Ewan McGre­gor drew deeply on his trou­bled past for his role in the se­quel to hor­ror clas­sic The Shin­ing. Ge­off Shearer re­ports

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - INSIDER -

When Ewan

McGre­gor first started con­tem­plat­ing tak­ing the lead role in Doc­tor Sleep, he saw some fas­ci­nat­ing par­al­lels with his own life.

The se­quel to Steven King’s hor­ror clas­sic The Shin­ing (adapted for the screen by Stan­ley Kubrick) fol­lows the 1980 film’s young, psy­chi­cally gifted pro­tag­o­nist Danny, now grown up and strug­gling with al­co­hol ad­dic­tion and anger is­sues.

Scot­tish ac­tor McGre­gor, who fa­mously played a heroin ad­dict in his break­out role in Trainspot­ting, has been can­did about his hard-par­ty­ing days and turn­ing up to work drunk be­fore see­ing the er­ror of his ways.

“The in­ter­est­ing thing, that is real for me, is that when Stephen King wrote The Shin­ing it was very much a book about ad­dic­tion and al­co­holism; and then this book, Doc­tor Sleep, is very much about re­cov­ery,” says McGre­gor.

“Where you find my char­ac­ter Danny in the movie, he’s at rock bot­tom. He’s liv­ing the life of an al­co­holic to hide his shin­ing, his psy­chic abil­ity, be­cause it is ter­ri­fy­ing for him. So he’s drink­ing him­self to death re­ally, and then through a series of events, finds so­bri­ety and gets clean.

“And that is some­thing I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced and lived through my­self for a very long time.”

Doc­tor Sleep marks the first time the 48-year-old McGre­gor has drawn on his per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences for a role since find­ing so­bri­ety in 2001. But he says it didn’t bring up bad me­mories.

“It was nice for me to play some of that stuff that ex­plores some of that in my work for the first time re­ally,” he says. “It was just in­ter­est­ing and ex­cit­ing to be able to sort of ex­plore it.

“It wasn’t weird. There were some scenes where Danny is very drunk — which is some­thing I haven’t been for many years — but it was quite in­ter­est­ing.

“I’ve got a very strong me­mory of it (be­ing drunk) some­where in my body; although my ac­tual me­mory of it is prob­a­bly very shaky.” He laughs, then adds: “But it was easy to por­tray.”

McGre­gor’s drink­ing be­came mag­a­zine fod­der. He once did a drunken un­flat­ter­ing im­per­son­ation of Iggy Pop in front of Iggy Pop; he mouthed off about other ac­tors’ act­ing abil­i­ties; and then there were the lost hours and the han­govers and the drink­ing be­tween takes on set that ul­ti­mately wrecked his own act­ing. He was quoted as say­ing, “when you work drunk, you find one way to play a scene and that’s it”; while in an in­ter­view with Play­boy in 2005 he de­tailed how his drink­ing was de­struc­tive, say­ing he felt lucky that he some­how knew “that if

I didn’t stop, ev­ery­thing would go tits up — my ca­reer, my fam­ily, my ev­ery­thing”.

Since so­bri­ety, McGre­gor’s ca­reer has con­tin­ued to de­velop and deepen — films as varied as Tim Bur­ton’s Big Fish to Salmon Fish­ing In The Ye­men; from Woody Allen’s Cas­san­dra’s Dream to Jim Car­rey’s ob­ject of af­fec­tion in I Love You Phillip Mor­ris. He’s also won a Golden Globe and a Crit­ics

Choice Tele­vi­sion Award for his work on the series Fargo. He’s set to play the main vil­lain, Ro­man Sio­nis (aka Black Mask), op­po­site Mar­got Rob­bie in Birds Of Prey, which is to be re­leased in Fe­bru­ary, and will also be on cin­ema screens next year play­ing a pri­est in the mob drama The Birth­day Cake.

And then there are the two top­shelf TV op­por­tu­ni­ties he’s signed on for: repris­ing his role of Obi-Wan Kenobi as the cen­tral char­ac­ter in a yet-to-be ti­tled Dis­ney+ Star Wars series; and play­ing Roy Hal­ston Frow­ick in a new Ryan Mur­phy­helmed series about the late Amer­i­can fash­ion de­signer.

