Ewan McGregor: Daddy Complex

Starring as a gay father’s son in Beginners, Ewan McGregor cracks open the Hollywood closet, challenges casual homophobia, and considers the legacy of I Love You Phillip Morris.

BY Brandon Voss

June 02 2011 11:50 PM ET

Based on the real-life experiences of filmmaker Mike Mills, Beginners (opening June 3 in limited release) stars Ewan McGregor as Oliver, the only son of a recently widowed man who comes out as gay at age 75. At 81, the prolific Christopher Plummer plays Oliver’s dad, Hal, who, only five years before his own death, makes a big splash in the gay social scene and scores a much younger boyfriend. No stranger to queer cinema — the 40-year-old Scot has played gay or bisexual in such films as The Pillow Book, Velvet Goldmine, and last year’s I Love You Phillip Morris — McGregor opens up to The Advocate about his personal coming-out stories and his optimistic assessment of the modern gay experience.

Advocate.com: You obviously have much more experience with gay roles than your Beginners costar, Christopher Plummer. Did you offer him any words of advice or encouragement about his portrayal of Hal?
Ewan McGregor: [Laughs] It’s not for me to give anyone advice, especially not Christopher Plummer. “Now, listen, Mr. Plummer, when you come to this scene ... ” No. He and Goran Visnjic, who plays his boyfriend, both threw themselves into it, and their relationship is totally believable. It’s very touching.

What was it like to have a legend of the stage and screen playing your father?
Christopher didn’t intimidate me because he was a delight. He’s just a lovely man. He’s a wonderful actor, of course, but he’s also a wonderful actor to work with. He’s very modern and contemporary as an actor. Even though he gives an amazing performance, I never felt like I was working with someone who was giving a performance. It almost felt like I was doing scenes with my dad.

Did you two hit it off right away?
We had a very nice rehearsal period with different exercises to help us get to know each other. Christopher and I were sent off to shops, and I had to go buy him a scarf at Barneys. For one of the exercises, I threw a lunch for Christopher and all the actors who play his gay friends in the movie. Most of those guys are gay men in real life, so some of them went around the table and talked about their coming-out stories and how different they all were.

Has anyone ever come out to you?
Yes, friends have come out to me after some time, after I’ve known or worked with them for a while. I’ve always been very happy and delighted that they felt they could do so — and could do so with me. I was slightly surprised that they hadn’t done it earlier. But coming out is so personal, and every story is different.

Tags: film

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