OH, BROTH­ERS

McGre­gor plays two.

Los Angeles Times - - THE ENVELOPE - By Hugh Hart cal­en­dar@la­times.com

Ewan McGre­gor is no stranger to dual roles. He played both Je­sus and the Devil in 2015’s “Last Days in the Desert” and a decade ear­lier por­trayed his own clone in “The Is­land.” But only Noah Haw­ley’s lim­ited FX series “Fargo” re­quired the Scot­tish ac­tor to play both sides of a bloody death scene.

As feud­ing broth­ers Em­mit and Ray Stussy, McGre­gor came to be fight­ing with him­self over a rare, framed postage stamp.

Shov­ing the stamp over to younger brother Ray as part of a peace of­fer­ing, Em­mit ac­ci­den­tally breaks the frame, lodg­ing a shard of glass in Ray’s neck and then watches in hor­ror as his brother bleeds to death.

McGre­gor, on the phone from Mon­treal where he’s shoot­ing his next film, “Zoe,” re­calls the cli­mac­tic show­down.

“It was a very odd day be­cause I was sick as a dog and tak­ing DayQuil or NyQuil or what­ever it is. We shot the Ray stuff first op­po­site my friend Steve, who dou­bled for Em­mit. I was think­ing about how Ray left his girl­friend Nicki in a hurry, didn’t give her a kiss or a proper good­bye and now they’ll never get a chance to have the life they dreamed. That felt quite des­per­ate to me so I wanted to find a pa­thetic po­si­tion for Ray to die in. I went to my knees, tipped over and ended up in this very awk­ward place. I thought it was kind of a cool po­si­tion for Ray to be in as he dies.”

Af­ter McGre­gor acted out Ray’s death throes, he played the scene’s other side.

“Our body dou­ble Paul watched all the takes of me be­ing Ray so he was able to mimic the lines and the tim­ing. As Em­mit, through Paul, I just played off what I had al­ready done as Ray. By that point, I’m not re­ally think­ing about break­ing down the mo­ments. I’m just in it. And that’s how I did all the Ray-Em­mit scenes: I was to­tally Ray when I played Ray and to­tally Em­mit when I played Em­mit. They didn’t get in the way of each other be­cause these broth­ers have com­pletely dif­fer­ent spir­its.”

To get in­side the curly-wigged head of Em­mit, the self-pro­claimed Park­ing Lot King of Min­nesota, McGre­gor took a few cues from Don­ald Trump.

He ex­plains, “Em­mit’s a cap­i­tal­ist, so Trump be­com­ing pres­i­dent was quite use­ful for me as I pre­pared to play this man who’s just about mak­ing money.”

Thirty years ear­lier, Em­mit bam­boo­zled Ray into swap­ping his pre­cious col­lec­tion of rare stamps for a mus­cle car. “At 17,” McGre­gor says, “Em­mit knew what he wanted and tricked his brother to get it.”

Tak­ing on Ray, McGre­gor gained three inches around the waist and wore a bald wig to em­body the surly pa­role of­fi­cer who’s fallen madly in love with parolee and would-be crim­i­nal mas­ter­mind Nicki Swearin­gen (Mary El­iz­a­beth Win­stead).

“At work, Ray’s re­ally rude and has no re­spect for peo­ple be­cause he’s got no re­spect for him­self, but he ab­so­lutely adores Nicki,” McGre­gor says. “It’s quite en­dear­ing, I think, and funny as well to see Ray sud­denly switch into be­ing a pussy cat when­ever he’s around Nicki.”

Af­ter Ray’s shock­ing death, McGre­gor trans­forms Em­mit into a guilt-rid­den char­ac­ter who’s no match for white-col­lar crim­i­nal Varga.

Por­trayed with rep­til­ian charm by Bri­tish ac­tor David Thewlis, Varga strips the for­merly cock­sure Em­mit of his cor­po­rate as­sets, eats his food and moves into his man­sion.

“David’s amaz­ing,” says McGre­gor, who vividly re­mem­bers Thewlis’ in­cen­di­ary star turn in Mike Leigh’s 1993 movie, “Naked.” “I saw it one af­ter­noon at the Hay­mar­ket Cin­ema in London, came out of the the­ater and walked through Leicester Square ready for a fight or some­thing be­cause I felt so strong just from watch­ing David’s per­for­mance.”

The two Bri­tish na­tives con­vey their char­ac­ters’ preda­tor/prey re­la­tion­ship with un­set­tling bravado, but McGre­gor never hud­dled with Thewlis to dis­cuss story arcs.

“It’s not my style to talk about things like that,” McGre­gor ex­plains. “I got to watch him de­liver this ex­tra­or­di­nary di­a­logue in a re­ally spe­cific way where you can’t imag­ine any­one do­ing it other than Thewlis.

“But I don’t dis­cuss scenes with other ac­tors. I don’t like to plan what’s go­ing to hap­pen. I just play in the mo­ment and see what hap­pens. I think it’s much bet­ter that way.”

‘I was to­tally Ray when I played Ray and to­tally Em­mit when I played Em­mit.’ — Ewan McGre­gor, on his “Fargo” roles

Michael Na­gle For The Times

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