I finally was able to view “The Impossible,” a film that tells the story of a family who found themselves caught in the middle of the tsunami in Thailand back in 2005. While there have been mixed thoughts on the film, due largely to ignoring the impact of the tsunami on the Thai people and changes to the original story, it was the acting that garnered this film its recognition. Its lead actress, Naomi Watts, was nominated for numerous awards last season, and rightly so. Her performance was layered and in moments, beautifully vulnerable. Watch this clip for proof.
So, going into this film, I had high expectations for her performance, but I was pleasantly surprised by the acting of both the young man who played her son (Tom Holland) and Ewan McGregor. And it got me thinking of how many times Ewan has been overlooked as an actor. As I consider his film career, he has continued to do interesting films and give solid performances. It frustrates me that some actors can give continually good performances, but for some odd reason, never become award material (whatever that means). Sadly, I wonder if it is impossible for Ewan to be nominated.
I decided to take a little jaunt down memory lane (thanks to one of my favorite sites ever, internet movie database – imdb.com) and recollect some of my favorite performances of his:
Trainspotting: I have to begin by stating that I have never seen this film, but it feels like a crime to not mention it. Truly, this is the film that started Ewan’s career.
Emma, Little Voice & Brassed Off: I group these films together, because his performances weren’t award material necessarily, but solidly acted in delightful little stories. He hasn’t always picked the best films, but he has tended towards more independent ones, and I respect that.
Star Wars, Episodes I-III: Now let me begin by stating how frustrating these films were for me. I have a tender place in my heart for Star Wars, growing up watching the original trilogy. I was incredibly excited for the prequels and waited in multitudes of lines on opening nights. Ugh. I feel pretty safe in not having to explain my disappointment in these films, but for me the glimmer of hope was Obi Wan. I’m convinced that George Lucas is a better producer than director. There’s a long running joke about Lucas’ direction style, revolving around the phrase,“faster and with more intensity.” Basically, that is the only direction he provides his actors. Empire Strikes Back, commonly seen as the best of the films, was directed by Irvin Kershner. So, the fact that Ewan did even a decent job in this film, to me, speaks to his skills as an actor. I mean yeesh, even Natalie Portman has gone on to get an Oscar and she was very plastic and flat in the prequels (of which I blame Lucas more than her).
Moulin Rouge –I realize Nicole Kidman was in the midst of a divorce when this film came out, but I always thought that Ewan’s vocal performance was much stronger and perhaps not quite as “produced”. Apparently, Baz Luhrmann has a thing for typewriters (see “The Great Gatsby”).
Big Fish – I’d forgotten about this film and it took my glance through Ewan’s imdb page to remember. Him and Albert Finney seamlessly portray the enigmatical, yet extremely likable main character.
Beginners: Upon viewing this film, I was extremely disappointed that Ewan’s performance was not recognized. All of the acting glory went to Christopher Plummer, who was quite good, but it was Ewan’s performance that really resonated with me. His deep sadness is evident, even without him saying a word.
The Impossible: I admired Ewan’s ability to waver between falling apart and keeping it together. This scene perfectly exemplifies this skill. He didn’t over emote, but his instability feels felt incredibly relatable. I didn’t wonder why he was feeling what he felt, but felt joined with him in his trauma.
I suppose musings like this make me wonder how many wonderful performances are missed due to the business that is the film industry. It’s a shame, but it is a special moment when you come across these overlooked actors. I know I feel some sort of obligation when I find an interesting performance, story, director. I have to let others know, lest they miss out. So, here’s to finding the unseen performances!
Question for you, who are your favorite overlooked actors?