Let’s be honest and talk about lists and who is on my list. Ewan McGregor is on my list, and when I found out I was going to get to interview him it was like an epic bucket list fulfillment. I was more excited about this interview than I have been about any interview in a long time.
Ewan McGregor has done it all when it comes to acting, he’s been funny, he’s been in musicals, and he’s been serious. He is a man of many talents and it’s evident in Christopher Robin too. He takes this beloved character, makes it his own while staying true to the essence of Winnie The Pooh. He makes you want to be a kid again, while also making you feel like parenting is an epic job and we need to do it right.
Ewan talked to us a little bit about how he became part of the project, Christopher Robin. He’s been friends with Marc Forster the director since he did the movie Stay. Marc trusts Ewan and gave him the opportunity to be more of a collaborator than just an actor in this film. He didn’t have any trepidation over helping to create this character, because even though we know about Christopher Robin as a boy, we don’t know him as a 40 something year old man and that was Ewan’s job.
I felt like it was just the right part for me to play at this point, in this time. And then felt like I absolutely knew what I wanted to do with him. So it was- so I didn’t have a lot of trepidations. I think anything that makes you sort of- any of that kind of fear is usually the good- it’s a good idea to do. It’s better to do stuff you’re slightly scared of than not.
Ewan said he didn’t really have a particular favorite Pooh story from his childhood but mentioned that he did read all the stories to his children. He said that everyone in Britain is familiar with Winnie The Pooh. While talking about his memories he was reminded that when he was on set and heard the voice of Winnie The Pooh or Tigger he recalled how familiar the Disney versions of Winnie The Pooh are as well. That voice, Jim Cummings recreates, just takes people back.
Ewan talked about his favorite character. I mean he didn’t come right out and say it, but he did say he liked Pooh, he spent the most time working with Pooh and loves Pooh’s wisdom. While also in contrast he enjoys Eeyore a great deal as well. Eeyore is depressed, strike that, glum.
But when you are with him you feel happy. But he also said he loves them all, even Kanga, ‘cause she’s the “mum”.
When you watch the movie Christopher Robin you are going to see these adorable stuffed animals that sell out every time they go out on shelves. These animals are of course animated on the big screen and acting with them was a multi-step process. The first step was with some very young an enthusiastic actors. These guys were just brought in to do the lines, but as days went on they became more and more like their characters. Then they acted with the stuffed animals, then they acted with headless animals.
“But it was just crude and rudimentary, and that take wouldn’t really be in the film because they couldn’t animate on top of the actual teddy bear. So we’d play the scene a few times with the actors and with those stuffies. And by the time we did that, I got a real sense of what the scene felt like and how to play it. And then they would replace the teddy bear, the visual effects people needed theirs without hair, so they had gray versions of them all, they were just like gray canvas, no hair. And then very basic they had little eyes and the nose.
Just so you’re looking in the right place, but it was all gray. And then they had versions, then it gets a bit gruesome, they had versions with no heads. So you had to do the scene again with the stuffies with no heads. And then there was a Pooh version who had no head but also no arms or legs it was just a little tummy. …….. it was like the horror version of the scene. And then we had to do scenes without the bear at all, nothing there to look at. And then sometimes a little bit, a little area like antenna from a car with a light on top.
So they could make them different heights, to just make sure your eye line was in the right place, and then often nothing at all. And then but because of these great actors it went once they removed the real stuffie, they would always just be off camera. And they would be playing this still throwing the lines in playing the scene with you. And also you could ad lib with them, they were good actors, they would make stuff up and if you went off script so would they. And it was it was really great. And then I don’t know that it would feel so realistic had it not been for their input, because they were so enthusiastic and such good actors.”
Ewan was really fantastic to listen to. He was as charming as you would expect or hope for and dreamy to look at of course. He was modest and wouldn’t tell us what he thought we should think of the movie, or what lesson we should get from the movie. He said that movies are subjective and everyone will get something different out of it. He got a little personal and commented a little on his dad and how his mom has noticed the different in his relationship with his children compared to what he had. It was a different time when Winnie the Pooh was written and Christopher Robin was alive.
He also commented on how hard it was to be cold to Bronte Carmichael who played Madeline, Christopher Robin’s daughter. He said it’s just not how he is and that she was also a very sweet actress not jaded by having parents that are already in the industry.
As you all know, Winnie The Pooh is so iconic and stimulates such emotion in everyone. Ewan was asked if there was something that he enjoyed saying that was iconic and he said that, “silly old bear” was lovely to say.
I mean it’s lovely saying silly old bear, there’s something nice about that. But I loved also the scene with Bronte Carmichael on the stairs at the end, when he sort of comes to the end of his realization that he’s not been the father he wants to be with her. And that she- he can see that she’s gone to all this trouble and danger for him. And that scene was lovely, those lines were nice to say, that he’s sorry. I mean funny, they’re both sorry scenes, isn’t it interesting, that’s quite interesting. Anyway those were two of my favorite scenes.
Christopher Robin will be in theaters on Friday 8/3 and I suggest that you go see it. It’s a fantastic movie. You’ll want to be young again, you’ll want to be a better parent, you’ll want to disconnect and feel and that is a good tell that this is a fantastic movie.