Ewan McGregor Interview For ‘The Impossible’
Maria (Naomi Watts), Henry (Ewan McGregor) and their three sons begin their winter vacation in Thailand, looking forward to a few days in tropical paradise. But on the morning of December 26th, as the family relaxes around the pool after their Christmas festivities the night before, a terrifying roar rises up from the center of the earth. As Maria freezes in fear, a huge wall of black water races across the hotel grounds toward her. Based on a true story, ‘The Impossible’ is the unforgettable account of a family caught, with tens of thousands of strangers, in the mayhem of one of the worst natural catastrophes of our time. But the true-life terror is tempered by the unexpected displays of compassion, courage and simple kindness that Maria and her family encounter during the darkest hours of their lives. Both epic and intimate, devastating and uplifting, ‘The Impossible’ is a journey to the core of the human heart. Marking the English-language debut of director Juan Antonio Bayona (The Orphanage), ‘The Impossible’ arrives in cinemas December 21st in the US and January 4th in the UK.
What was your initial reaction when you read the script for ‘The Impossible’….?
Ewan McGregor: I wanted to be involved with ‘The Impossible’ because of the script, I liked it very much. And the script, for me that’s the first box you have to tick, regardless of who’s going to be in the movie or who’s directing it. I think if the script is not really good, it’s harder to make a really good film out of that. And with ‘The Impossible,’ there was something very honest and true about it, and a simplicity, in a way that made it very brutal and very vivid. And then I liked Juan Antonio Bayona’s film ‘The Orphanage’ very much so I was interested to meet him and work with him. And to get to work with Naomi Watts again, because I made a film with her some years ago, it’s always nice to work with somebody you’ve enjoyed with working before. We knew each other and have a nice easy way, hopefully that came across on screen. We are both parents and we tried to make this couple seem real, not like a movie family.
Was there a particular moment in the script that grabbed you or resonated with you?
Ewan McGregor: There’s a moment between Maria and her oldest child Lucas that touched me the most. When he sees the extent of her wounds for the first time, he says something like, “Oh Mama, I can’t see you like that.“ I thought there was something incredibly truthful about that line….. a child looking at his injured mum and he just can’t bear to see her hurt. I don’t think I knew at the time that it was a true story but it felt incredibly accurate and really described the tone of the movie to me.
As a father yourself, how did you approach playing Henry in ‘The Impossible’?
Ewan McGregor: I wanted very much to do this film because I’m a father, you know? I have four children now, and I’ve never really explored being a parent in a film before. It’s odd because I’ve been a father for fifteen years and yet I’ve never really played….I can’t think of one, I’ve never really played a dad or explored what it means to be a dad. So because I wanted to do that with this film, I felt that I wanted to make Henry much more like me – because I thought I could play a character, but I wanted to explore being a parent against this terrible backdrop, this horrible disaster. I thought the most effective way to do that was to play Henry as me. So I used my own voice, I didn’t use an accent, I didn’t make any attempt to sound English as opposed to Scottish – because my children don’t have Scottish accents and they’ve grown up with me all of their lives (laughs). So there was no need for him to be English just because the children have English accents.
The sets in the movie are incredible, that must have helped inform your performance immensely?
Ewan McGregor: Definitely. The sets, the amazing sets that our designer built, they really helped inform the performance. Seeing these incredible, devastated areas. We shot a pre-tsunami The Orchid Resort, and a few days later we shot a post-tsunami The Orchid Resort – that was really quite impressive, that was affecting. And I think seeing the real images that we’ve all seen on the news and in the paper, to see them kind of come alive like that was really incredible and harrowing.
How was it working with your three young co-stars in the film, your three movie sons?
Ewan McGregor: I liked our kids very much. Tom Holland, Oaklee Pendergast and Samuel Joslin, I think they’re really special children. And it was wonderful watching Tom who had never worked in front of a camera before, to see him really get it and grow as a film actor as he went along. He’s really talented and polite to everyone. It’s very easy for children to lose perspective but he’s absolutely on the right road and a brilliant actor. And the other wee boys, Samuel and Oaklee, are great, too. Oaklee was really little but totally in the moment when we were playing scenes, completely engaged. He’s not doing a school play. He’s really there.
You share the majority of you scenes in ‘The Impossible’ with Oaklee and Samuel , how was that experience?
Ewan McGregor: Those two little kids were the best part for me. My growing relationship with those two boys has been really fantastic. At the beginning, where they were quite shy of me but a month later, it was completely different. There were always there, coming into my trailer in between shots, and I really liked that. That will be my favourite memory of the movie, working with those two wee boys.
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