Ewan McGregor Goes From 'Star Wars' to the Stage

Miller Mobley

The actor stars in the revival of Tom Stoppard's 'The Real Thing,' headlining eight performances a week: "You don't have room for anything else"

This story first appeared in the Oct. 24 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

"Fame attaches to film actors in a different way," says Tom Stoppard. The revered British playwright is sitting with Scottish actor Ewan McGregor, 43, who stars opposite Maggie Gyllenhaal and Cynthia Nixon in the revival of Stoppard's The Real Thing, in previews (and filling 90 percent of seats) for a 10-week run.

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The play — centering on a theater director (McGregor) whose strained marriage to his actress wife (Nixon) leads him to have an affair with the wife (Gyllenhaal) of his male lead (Josh Hamilton) — opened on Broadway in 1984 with Glenn Close and Jeremy Irons, both then stage veterans but still on the cusp of wider stardom. Notes Stoppard, 77, "It didn't used to matter that much whose name was on the marquee."

Although McGregor's name has been on the marquee of many West End productions in London, Real Thing marks his Broadway debut. "The amount of preparation is staggering," he says. And with eight performances a week, "You don't have room for anything else."

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Stoppard, who has adapted numerous classics for the screen including Anna Karenina, compares film production to a deep freeze, with each day's work going into "a big fridge" until it comes out for postproduction: "It stays the way you left it so you can relax — or it stays the way you left it, alas," he says with a laugh. "With theater, you can come back in a month and something will have developed in a very interesting way — or conversely you think, 'Come on, pick up your cues, for God's sake!' "