6:15 pm - 11/16/2012

Ewan McGregor finds emotional depth in 'The Impossible'

Actors often talk about the scene: The big moment in a script when their character is supposed to do something brave, or when they must dig deep to tap something inside themselves — when an emotion is unveiled that proves so true it is somehow scary.

For Ewan McGregor, that moment couldn't have been more heightened during the making of "The Impossible," Juan Antonio Bayona's harrowing drama about a family's experience during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

It was a moment in a bus station when his character, a man whose wife and oldest son have been swept away in the charging wall of water, finally breaks down while contemplating the sheer magnitude of his loss. It's an emotion hard enough to tap in the most intimate of filming work. But in McGregor's case, it had to be done in front of a slew of extras invited to join the shoot via party-like fliers left around bars in Thailand that read, "Come be in a Ewan McGregor, Naomi Watts movie."

"When you walked on the set, you have 300 holiday makers going, 'There he is. There he is. Look. Look,'" McGregor said with a laugh. "And you're expected to cry your eyes out in front of them five minutes later."

Bayona knew the pressure of the moment wouldn't be easy, so the Spanish director also made sure to include actual survivors of the tsunami — men and women who had lost loved ones in the giant wave. They all told their stories before it was McGregor's turn, helping him find his way to the emotional depths he needed to reach.

"There was something in the energy of those people that, when we started to cry, those hands that were on your back, there was a great deal of understanding in them," McGregor said. "There was something very special about that."

The Scottish actor's entire four-month shoot in Thailand was filled with those kinds of moments, when the fiction they were playing was made real by the setting, the extras or the actual family upon who's story "The Impossible" is based.

Unlike his costar, Naomi Watts, who was able to spend a lot of time getting to know the real-life survivor, Maria Belon, McGregor met her husband, Enrique Álvarez, only after shooting had already begun.

"I was nervous to meet my guy. I wondered what he might think," McGregor said. "But when I did meet him, I thought there were similarities between what I was doing, that I discovered from the script. There is an inwardness to him. He's a very gentle, quiet man."

Álvarez must have felt the same way. According to McGregor, a photograph of him in character was sent to Álvarez near the beginning of the shoot, before they had laid eyes on each other. "He told me at the premiere in Toronto that he showed the picture to his friends and his wife and said, 'He's got me, he's got me. How did he ever know? He never met me."

Bayona always envisioned McGregor taking the part of Henry, even though the actor's very storied career had never included playing a father.

"If you take a look at the characters he's played," said the Spanish director," he's very versatile. He's played a junkie ["Trainspotting"] and Obi-Wan Kenobi [the "Star Wars" movies], but the truth is that I always saw a lot of humanity there, no matter the character."

And playing a father after being one for the last 16 years was a big lure for McGregor, who is currently in Oklahoma filming John Wells' adaptation of "August: Osage County" opposite Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep.

"This film is very much about being a father and exploring those unique relationships we have with our wife and kids," the actor said. "Though I've been a dad for a long time, I haven't played one properly. In this film, it's very much about that."

trinity_squared 16th-Nov-2012 04:35 pm (UTC)
<3 forever nude in my mind till my last dying thought
brokenseas 16th-Nov-2012 04:37 pm (UTC)
Bayona knew the pressure of the moment wouldn't be easy, so the Spanish director also made sure to include actual survivors of the tsunami — men and women who had lost loved ones in the giant wave. They all told their stories before it was McGregor's turn, helping him find his way to the emotional depths he needed to reach.

Ew this seems very weird to have extras do to "set the mood"
lorag 16th-Nov-2012 04:46 pm (UTC)
I'm too turned on to read this.
blossom_room 16th-Nov-2012 09:19 pm (UTC)
dannyupshaw 16th-Nov-2012 04:48 pm (UTC)
alkalinecupcake 16th-Nov-2012 04:51 pm (UTC)
I THINK this is the family the story is based on, they were at the premiere. ;( i can't imagine going through something like that.

anyway, oh ewan, anything for you til my dying days.

Edited at 2012-11-16 05:05 pm (UTC)
no_x_doubts 16th-Nov-2012 05:13 pm (UTC)
yyyyaaaaaaaasss ewan <3
thecanuckian 16th-Nov-2012 05:14 pm (UTC)
why has nobody freaked out about the whitewashing yet

c'mon people I want a show
xprivate_eyex 16th-Nov-2012 05:20 pm (UTC)
Because it's a fictional story based on an actual story, not a telling of an actual story?

Just a hypothesis.
thecanuckian 16th-Nov-2012 05:21 pm (UTC)
people have lost their shit over much, much less
xprivate_eyex 18th-Nov-2012 08:55 am (UTC)
I can't argue with that tbh.
wauwy 16th-Nov-2012 05:37 pm (UTC)
I'm covering my ears and going lalalalala
anabanana0714 17th-Nov-2012 07:39 am (UTC)
Is it really whitewashing if the family is Spanish, though? As in from Europe? Because my great-grandmother was Spaniard and had red hair and blue eyes. If they were a Mexican family, I'm sure there'd be outrage, but Spaniards tend to be white people. I see nothing wrong with casting white people to play other white people.

That said, I do have to give side-eye the fact that a movie about the horrific ASIAN tsunami has to be told through the experiences of some rich white people. Will the story of the Japan earthquake be told through the eyes of some white military family stationed nearby? Smh.
wauwy 16th-Nov-2012 05:36 pm (UTC)
My boyfriend since 1997, my boyfriend forever.

andromakhe001 16th-Nov-2012 11:29 pm (UTC)
dammit he is just adorable!
shunda84 17th-Nov-2012 05:14 am (UTC)
My young teenage hormones were raging thatnks to his man. Now I'm an adult & I still want think man.
yurasama_love 16th-Nov-2012 05:47 pm (UTC)
Lord, I've loved him for thirteen years. He's such a good actor.
jaguarjg 16th-Nov-2012 06:07 pm (UTC)
I saw this a few months ago in Madrid and its amazing but also horrific, I was in a constant state of despair I don't know if I would watch it again but I recommend it. Ewan and Naomi were great and it really shows how sudden and devastating tsunamis are. The scene they are talking about above is heart breaking, Ewan's character finally finds a phone and calls his in laws to tell them he cant find his wife and son and until now hes kept his shit together but he just looses it in front of everyone while on the phone. I wept like a child, amazing performance.
mhfromnh 16th-Nov-2012 06:20 pm (UTC)
will Penis McGregor be making an appearance as well?
pastelstar 16th-Nov-2012 06:33 pm (UTC)
didn't read, just here for the pic

I love this man beyond all reason.
blossom_room 16th-Nov-2012 09:20 pm (UTC)
he is perfection
x_girl_wonder_x 16th-Nov-2012 06:36 pm (UTC)
That photo...daaaamn, son. You good looker, you.
dropitlikepluto 16th-Nov-2012 08:03 pm (UTC)
This man.
blossom_room 16th-Nov-2012 09:21 pm (UTC)
je_blagues 16th-Nov-2012 09:44 pm (UTC)
My love. Will watch anything for him
explodingpuppet 16th-Nov-2012 10:10 pm (UTC)
gah i love him i love him. judging this movie but fuck I'll have to see it
lucifersam 16th-Nov-2012 11:56 pm (UTC)
ugh he's perfect
joaniemaloney 17th-Nov-2012 01:00 am (UTC)
this movie though. :/
piph_chan 17th-Nov-2012 04:32 am (UTC)
he could find my depth anytime
mjspice 18th-Nov-2012 08:05 am (UTC)
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