I received an all expense paid trip from Disney to attend the #ChristopherRobinEvent. The opinions expressed here are my own. Some interview questions and responses have been edited to improve readability.
While at the Christopher Robin press junket, we had the opportunity to chat with Ewan McGregor about his role in the film. You might also recognize him as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequel trilogy and from Moulin Rouge. He earned his first Golden Globe in 2018 for his work on the TV series Fargo. I don’t get starstruck very often, but Moulin Rouge is probably in my top 5 movies of all time and meeting McGregor was surreal. As the interview started, I quickly got in my question before I chickened out and asked if he had any trepidations about taking on the role of such a beloved character. You can read his full answer below, but I just love that he faces his fears head on. In the words of Pooh, “Never fear shadows. They simply mean that there is a light shinning somewhere nearby.”
You can read all about my experience on the Christopher Robin red carpet HERE.
Q: Have you seen the film yet?
A: What’s been lovely is I’ve- you know, Marc and I made a film together a long time ago called Stay. Back in 2003, with Ryan Gosling and Naomi Watts, and we’ve stayed in touch over that time. But through this film we’ve become really good friends, Marc and I. And we plan to work together in the future. So, I’ve become more of a collaborator with him in a way and he’s had me in to see this film several times through the post production process. And that’s been really nice and rare, as you don’t often have that opportunity.
Done quite a lot of ADR work, which is when you work on the sound, the sound track. And I’ve done that through the history of its post production. And so I have seen it quite a few times but I haven’t seen it finished and I’m going to see it tonight for the first time, also I haven’t seen it with anybody else. I’ve seen it alone or with Marc or my agent or something, I haven’t watched it with an audience. So that’ll be exciting to see it tonight. Someone: We saw it yesterday.
Q: Was there any trepidation coming into this role of such a beloved character?
A: No I didn’t feel like that. I suppose nobody really knows about what- I mean we know of the story of the real Christopher Robin and there was a very beautiful movie made about him last year, Farewell Christopher Robin or Goodbye Christopher Robin. And I liked it, I thought that was a beautiful film, I love that actor. But nobody really knows about Christopher Robin as a forty hmm year old man [LAUGHTER] so I didn’t have any…
And also when I read the script, I felt like I knew him, I just knew him. I don’t know- some parts come along just- 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 a good idea to do. It’s better to do stuff you’re slightly scared of than not.
Q: Any classic Pooh tales that you grew up on, that were favorites of yours that inspired you in doing this?
A: Hmm no. I think what inspired me was the way Marc spoke about it first. He called me and told me he was going to direct it and described to me, how he saw it, and what he thought it could be. And how this movie might be an important movie for no- that it could be a good film for people to watch at this point in time. And that was really what inspired me. And then the lovely script, I really liked reading it. But I don’t remember any particular Pooh stories growing up.
I mean I just know that I knew him- everyone- in Britain he’s so well known and loved. And I’ve read all the stories to my kids and I know by reading them that I’m familiar with them all. There’s no surprises in them. I mean not all of the books, but the first ones certainly. I just know I must have read- must have known them when I was a kid. And then Winnie the Pooh’s voice, you know, it’s not ‘til I heard his voice in this that I knew how familiar I was with the Disney versions of Pooh as well, because I know his voice so well, you know, and Eeyore.
Q: Aside from Pooh, who is your favorite 100 Acre Wood character?
A: I really partial to- I really like all of them, you know. I think Pooh is the one I spent the most time with. And he’s definitely my guy, you know. Like my little side kick and I like- I learned a lot from him because he’s very wise, he’s got a great wisdom, Pooh. But I also liked Eeyore’s funny and I had to start- the sort of second longest story line I suppose was Eeyore. He’s just so depressed. I mean not we’re not meant to say depressed.
Disney doesn’t like it. [LAUGHTER] but he’s so glum, glum isn’t he. Down in the dumps. (whispers DEPRESSED) [LAUGHTER] So he’s sort of fun too, because he makes you feel so happy when you’re with him. But I love them all. I tell you who’s lovely was Kanga, because she was the only it’s one of the few female characters of the bunch. And the mom. And she was the very calming voice in this sequence around the log, where I when I go off to fight the Heffalump and come back, she’s definitely the most sort of calming and she’s the maternal character of the bunch, isn’t she. She’s the mum.
Q: What was it like acting with stuffed animals?
A: It was fine, he did a brilliant thing, Marc, in that he cast- he had this band of young actors. Each one to play one of the characters. So there was- I wish they’d done- they were funny they were so enthusiastic. And most of them were just out of drama school. Some of them had done a few jobs but not many, so they were very young and enthusiastic. And bear in mind, they weren’t going to be in the movie, they were just reading in the lines so we could play with someone in the parts to play with in the scenes.
