In Ewan McGregor’s new movie, the dashing Scotsman returns to a time long ago, a world of unnatural dialogue and outlandish clothing. But instead of another ”Star Wars” flick (or a ”Moulin Rouge” sequel, for that matter), the erstwhile Obi-Wan Kenobi is starring in ”Down With Love,” a fizzy, highly stylized romantic comedy set in 1960s New York. Inspired by such Rock Hudson/Doris Day romantic comedies as 1959’s ”Pillow Talk,” the film costars Renée Zellweger as a proto-feminist author destined to fall for McGregor’s supersuave journalist, Catcher Block. The f-word-prone McGregor, 32, who begins filming ”Star Wars: Episode III” next month, discusses returning to that galaxy, adjusting to the world of ”Down With Love, and opening against ”The Matrix Reloaded.”
How hard was it to capture the very distinct rhythm of ”Down With Love”’s dialogue?
Very difficult. I’d just finished making a dark, introspective, erotic low-budget movie in Scotland called ”Young Adam.” I literally finished that and immediately started rehearsing ”Down With Love.” They couldn’t have been more different, and I remember a day where I was thinking, This is the one where I’m not going to be able to pull it off! It’s such a specific style of playing comedy that we just don’t do anymore. The rule when I started training was: You don’t play the comedy, but in this, you f—ing do. As a result, it feels kind of slapped on from the outside. So it felt kind of uncomfortable at first. Plus, for the first week, we couldn’t decide whether Catcher Block should be an American or a Brit. [laughs]
Did you model Catcher Block on anyone specifically, like Rock Hudson? Catcher has such a distinctive walk….
It’s funny, it was just a kind of swing thing [snapping fingers]. I didn’t particularly style him on one particular person. But I styled him on the feeling of what those leading guys were in those old movies, which was really snazzy and sharp. Catcher was an incredibly successful womanizer, so he had to have some pizzazz, some bada-bing. I did feel like I was living the life of those old stars — I’d hop into fantastic suits, and hop into these fantastic film sets, play at being Frank Sinatra or Rock Hudson all day, and go home to my wife and kids at night.
When June rolls around and you start shooting ”Episode III,” is there anything you specifically hope to accomplish?
Yeah, actually, it’d be nice to come to terms with the blue screen work, because I find it terribly difficult. You can guarantee there’ll be an awful lot of it in the new one, and I’ve got to find some way to make it easier. It’s not that I’m bad at it — in fact, I’d like to think I’m rather good at it. It’s a skill I’ve learned, but it doesn’t give back the satisfaction that you get working with another actor. I have to find some way around that for this one, because I want to have a good time. I do love being in the ”Star Wars” films, though they’re difficult to make.
Are you looking forward to working with Chewbacca?
Yeah, somebody told me that the other day. I only find out ”Star Wars” stuff from people on the street, usually. I found out the title of ”Episode II” on a rope line. Someone said, ”What do you think of ‘Attack of the Clones”’? And I said, ”What is it?” And they said, ”It’s the title of the new ‘Star Wars’ film.” And I said, ”It’s f—ing terrible!” They obviously ran out of f—ing fax paper [at Lucasfilm].
Speaking of blockbusters, any thoughts about ”Down With Love” coming out the same weekend as ”The Matrix Reloaded”?
I’m so ignorant about that side of things that I wouldn’t know if it’s a good idea or a bad idea. I can’t wait to see ”The Matrix,” though, because it looks f—ing amazing. It looks like they’ve done things we’ve never seen before on the big screen. But having seen ”Down With Love,” I’d be equally excited to see that again. People can see two things in a week, right? That’s possible.