During the 1990s, after McGregor’s success with Danny Boyle’s “Trainspotting” in 1996, McGregor second-guessed signing on to “Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace.” McGregor portrayed the younger version of Obi-Wan Kenobi in the 1999 trilogy, a role which he later reprised for the Disney+ series that premiered earlier this year.
“I really had to think about it,” McGregor said during the “Smartless” podcast, hosted by Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, and Sean Hayes. “Because it came right after that ‘Trainspotting’ period, and by that time I was so full of myself.”
McGregor joked, “I was like, ‘I am Danny Boyle’s actor. I am fucking urban grunge. I am the Oasis of the British movie industry,’ and then when ‘Star Wars’ came around, I felt, ‘I don’t know if I want to do this. This isn’t me.'”
McGregor was concerned about being typecast.
“I was so into being this sort of antihero,” he shared. “I felt like an indie British actor. I felt like that defined me.”
His uncle, Denis Lawson, was also in all three of the original “Star Wars” films, and warned him against doing them, saying “‘If you want a career after 30, don’t do it.'” But “Trainspotting” director Boyle said the opposite and encouraged McGregor to do “Star Wars.”
Yet it was McGregor’s childhood affinity for the “Star Wars” franchise that really inspired the “Shallow Grave” actor to join the films. “In the end, it just got closer and closer,” McGregor explained, adding that meeting George Lucas was part of the deciding factor. “By that time, I was just so attached to the idea of it from when I was a kid. To get a chance to be that character and play the younger Alec Guinness was pretty awesome.”
He added, “I was almost grateful to be involved in something that big and to be part of the legend of it, because I loved it. When I was a kid, I loved those films. I was six or seven when the first one came out. It’s in me somehow.”
Returning the canon for “Obi-Wan Kenobi” was a homecoming of sorts for McGregor. “I was like a boy again,” he said.
Comparing the prequel trilogy to grittier indie films, McGregor explained, “It’s a different process. Those prequels, it was very much the challenge of trying to be believable with this dialogue in front of a blue curtain for four months.”
Despite the prequels being “universally” disliked, McGregor’s return in “Obi-Wan Kenobi” was critically praised.
“It was tricky at the time. They weren’t overwhelmingly embraced by everybody when they came out, our prequels,” the actor previously reflected. “It was nice to watch them now knowing that people love them. That the kids who we made them for at the time — they loved those films a lot. It was nice to watch them with that sense.”