My interview with Ewan McGregor who plays a grown-up Christopher Robin – with wife and child and a ton of responsibilities at work – was refreshing with an outlook what’s going on in the actor’s mind, heart and soul when he was playing his role.
This new Disney movie is a little masterpiece that is of love and cherishing human connections within our family boundaries and of such with our friends. Friendships we make in our childhood and throughout our young school years tend to be the strongest. They feed our psyche with the most accurate truth compass. That is why such connections should be preserved if we truly want to be successful in life.
The Christopher Robin Movie Idea As Per Ewan McGregor
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, probably, 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 nineteen forty one, 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. So his relationship with his dad was probably really quite like that. And I knew him – my dad – when I was quite young.
But I don’t know that there was closeness, you know, she’s [my mom] 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 then men weren’t. And so that was really interesting to play. I found it quite difficult at first in 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 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.
I don’t really concern myself with messages in movies. I don’t like to think about that. That’s, I think, is up to the viewer.
And everyone will receive it in a different way; and it’ll mean something different to everybody. That’s what lovely about any art. It’s like going into an art gallery – you either get it [art], it means something to you or it doesn’t. It doesn’t – there shouldn’t be something to understand.
How Would You Remember Your Role And the Film?
When asked how he would remember the Christopher Robin character he played, Ewan McGregor gave it a thought first before answering. And then, he shared the following.
Yeah, I will remember it. It will be an important film for me, I think, for many reasons. But yes the atmosphere on the set was lovely. Marc [Forster] is such a beautiful collaborative director. He really loves to hear everybody’s ideas. He’s very-very open. He also absolutely understands what the film he wants to make. But he just allows us to feel.
But you feel like you’ve got a lot of room, you’ve got a lot of input. 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, – it was funny he was quite excited and sort of surprised looking.
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 really felt instinctively how I wanted to play him [Christopher Robin]. And I felt like I was able to do that, really.
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.
What Was It Like Acting with Stuffed Animals During the Filming?
Many scenes in the movie had to be acted out in front of the green screen and with or without any prompts. Animators and computer design teams would do the magic by using the technology at their finger tips to create a lovely dialog or a gloomy reaction depending on the scene within the movie.
Ewan McGregor shared his experience of acting with, without and with half-available props! In places, it is so funny when he talks about having a conversation to a lamp on a stick or half-bodied plush.
In the beginning, Ewan McGregor mentions young actors who were hired to help to act out the scenes where there was a dialog between a human being and a plush toy.
It was fine, he did a brilliant thing, Marc [Forster], in that he cast a band of young actors. Each one to play one of the characters. 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 sort of someone in the parts to play with in the scenes.
And they would have – 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. They’re exactly the creatures you see in the movie, except that 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. 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. They were 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, – 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. And then 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. It was it was really great. 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.
Any Classic Pooh Stories Were Your Favorites?
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, 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. 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 [voiced by Jim Cummings in the movie], 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.
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 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 meant to say depressed. Disney don’t like it. [LAUGHTER]
But he’s [EEYORE] so glum, glum isn’t he? Down in the dumps. [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 one of the few female characters of the bunch. And the mom. And she was very calming voice in this sequence around the log, 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.
The Magic of the Hundred Acre Wood Lives FOREVER
Opens August 3, 2018
Sooner or later, your past catches up to you.