After posting about Trainspotting the other day, I started thinking about the stars of the film and ultimately had the epiphany that Ewan McGregor has to be the most underrated actor around. He is consistently brilliant in every film, even the atrocious Star Wars prequels, and can act circles around just about anybody.
Sure, he’s gotten lots of award nominations, but very few wins. I’m sorry, I don’t consider the Satellite Awards to be on par with the Oscars (0 nominations??!!??!! WTF is up with that?), or even the Screen Actors Guild Awards (3 nominations, 0 wins).
The man is an acting powerhouse. He brings tremendous presence to each role he selects. Perhaps his flaw is a perchance to take up roles that are more odd (i.e. Nanny McPhee Returns) than mainstream. But, those choices seem to be rewarded for every other actor or actress out there. Why not Ewan?
Ewan’s work in small films can be absolutely mesmerizing. Of course I’ll lead off with his portrayal of heroin addict Mark Renton in Trainspotting, but you can also look at The Pillow Book, Velvet Goldmine, The Men Who Stare at Goats, or even Salmon Fishing in the Yemen as examples where he transcended the scripts given.
Sometimes Ewan goes for more schlock than he should. What was he thinking with Mortdecai or A Life Less Ordinary? I love that he isn’t afraid to take chances and try to get down and dirty with some unusual films. Just once I’d like to see Leonardo Dicaprio try to a role that required him to be something more than cocky, handsome rich guy with tons of attitude. Leo plays the same character in every film and gets rave reviews for it. Why? Tom Cruise is the same way. He’s played the same character since he was a kid! Yet, everyone celebrates each time Leo or Tom are on film, playing the EXACT SAME PERSON. WTF?
I think where Ewan really shines is elevating the performances of those around him. The best example of that is the aforementioned Star Wars prequels. His work with Hayden Christensen had to be painful. To be honest, Hayden can’t act his way out of a paper bag, and being saddled with a terrible script and horrible direction didn’t do him any favors. But, when paired with Ewan, Hayden actually emotes and gives some of the best performances of his career. Have you already forgotten The Island? In this blockbuster flop, McGregor is able to convincingly turn one of the worst actresses around, Scarlett Johansson, into a convincing thespian. Too bad ScarJo isn’t paired with Ewan in the Marvel Universe. If that were to happen we might get some life out of Black Widow!
Now, why doesn’t Ewan have an Oscar on his mantle, much less a single nomination? This is a travesty of the highest order. Ewan’s work has been spectacular. I thought for sure his portrayal of Christian in Moulin Rouge! would at least earn him a nomination. Nope, he was totally skipped over. I’m hopeful that a return to his iconic Mark Renton character in T2: Trainspotting 2 will generate a swell of support for his nomination. Unfortunately I’m fully prepared for T2 to suck, so I’m not counting on it. Perhaps some of his other upcoming projects will finally generate the buzz necessary.
I’m afraid that one day we’ll look back on Ewan’s catalog and realize how special of an actor he truly was, and even moreso, how deserving of respect and kudos he really is.
I can unequivocally state that Ewan is my most favorite actor working today. If he’s in a film, I’m going to go and see it. He may not be the Academy or SAG award favorite, but I love his work and am always impressed with his efforts. I can’t wait to see what he has coming up next.
What do you think? Is Ewan overlooked?