Aired January 13, 2002 - 21:00 ET
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Interview with Ewan McGregor


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, he's a wizard of the rings on screen and a gay knight at a British (UNINTELLIGIBLE), the remarkable Sir Ian McKellen. And she'll probably get her sixth Oscar nomination for what she does "In the Bedroom." Sissy Spacek walked away from movie stardom to be a mom. He sings and dances at the "Moulin Rouge," also swings a life saver. Joining us from London, Ewan McGregor.

Then, she broke into movies before her teens. Now blossomed into a dramatic actress generating a whole lot of buzz, Jennifer Connelly from "A Beautiful Mind." And, how do you play a one-of-a-kind character like Howard Cosell? John Turturro knows. He nailed the part for "Monday Night Mayhem." Then, Yolanda Adams (ph) with the musical message: never give up. All next on LARRY KING WEEKEND.

Good evening and welcome to a very special edition of LARRY KING WEEKEND with five top actors and actresses as our special guests. You'll be hearing lots about them at award time come March.

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KING: It's now a great pleasure to welcome to LARRY KING WEEKEND from London, England, Ewan McGregor. He costars with Nicole Kidman in "Moulin Rouge," nominated for a Golden Globe for best performance by an actor in a motion picture comedy or musical. He's also in "Black Hawk Down," one of the great war movies ever made. And he plays the young Obi Wan Kinobi (ph). He'll be in the upcoming "Star Wars II, Attack of the Clones" (ph). Did you like this "Moulin Rouge" project right from the start, Ewan?

EWAN MCGREGOR, ACTOR: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. It was hugely exciting and -- to be involved -- to be able to sing and dance while you're telling a story is incredibly challenging and exciting. And to work with Baz Luhrmann, really, and Nicole, you know, it didn't get much better.

KING: When you saw the finished product, were you at all surprised at all the techniques used?

MCGREGOR: No. I mean, we spent such a long time working on it. We were rehearsing for over four months. And we shot for, I think -- everyone's a bit vague about this, but between five and six months. So it was nine months of intensive work. And during the four months rehearsal with Baz, you know, we were kind of drawn into the world that he was going to create. So when I saw the finished product, it was a very familiar -- it was very familiar, you know. It was exactly as he described to me in our first meeting.

KING: Were you first a singer who then took up acting, or did acting -- was it acting, then singing or both?

MCGREGOR: Yeah. No, I've always -- I've always been -- been an actor. I was always going to be an actor since I was about nine. And I just always sung along the way really. But I had to sing in this film in a way that I haven't done before. I've sung in other films I've made; however, there's always been a kind of get out clause. You know, my character might not have been a great singer.

And -- but in this, because the singing had to tell the story, you know, it had to be a high level, I guess. So I worked very hard on that with Andrew Ross (ph), who's a great singing coach in Australia. And he kind of drew a voice out of me I didn't realize I had, I suppose.

KING: What was it like working with Nicole Kidman?

MCGREGOR: A nightmare. Very, very difficult everyday. No, no, fantastic. Fantastic. I mean, I had met Nicole only once before at a premier, you know, where they kind of -- they ask you to stand next to another actor and you -- for your photograph. And then in the magazines it looks like you're great friends. So we had met only once in a situation like that. And then we met in Australia and had lunch with Baz and he -- he kind of -- he loves to talk about it. He told us all his expectations and hopes and what were going to -- what we were to try to achieve with the film.

And then we were taken to this room and there was a pianist and a piano and we were given sheet music and we were singing to each other moments later. So you kind of -- we had to throw ourselves into it, you know. And we kind of came up with this little pact to just allow each other to be as inhibited as possible, you know. Because we had all this great stuff to do. And we got on really well. She's such a laugh, you know.

KING: Yes, she is.

MCGREGOR: People wouldn't (ph) be aware that she's actually a very funny girl, you know.

KING: "Black Hawn Down" is now opening wide in the United States. I saw it; it's an incredible war movie. One would gather it was a difficult shoot. Was it?

MCGREGOR: Yes. Every film has its own challenge. I mean, I think Ridley's challenge in this film was to -- the whole film is the battle, you know. And it's all based on true events of what happened that day. And so the story is the whole battle. And to try to shape that -- I think there's probably 15 minutes or 20 minutes of kind of getting to know characters, and then they go in. And from the moment they land on the ground until the end of the movie is a battle, a pretty (ph) long battle.

And to try and -- to try and pitch that and put color in that -- light and shade -- must have been incredibly difficult. However, Ridley Scott has absolutely achieved that. You just -- it sustains your attention and your horror, in fact, you know, from start to finish. It's the most -- I would say it's the most accurate -- or the only, maybe, portrayal of modern day urban warfare. We don't get to see those pictures on CNN or on any news channel, because there's no one in there.

And so this is our first look, really, at what these soldiers -- what their work is, you know. It's horrific and shocking. And at the same time, it was a story that needed to be told, I think. You know?

KING: I agree. Now what about playing Obi Wan Kinobi (ph)? You get the thrill of swinging that thing around. Is that pure fun or hard work?

MCGREGOR: It's hard work. It's quite hard work. As an actor, there's very little there, and so there's a lot of blue screen work and that's very difficult. And, in fact, in some instances you're playing to a character who's not there. In my case, a lot of the time, it seemed, especially in the second episode.

So you're playing into mid air, and your job as an actor is very often to react. However, so -- because there's nothing there, I'm reacting off what I imagine that character might do. And it's just very complicated. However, there's a great -- you know, there's a pleasure in that; there's a challenge in that as an actor. It's -- it's unlike any other films I've -- I've made.

KING: Sure.

MCGREGOR: And so that -- there are the skills that you adopt, you know.

KING: And then when you see the final result...

MCGREGOR: And it's great to be in them. The best thing -- well, that's the thing. The best thing about it is being in them, being in "Star Wars", being Obi Wan Kinobi (ph) is a huge kind of thrill. As a young boy, I watched all the -- the first three films. So to be Obi Wan Kinobi (ph) is kind of weird. I still haven't got used to that.

And to be in them, you know, it's like watching someone else do the film because none of it was there when you did it. So you kind of don't remember any of the -- the scenery or anything, because it wasn't there. And kids, I love it when kids come up to ask me questions about it. It's really lovely, you know. Kids come up and say, "Did you really cut Darth Mull (ph) in half?" And, "How does your light (ph) saver work?" And I love that.

KING: It's going to be a big year for you, Ewan.

MCGREGOR: Adults ask me the same question, and that's very weird.

KING: It's going to be a big year for you. We hope you'll prepare for it. You deserve it.

MCGREGOR: Thank you very much. Well I'm as ready for it as anyone, I think.

KING: Ewan McGregor, you'll see him with Nicole Kidman in "Moulin Rouge" and "Black Hawk Down." He is something else. Ewan McGregor from England.

When we come back, the wonderful Jennifer Connelly, who's in an equally terrific movie called "A Beautiful Mind." She's next, don't go away.

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