Ewan McGregor for L.A Confidential

Ewan McGregor photographed by Art Streiber for L.A Confidential.

From L.A Confidential.
Ewan McGregor regards the recent collection of scrapes on his forearm—real-world wounds, not movie fakery—with a wry grin and the slightest hint of pride. The 41-year-old actor has long been a motorcycle enthusiast (or, as he calls them in his slight Scottish lilt, motorbikes), having once traveled from London to New York via Europe, Asia, and Canada, and also journeying from his native Scotland to South Africa. “Every time I ride it puts a smile on my face,” he says—but even he’s not immune to occasional horizontal parking.
“I fell off my bike [recently] for the first time in a long time,” he says, a bit sheepishly. “I overcooked a corner and I slid off my bike.” It’s clear that the tragic fate of his ride—an expensive one in his dozen-motorcycle collection—was more painful than his own abrasions. “I just had the scrape on my elbow. But the bike came off really badly, because as the left-hand side of the bike slid, the tires caught, and it flipped onto the right-hand side—so it really f’ed up that side of the bike. It’s a disaster. But in a way,” he muses, “it reminded me why I like [motorbikes].”
There’s something about the ever-present element of danger that keeps McGregor’s senses sharp, and he concedes that he relishes a similar element of risk and adrenaline as an actor. A friend recently e-mailed McGregor a link to a clip from one of his earlier film performances, in Velvet Goldmine, which he hadn’t seen in more than a decade. In it he gave a seat-of-his-pants, live concert performance before hundreds of extras in character as a Ziggy Stardust-esque ’70s glam rocker. “It was like watching someone else, because I haven’t seen it for so long,” he laughs. “That was one of those moments where you don’t know what’s gonna happen… Those little moments that you know came out of putting yourself on the line to do it, really. I still like that; I still like leaving my trailer, not knowing what’s going to happen, and coming back an hour later going, ‘That was interesting—I didn’t know that was going to happen.’ I love that part of it.”
Risk appears to suit him—especially now as he approaches nearly two decades in front of the camera. His early career was filled with an impressive array of diverse performances, from early stints for director Danny Boyle in Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, and A Life Less Ordinary to adventurous studio films with auteur-directors: Moulin Rouge! for Baz Luhrmann, Black Hawk Down for Ridley Scott, Big Fish for Tim Burton, and the Star Wars prequel trilogy for George Lucas. But in contrast to the career arcs of a good portion of his contemporaries, McGregor has not only remained in constant demand—he looks 10 years younger than his age—he’s been turning out even more challenging work in recent years. His performances in The Ghost Writer, Beginners, and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen are as rich and varied as anything he delivered as a young, fresh face in Hollywood.
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