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

CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER EWAN MCGREGOR BEGINNERS X390 (FOCUS) | ADVOCATE.COMThere’s no shortage of stories about closeted men and women in the entertainment industry. What are your thoughts on the Hollywood closet?
Well, there are a lot of out gay people in the entertainment business. You make it sound like the entertainment business is an environment where gay people don’t feel happy to be gay. On the whole, you find lots and lots of out gay people in the entertainment business who are quite comfortably so.

Yes, that’s true. But I suppose I’m referring more to leading men and women — those actors paid to carry the big-budget rom-coms and action movies. Do you feel that they too can be comfortably out at this time?
You’re really talking about the top echelons of Hollywood, and that’s where being gay might matter. I’m not gay myself, so I don’t know what pressures there would be if I was a gay man in this industry, but you would hope that it wouldn’t even be an issue. Hollywood is a funny place, and it doesn’t bear much relevance to the real world. But I do know in terms of scripts and story lines that you can have very clever ideas that have to go because studios and producers don’t want to offend anyone; they’re so terrified that they won’t get their money back, so they try to appeal to everybody. So maybe we’re not at the point yet where being out is OK for every actor. Maybe some actors still feel like it would damage their potential career choices.

Have you not worked with closeted actors?
I’ve never worked with an actor that I know to be gay but who isn’t out — not that I know of. I have worked with a lot of out gay actors. In my world gay people enjoy great security in the entertainment business because it’s very open, much more so than if you were in a bank or something. So my thoughts about the entertainment business aren’t about people who are closeted but about people who are out.

What I took away from Beginners is that life is too short not to live it as your most authentic self. It’s a universal message, but it’s one that’s especially important for young gay people to hear.
There is great acceptance in this film, and the audience is definitely going to see that. My character hasn’t got any issues about his father’s homosexuality. He has to reflect back over his life with his parents and their relationship because now he realizes that things were different, but there’s certainly absolute acceptance of his father’s sexuality. His father’s incredibly happy to live his life out and openly, because being who he truly is gives him great comfort, so there wasn’t any disappointment or anger. What’s also lovely for young gay people to see in this film is how it tackles gay history in the States. There are lots of facts, details, and montages about what it might’ve been like to be a young homosexual man in the early ’50s, because our writer-director, Mike, is obviously trying to understand why his father felt the need to suppress his homosexuality.

Tags: film

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