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Ewan McGregor Interview: Doctor Sleep

Doctor Sleep attempts the merging of two masters as a sequel to both the Stephen King and Stanley Kubrick versions of The Shining. The film, which arrives in theaters on November 8th, tells the story of Danny Torrance’s life long after his father Jack’s passing. Ewan McGregor pays homage to the great Jack Nicholson in his performance as Danny, and he spoke to Screen Rant about the process of continuing such an iconic story.

This is such an amazing film. 

Ewan McGregor: Oh, good, good.

I can only imagine how daunting a task it is to live up to The Shining, Stanley Kubrick’s film, but this does it. It's amazing. But I gotta ask: your first day on set is in Bruce Greenwood's office, and that is the recreation of the office from the Overlook Hotel. When you get there, what's the first thing that goes through your mind when you walk in?

Ewan McGregor: Well, your first day on set is very much about discovering the film; discovering the vibe with the crew and the vibe of the director. You've no idea how a director is going to work until you start working with them. You can have as many meetings as you like and rehearsals, but until you're on set, you don't know [if] we're going to be doing 50 takes or going to be doing 2 takes. You don't know how you're going to feel in the part, and often in those first few days, you're not quite there yet.

You have to start playing scenes in order to feel like the character. And often the first scene you shoot, you're still you're still a bit rough around the edges. On top of that, here we are recreating a very famous scene from The Shining – and really recreating it. I try not to pay too much attention to what they were doing, because it's probably not very helpful for the actor to know exactly, but the shots are the same shots; the lens is the same lens. They're recreating that scene as a sort of subliminal homage, if you like, in the middle of the film.

It was interesting for that to be the first scene, but also I loved working with him. He was great. And I think we were both – I think in those situations, on the first day, your other actor [and you] are just sort of locked into each other. And that's your security, being able to play the scene with that other actor. That's where you feel safe. Everything else can feel a bit scary, but that's okay.

This is a great sequel, not only to The Shining film, but also to the Doctor Sleep book as well because it plays both ways. Are you surprised where Danny ends up at the end of the film? I don't want to give anything away.

Ewan McGregor: Well… Yes. And I hope the audience are too.

I hope so too. I gotta ask a Star Wars question, because that's a big thing. We know you come back as Obi-Wan. If you could bring back any character to this journey and this Obi-Wan series with you, who would that character be?

Ewan McGregor: Oh, I can’t… I don't know. If I say anything, it's going to go ballistic.

It’s your opinion, not saying it's actually going to happen. If you could bring back any of those characters, who would it be?

Ewan McGregor: Well, it's not down to me to bring them back. If I open my mouth, it’s just gonna go bonkers. Jar Jar.

There you go. Jar Jar Binks, confirmed by Ewan McGregor.

Ewan McGregor: You see what I mean?

Ewan McGregor in Doctor Sleep 2019

The performances of the original cast, how did that help your performance as Danny?

Ewan McGregor: I watched the film, obviously, inside out just because I'm fascinated by it and I'm fascinated by Kubrick. It was really interesting to watch a movie that you know fresh, because you're taking that story forward and playing one character from that movie.

You start exploring it in a weird and wonderful way; being in the art department, looking at the sets, and then looking at some of the documentaries that have been made about Kubrick's making of that film. There's a great sort of conspiracy theory documentary about The Shining which is bonkers – you know the way that the corridors couldn't lead to where they lead to, and that room couldn't have been there? And there they are in the art department, trying to figure out, “Well, what do we do? Do we honor that, or do we make it work?”

So, it was really interesting. More than anything, I was watching Jack because I wanted to be believably his son. You know, this story is so much about Danny's relationship with his father, and what kind of impact would that have on you as a tiny boy to go through that experience with your father and then lose your father? And be the victim of his violence and be the victim of his alcoholism, and then to become alcoholic yourself? To sort of drink all of that emotional muddle inside of him.

I wanted to feel that Jack was present somehow, so I tried to sound a bit like him. Because I think we do sound like our fathers. We can't really help it. We've got their voice in us somehow. And so I watched a lot of him, you know.

You knocked it out of the park.

More: Read Screen Rant's Doctor Sleep Review

Key Release Dates
  • Doctor Sleep (2019) release date: Nov 08, 2019
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