I received an all expense paid trip from Disney to attend the #ChristopherRobinEvent. The opinions expressed here are my own. Some interview questions and responses have been edited to improve readability.
Just a few days ago, I sat in a room and chatted with the cast of Christopher Robin. Today I am sharing some of my favorite things that Ewan McGregor had to say about Winnie the Pooh and filming Christopher Robin.
Why Ewan McGregor took the role of Christopher Robin?
Marc and I made a film together a long time ago called Stay. Back in 2003, with Ryan Gosling and Naomi Watts, and we’ve stayed in touch over that time. But through this film, we’ve become really good friends, Marc and I. And we plan to work together in the future. So, I’ve become more of a collaborator with him in a way and he’s had me in to see this film several times through the post-production process. And that’s been really nice and rare, as you don’t often have that opportunity.
And also when I read the script, I felt like I knew him (grown-up Christopher Robin), I just knew him. I don’t know- some parts come along, I felt like it was just the right part for me to play at this point, in this time. And then felt like I absolutely knew what I wanted to do with him. So I didn’t have a lot of trepidations (about playing a beloved character). I think any of that kind of fear is usually a good idea to do. It’s better to do stuff you’re slightly scared of than not.
I think what inspired me was the way Marc spoke about it (the role) 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 for now that it could be 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.
(Asked if any specific Winnie the Pooh stories inspired his for this role)
I don’t remember any particular Pooh stories growing up. I mean I just know that I knew him- everyone- 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 are 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, 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.
Which 100 Acre Wood character is his favorite?
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 sidekick and I learned a lot from him because he’s very wise, he’s got a great wisdom, Pooh.
Is Eeyore Depressed?
But I also liked, Eeyore’s funny and I had the sort of second longest storyline I suppose was Eeyore. He’s just so depressed. I mean not we’re not meant to say depressed Disney don’t like it. [LAUGHTER] but he’s so glum, glum isn’t he. Down in the dumps. (whispers DEPRESSED) [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 it’s one of the few female characters of the bunch. And the mom. She’s definitely the most sort of calming and she’s the maternal character of the bunch, isn’t she? She’s the mum.
How hard was it to act with stuffed animals?
It was fine. Marc did a brilliant thing, in that he had this band of young actors, each one to play one of the characters. They were funny and so enthusiastic. 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 someone in the parts within the scenes.
He kept one of the stuffed Pooh bears.
We had, 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 were beautifully made, and 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, 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. And then they would replace the teddy bear, the visual effects people needed theirs without hair, so they had gray versions of them all. They were just like gray canvas with no hair. And then very basic they had little eyes and the nose. Just so you’re looking in the right place, but it was all gray.
It was like the horror version of the scene!
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. 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, like an 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. But 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. And it was it was really great. And then 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 (sad face) [LAUGHTER] but [LAUGHS] by the end he was really quite upset.
What does the film say about fatherhood?
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, men weren’t really expected or 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 1941 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. Or was born at the same time as my father and so his relationship with his dad was probably really quite like that.
I’ve heard my mom talk about, my mom loved her father very much. And I knew him, her dad, when I was quite young. But I don’t know that there was closeness, you know, she’s seen me with my daughters and she’s made a remarked 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. And I found it quite difficult the first 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. So I don’t know.
Ewan doesn’t worry about messages in movies.
I don’t really concern myself with messages in movies, I don’t like to think about that. I think that it’s up to the viewer. And everyone will receive it in a different way and it’ll mean something different to everybody, and I think that’s what lovely about any art. It’s like going into an art gallery and coming out like, ‘I didn’t understand it’ and you think where there isn’t anything to understand. You either get it, it means something to you or it doesn’t. There shouldn’t be something to understand.
Ewan’s favorite line in Christopher Robin
It’s lovely saying ‘silly old bear,’ there’s something nice about that.
Christoper Robin Opens in Theaters on August 3rd!
Check back for interviews with Hayley Atwell, Bronte Carmichael, Jim Cummings, and Director Marc Forster!