Why Ewan McGregor Nearly Turned Down 'Star Wars'

Gregory Wakeman

Ewan McGregor has revealed that he was initially "very reluctant" to star in the Star Wars prequels as Obi-Wan Kenobi.

The Scottish actor ultimately appeared as the legendary Jedi in 1999's Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace, 2002's Star Wars: Episode II - Attack Of The Clones, and 2005's Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge Of The Sith, taking on a character that Alec Guinness had previously made so iconic in 1977's Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope. It took some convincing, though.

But rather than being intimidated about stepping into the shoes of such a seismic and well known actor, Ewan McGregor's main concern was moving into the Hollywood mainstream having previously appeared in much more lo-fi, gritty, and independent films.

However, Ewan McGregor admitted to the Telegraph Magazine (via Cinema Blend) that he slowly started to come around to the idea of appearing as Obi-Wan Kenobi, but not because of financial reasons. He finally signed on the dotted line after sitting down to talk to writer and director George Lucas about the film, who made him realize that the Star Wars prequels wouldn't feel like Hollywood films because, like McGregor, he "hated" this faction of cinema, too, which is why he lives in San Francisco.

"Star Wars is Star Wars, it's something I grew up with as a kid," Ewan McGregor recalled. "At first, I was very reluctant to do it, because I saw myself as this urban, grungy actor doing films about heroin and stuff, and that's who I felt like I really was. But the nearer I got to it, the more I wanted to do it: and it wasn't for money reasons, because it was back in the day I got paid nicely for it, but it wasn't ridiculous by any means. It was to do with being in it and it didn't feel like Hollywood. George Lucas hated Hollywood he was in San Francisco following the beat of his own drum."

Before he signed on the dotted line to appear as Obi-Wan Kenobi, Ewan McGregor's film career had mostly been in lower budget British films. In fact, his career skyrocketed because of his collaborations with Danny Boyle, who would later go on to win the Best Director Academy Award for his work on Slumdog Millionaire. Fourteen years before the 2008 film, though, Danny Boyle and Ewan McGregor worked on the 1994 thriller Shallow Grave, the success of which led to 1996's Trainspotting.

This adaptation of Irvine Welsh's book became a pop culture phenomenon, and not only is it widely regarded as one of the best movies of the 1990s but it went on to gross $72 million from just a $2 million budget. It also made Ewan McGregor one of the most in-demand actors in cinema. But despite the clamor from Hollywood studios for the Scot to pop up in larger and more mainstream films, McGregor continued on in much smaller fare, such as Brassed Off, Velvet Goldmine, Little Voice, The Pillow Book, and A Life Less Ordinary, which once again re-teamed the actor with Danny Boyle.

But the allure of Star Wars, and in particular portraying Obi-Wan Kenobi proved way too much for McGregor, who as well as playing the character in The Phantom Menace, Attack Of The Clones, and Revenge Of The Sith also recorded new vocals in the part for 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, too. Clearly playing Obi-Wan Kenobi triggered something inside Ewan McGregor, because he went on to appear in several more big budgeted productions, such as Moulin Rouge!, Black Hawk Down, Big Fish, Robots, The Island, Angels & Demons, and Jack The Giant Slayer.

Ewan McGregor can next be seen in 2017's Beauty And The Beast as Lumiere, while he'll also be appearing once again as Mark Renton in T2: Trainspotting, which is released on March 2, 2017.

[Featured Image via Lucasfilm]

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