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

EWAN MCGREGOR JIM CARREY I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS X390 (FOCUS) | ADVOCATE.COMPhillip Morris was finally released in December 2010 to good reviews, especially for your and Jim’s performances, but it went virtually unrecognized during awards season. Was that at all disappointing, or were you prepared for that snubbing?
It didn’t really strike me as the kind of film that would be an Oscar contender because it’s too comedic. If it had been made into a straight-out drama about their lives, then maybe it would’ve been more in contention. But it didn’t bother me one way or another, because people saw it and really liked it. It’s actually a film people come up and talk to me about a lot. That’s more important to me than any awards.

When you appeared on Good Morning America, you put George Stephanopoulos in his place when, amid off-camera laughter, he poked fun at a picture of you kissing Jim Carrey. You’ve also criticized the crew members who showed signs of disgust when you kissed Jonathan Rhys Meyers on the set of Velvet Goldmine. Why is it so important for you to combat that kind of homophobia and not just let it slide?
I would do that about anything in my life that I feel isn’t right. If people are prejudiced about anything, I would always challenge it, because you should wear your beliefs on your sleeve. I do that with my kids: I put them right if they step out of line about something. This just happened again on Regis and Kelly. The audience didn’t know what the film was about, so as I was describing it, I said something like, “It’s based on a true story about our writer-director’s father, who came out in his 75th year and told his son that he was gay.” When I said that, a woman in the audience laughed! It was unbelievable. I think she immediately realized that she was out of order, but it was so odd.

We hate her. Did you let her have it?
No, I didn’t call her out, but it was very clear from my reaction that I didn’t think it was a funny or stupid thing. This is just some woman in a chat show audience, but she reflects America in some way, doesn’t she? Things take a long time, as all things do, but we’re definitely moving forward.

How do you see us moving forward?
When I was at school, I didn’t know anyone in my year who was gay. “Gay” was very much used as a derogatory term for something that was stupid. My kids now go to school where there are gay people in their class, and I know some little boys in my oldest daughter’s class who are gay — and they were out at 13, 14. So we are moving forward, hopefully to the point where in 10, 15 years, or sooner, we won’t be sitting down talking about what it’s like to play gay. It’ll just be a part of a character’s makeup, which is how I’ve always thought of it. I’ve never played gay. I’ve played characters who are homosexual or bisexual men, but I’ve never approached them thinking, OK, now I’m going to play gay. Sexuality is a very important part of what makes us us, but it’s not everything.

Tags: film

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