best film:  Ewan McGregor has three (3) films that already seem to have true staying power – films that hold up well to close study, scrutiny and age.  1996’s Trainspotting from Danny Boyle hits like a bolt of lighting. It has Boyle’s trademark energy – it was Boyle and McGregor’s breakthrough film – and it may still be their best. Moulin Rouge! (2001) from Baz Luhrmann flies out fast and furious in a glorious concoction of montage and color. Boyle and Luhrmann are not first ballot hall of fame auteurs (both are outside the top 100 of all-time) – that is noted and a fair criticism to McGregor’s filmography – but McGregor is front and center for each of the respective director’s best films (and by a wide margin). Roman Polanski is at the helm for the last of McGregor’s three (3) best films – 2010’s The Ghost Writer. Polanski is a first ballot hall of fame auteur – and if this is Polanski not quite at the top of his game anymore – it is not far off either.


best performance:  Maybe it is the running to Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life” – but Ewan McGregor’s Renton steals the show from an acting standpoint in Trainspotting – and the rest of the cast is really strong.  Ewen Bremner steals his share of scenes as Spud, Kelly Macdonald (Diane) and Shirley Henderson (Gail) went on to have long, successful careers themselves (oddly enough both renowned and sought after as vocal talents, too) and Peter Mullan (Swanney) should be in every movie. Without an actor of McGregor’s caliber to lead it – any one of these supporting actors could walk off with the film – there is little doubt that McGregor is the future star here. That fate as a future star seemed to come to fruition in Moulin Rouge! in 2001. This is opposite Nicole Kidman in her absolute prime – and McGregor is shows off his dramatic and comedic chops – whist also showing that he is musical talent on top of everything else (anyone else hear these songs by David Bowie, The Beatles, U2, Elton John and other geniuses of 20th century music and at least occasionally prefer McGregor’s rendition?).


no montage of the cinematic high water marks for the 1990s is complete without Ewan McGregor scampering down the street to Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life” in Trainspotting (1996)


stylistic innovations/traits:   Ewan McGregor has eleven (11) films in the archives with one (1) pillar of a film anchoring each of the three (3) past full decades: 1990s, 2000s and 2010s. The Scottish actor was born in 1971 – making him just in his mid-twenties when Trainspotting debuted. McGregor has been snubbed by the Oscars at least three (3) films – he is still waiting for his first nomination.  McGregor should be praised for just how varied these three (3) films and performance are as well. There a heroin addiction contemporary film (Trainspotting), a lavish music (seemingly on acid) set before the turn of the 20th century in Paris (Moulin Rouge!),  and the last is a political thriller filled with deception and paranoia (The Ghost Writer).  He was cast in the Alec Guinness Obi-Wan Kenobi role by George Lucas. McGregor gets the powerful delivery – “You were the chosen one” in 2005’s Revenge of the Sith – easily the best of the three (3) films. McGregor is excellent in these prequel films  – and no doubt he thought these prequels might make him the next Harrison Ford or put him in the same stratosphere as a Leonardo DiCaprio and that simply did not happen. So, as it stands,  the choice to spend so much of his time from 1999-2005 (right smack at the height of McGregor’s cachet and popularity) poses an interesting alternative universe what-if scenario. Mike Mills is a supreme writer and director of character studies – so 2010 – all told – may actually be McGregor’s best single year with both Beginners and Polanski’s The Ghost Writer coming out just a few months apart – Polanski’s at Berlin in February and Beginners in September at Toronto.


McGregor plays Christian in 2001’s Moulin Rouge! – the role calls for jealousy, humor, moments of high drama, and yes – musical talent. This role and film would be a major feather the cap for any actor



directors worked with: Danny Boyle (2), Peter Greenaway (1), Todd Haynes (1), Ridley Scott (1), George Lucas (1), Roman Polanski (1), Steven Soderbergh (1). If the George Lucas prequel films pose one interesting what-if for McGregor’s career – the other is the fallout with Danny Boyle after Boyle cast Leonardo DiCaprio over McGregor for the lead in The Beach in 2000 (a very coveted role and project at the time). They have since reconciled and worked together again (T2 Trainspotting in 2017) – but that is an over a twenty (20) year gap having not worked together after rising up together in the 1990s.


from The Ghost Writer – McGregor character (named “The Ghost” in the credits) searching the internet for C.I.A contacts in a fit of paranoia certainly recalls Mia Farrow reading the book on witchcraft from Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby. The role here is not as juicy as Farrow’s role, and the overall film not quite on that level – but this definitely still helps flesh out McGregor’s career.


top five performances:

  1. Trainspotting
  2. Moulin Rouge!
  3. The Ghost Writer
  4. Beginners
  5. Shallow Grave


archiveable films

1994- Shallow Grave
1996- The Pillow Book
1996- Trainspotting
1998- Velvet Goldmine
2001- Black Hawk Down
2001- Moulin Rouge!
2005- Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith
2010- Beginners
2010- The Ghost Writer
2011- Haywire
2012- The Impossible