His ver­sa­til­ity and con­tin­ued pas­sion for the char­ac­ters he por­trays made him a stand­out to play Danny in Doc­tor Sleep, says the film’s di­rec­tor, Mike Flana­gan.

“I met with a num­ber of ac­tors to talk about this pro­ject,” says Flana­gan, “but what I thought was re­ally strik­ing, was that Ewan came into the meet­ing and we talked about The Shin­ing for a cou­ple of min­utes, but then for the next hour we talked about Dan Tor­rance. We talked about him in the con­text of Doc­tor Sleep. The fo­cus has to be on the im­pacts on the char­ac­ter, and Ewan knew that in­tu­itively.

“The Shin­ing was worth dis­cussing for him but his fo­cus was al­ways on Dan. I re­ally ap­pre­ci­ated that and that’s what made me be­lieve he was the right per­son for this.”

McGre­gor says he’ll never for­get that ini­tial meet­ing with Flana­gan.

“It sud­denly be­came a very open, deep dis­cus­sion about Danny and his life and ex­pe­ri­ences, and things about our own lives that we shared. Mike and me, I mean,” says McGre­gor.

“And then when I was cast, I just en­joyed very much talk­ing to Mike, es­pe­cially about Kubrick. He’s very knowl­edge­able about his movies; he knows ev­ery sin­gle twist and turn. The Shin­ing, he knows ev­ery shot of it.”

Like most stu­dents of film, McGre­gor and Flana­gan can re­call when they first saw it. Flana­gan was only about 10.

“I was too young,” Flana­gan says. “It trau­ma­tised me. But it also sort of started a life­long fas­ci­na­tion with that movie. It was one of the movies that I was able to re­visit as I got older and re­alised that ev­ery time I watched it I would see some­thing new. ”

McGre­gor was nine when the film came out, but didn’t see it un­til his 20s.

“I never watched The Shin­ing un­til I was in drama school. I loved Jack Ni­chol­son, as most ac­tors do, and I’d watched a lot of his work and then I thought ‘I gotta watch The Shin­ing; I’ve got to see him in ac­tion in that’. I re­mem­ber watch­ing it alone at night and I loved it. It is very, very scary, of course, but more than that I just thought it was won­der­ful.”

While King has very pub­licly hated on the Kubrick film, Flana­gan says the hor­ror au­thor has seen Doc­tor Sleep and given it his tick of ap­proval.

McGre­gor hasn’t had the chance yet to meet King. “I was hop­ing he might show up on our set. I’m a fan of his anti-Trump rhetoric on

Twit­ter, I liked that about him.”

The men­tion of US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump Trum ig­nites McGre­gor McGrego on the topic of me­dia cov­er­age: from ac­cu­rate accu jour­nal­ism, to lazy l re­port­ing, to fab­ri­cated fa sto­ries. All A three of which Trump T prefers to call “fake news”, “fake news”, “fake “news”.

McGre­gor be­moans be the “hor­ri­ble” “ho cov­er­age of his hi re­cent mar­riage mar­ria break­down. He and wife w of 22 years, pro­duc­tion de­signer d Eve Mavrakis, Mavrakis sep­a­rated sep­a­rate in mid-2017, with McGre­gor fil­ing for di­vorce in Jan­uary last year. He is in a re­la­tion­ship with Fargo co-star Mary El­iz­a­beth Winstead, 32.

“Look, the past few years there’s been stuff that’s been writ­ten all the time, it’s just made up, you know,” McGre­gor says.

“It’s so scummy. Why ruin your life wor­ry­ing about it all? Bet­ter just to not read it, not lis­ten to it. I don’t stress about it be­cause I try to keep my­self to my­self.” DR SLEEP IS IN CIN­E­MAS NOW; VICKY ROACH’S RE­VIEW, PAGE 119

Ewan McGre­gor was a stand­out to play the trou­bled Danny (in­set) in Dr Sleep. Main pic­ture: Lorenzo Agius

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