing you as opposed to putting you on the right track. And that can be tricky because then you have to navigate that line of pretending you’re playing their note and doing what you believe to be right at the same time.
MTV: Tell me about the film you’ve been shooting with Hugh Jackman and Michelle Williams in New York, “The Tourist.”
McGregor: We’ve got a very classy team. I’ve loved working with Hugh, because I think he’s just a gorgeous man. Most of all I’ve been working with Michelle, and she’s an absolute delight. She’s an exceptional young actress — she’s got a quality about her that’s quite unique.
MTV: This one has you navigating through the sex clubs of New York. Does this mean the return of Ewan McGregor nudity?
McGregor: Yes. [He laughs.] I don’t think there’s any willy stuff, but there’s certainly bum stuff in it. It’s funny over here. You’re quite safe from penis shots in America because American people don’t have penises, so you can’t see them in film. Whereas in Britain you can see your penis in film. [He laughs.] So since it’s an American picture, it’s just a bum you see.
MTV: When do you shoot the sequel to your motorcycle travel show, “Long Way Round”?
McGregor: Next year. “The Long Way Down” — it’s from the north of Scotland to Capetown [South Africa]. We’ll leave sometime in the summer.
MTV: How did you come up with the title? Does it have anything to do with the “ER” episode you were in that had almost the exact same name?
McGregor: I was in Australia shooting the third “Star Wars” film. Our producers came out, and we shot a trailer to take around to TV companies. We were having dinner, and the boys were getting quite drunk and coming up with titles. They were coming up with the most ludicrous ones, like “Wakey Wakey Hands Off Snakey, Charley It’s Time to Ride.” I kept coming back to “Long Way Round,” and we settled on it. After the trip I remembered that the episode of “ER” I did was “The Long Way Around.” So that’s where it must have come from, somewhere in my subconscious.
MTV: You recently finished filming a new Woody Allen movie, “Cassandra’s Dream,” opposite Colin Farrell. How was that?
McGregor: Fantastic. I loved working with Woody Allen. You raise your game firstly because it’s him but also from the way he shoots. It’s so satisfying and so quick! He just shoots the scene. You go in and out of frame. It’s wonderful. And then you get home every day by 4:30.
MTV: Did you know that you are a seven-time nominee for an MTV Movie Award?
McGregor: [Surprised] Am I? Seven times! For what?
MTV: A lot for the “Star Wars” films, but it goes all the way back to “Trainspotting.”
McGregor: God, I had no idea!
MTV: What’s your attitude about awards?
McGregor: It’s lovely if you get one. [He laughs.] I would never want to be someone who’s acting to try to get one, and I know a few of those actors. I won’t mention names. It’s nice to get them, but I can’t bring myself to get involved in trying to get one.
MTV: I’m sorry I never got to see you perform in London in “Guys and Dolls.” Our question is …
McGregor: Was I good? Yes. Very. [He laughs.]
MTV: Well, besides that, are you interested in doing another musical on film, perhaps even “Guys and Dolls”?
McGregor: “Guys and Dolls” was a great movie with Sinatra and Brando. I don’t think we should try to touch that. I have no plans to make [a musical], but I love the whole process of making a movie with music. There’s a whole other element to it that makes it refreshing. It’s wonderful.
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