We had like- they called them stuffies, teddy bear versions of all the characters that were exactly as you see them in the movie. They were beautifully made. I’ve got one of them of Pooh, I kept a little Pooh, so I’ve got him in my house. But he’s- they were beautifully made, and they’re exactly the creatures you see in the movie, except that they don’t- they weren’t puppets, they don’t animate in any way, they were just teddy bears. So each one of these actors would hold the creature and move him around a little bit and, you know, they could tilt his head up to speak to me or whatever.
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- 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. Just like [LAUGHTER] 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. 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.
And they were all really well cast. Like they became more like their creatures the more and more we went on. Like [LAUGHS] the guy that played Eeyore just became more maudlin [LAUGHTER] but [LAUGHS] by the end he was really quite upset.
Q: What message do you feel is in the film? About parenthood, and especially fatherhood?
A: I think it’s just about connection isn’t it, it’s about being available to each other and being there, being present. And, you know, through one reason or another, Christopher Robin is sort of not present at home. At that time, men weren’t really expected or didn’t- wouldn’t have thought about it. They would go to work and come home and the wife was looking after the kids and they probably wouldn’t be very close to your children, it made me think a lot about my dad.
Because he was born in 1941 and I would imagine our daughter in this film was probably born around about then. And, you know, I, Christopher Robin goes off to war and comes back and she’s about six or seven so she’s probably the same age as my father. And or was born at the same time as my father. And so his relationship with his dad was probably really quite like that. I’ve heard my mom talk about she- my mom loved our father very much. And I knew him, dad, when I was quite young.
But I don’t know that there was closeness, you know, she’s seen me with my daughters and she made a remark upon it once or twice, said how different it is, how close we are now with our children. And how we- how then men weren’t. And so that was really interesting to play. And I found it quite difficult the first the early scenes with Bronte who’s so lovely that little girl, she’s a great actor and she’s a lovely little girl. And she’s not really spoiled by it in any way, she’s got a great parents, her parents are both actors.
But she’s totally a little girl and she’s not like a little starlet. She hasn’t got any pretensions at all, she’s lovely. And so those scenes at the beginning when I’m reading her a story and I go to tell her that I can’t come for the weekend and stuff it was difficult. I knew I wanted to be cold with her, it was quite difficult to do. My instincts were not that. So I don’t know. I don’t really concern myself with messages in movies, I don’t like to think about that. That’s- I think that it’s up to the viewer.
And everyone will receive it in a different way and it’ll mean something different to everybody, and I think that’s what lovely about any art. It’s like going into an art gallery and coming out like, ‘I didn’t understand it’ and you think where there isn’t anything to understand. You either get it, it means something to you or it doesn’t. It doesn’t- there shouldn’t be something to understand.
Q: How do you remember the movies that you made, you’ve made so many beautiful films. How would you remember Christopher Robin? Maybe it’s by your feeling, or by the people you meet and made friends.
A: Yeah well I will remember it, it will be an important film for me I think for many reasons. The atmosphere on the set was lovely. I mean Marc is such a beautiful collaborative director. He really loves to hear everybody’s ideas. He’s very-very open. And he also absolutely understands what the film is he wants to make. But he just he allows maybe he allows us to feel.
But you feel like you’ve got a lot of room, you’ve got a lot of input. And he listens and with me, you know, like I said. It was my second film with him. But the first week we shot the sequence with me and Pooh when we arrive in Hundred Acre Wood. And it’s all misty and a bit scary looking. That sequence was just me and him alone. And so that was our first week shooting and he came up to me after a few days and he’d seen the first rushes and he was- it was funny – he was quite excited and sort of surprised looking.
He said, ‘it really works, it’s really like you really look like you’re talking to him and it really feels really real.’ [LAUGHTER] And I was thinking well that’s sort of my job. That’s why I’m here. But I love that he was enthusiastic about it and let me know that it was working. And so from then on, I felt it was a great trust in me and he really let me- and I also really knew how- I really felt instinctively how I wanted to play him. And I felt like I was able to do that, really.
Without- I didn’t have to- I mean he just built on it, Marc and I, we just did it together, it was lovely to work with. So I’ll remember that. And also just the creatures and there was a sort of slow pace to the film because it was a big film. And the bigger films are slower to make. And I usually don’t like that very much because I like to work fast and hard. And I’m not very good at waiting. But this was so gentle and beautiful and we were in beautiful places like the woods. And we shot in really nice places. And then we got to hang out with Winnie the Pooh all day, so it was nice, yeah it felt good.
Q: Any pranks on set that we should know about?
A: I don’t think there were any pranks, I’m not a prankster, I don’t remember any pranks no.
Q: Do you have a favorite scene that you loved?
A: I really like the- I loved playing the scene when he says sorry to Pooh after he’s lost his temper and he finds him on the log, that was really nice to play that. It’s so funny because in my memory I played it with Pooh, you know, and he wasn’t there but in my memory he was there.
Q: What is your favorite line that you delivered as Christopher Robin?
A: I mean it’s lovely saying silly old bear, there’s something nice about that. But I loved also the scene with (Bronte) 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 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.
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