Ewan McGregor joins the church
The team behind the global phenomenon The Da Vinci Code returns for the highly anticipated Angels & Demons, based upon the bestselling novel by Dan Brown. Tom Hanks reprises his role as Harvard religious expert Robert Langdon, who once again finds that forces with ancient roots are willing to stop at nothing, even murder, to advance their goals.
When Langdon discovers evidence of the resurgence of an ancient secret brotherhood known as the Illuminati - the most powerful underground organization in history - he also faces a deadly threat to the existence of the secret organization's most despised enemy: the Catholic Church.
Ewan Gordon McGregor is a Scottish actor who has had success in mainstream, as well as indie and art house films. He is best known for playing the lead role in Danny Boyle's Trainspotting, as well as his portrayal of the young Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequel trilogy.
You are playing the pope's right-hand man the Camerlengo Patrick McKenna, who also holds the power of the Vatican until a new pope is elected. What attracted you to the role?
I had wanted to work with Ron Howard (director) for a few years. We talked about a film he was going to make, a film that he didn't end up making. Then when he was in Britain doing 'The Da Vinci Code' I bumped into him a few times in the restaurant 'The Wolseley' on a Sunday for brunch. He used to take his family there and I like to take my family there too. We'd meet and I introduced myself and through that we became friends a little bit, and then he sent me this script which I liked a lot and came onboard.
Can you talk a bit more about your character, Camerlengo Patrick McKenna?
The Camerlengo is the Pope's right-hand man and Vatican law is such that when a Pope passes away the Camerlengo is in charge of the Vatican until a new pope is elected. This film starts at that point where the Pope has passed away so I am effectively running the show. Then the Vatican itself is under threat.
In CERN [the world's largest particle physics laboratory] they have created anti-matter which is held in suspense in a canister that has been stolen. When the canister's battery runs dead the ant-matter will drop and as soon as it touches anything it creates a hell of mess and a massive explosion or implosion (I'm not a scientist so I don't know which) that will destroy the Vatican. At the same time the four cardinals who are most likely to become pope have been captured and are being murdered systemically one by one. The Camerlengo is instrumental in getting Robert Langdon to come back to the Vatican to help them solve the clues and save the next pope.
What do you like most about the character?
He's quite complicated to play and that's always good fun. He's not a straightforward as he appears. It's quite difficult to talk about because I can't give away the story.
How much did you do in order to prepare for the part?
Not a great deal. It's difficult to research being a priest. I looked at some stuff about The Vatican and how it all works. The Vatican documentaries I had to watch were terribly boring and almost put me to sleep. I watched a few and tried to work it out. Then it has a lot to do with imagination and putting yourself in the shoes of somebody who has grown up in the life of the church and chooses to dedicate his life to his faith.
Did you draw on a religious background for the part?
I don't have a religious background so in that respect I didn't have anything to draw on. But I can imagine what faith is like and how important it can be for people. I suppose as actors we always draw from inside. There's nowhere else to draw from and from our experience in the world and what we've seen and experienced and you draw on them all I think.
I didn't have any experience in the catholic faith so I had to find out about that. We had a priest on set with us who was there to help us with any technical issues like any of the masses or when we were performing the ceremony for the Pope's funeral at the beginning. He would be there to make sure that what we were doing was technically correct and also the attitude about it.
Are you also a fan of the book 'Angels & Demons'?
I read the book after I had read the script so I had a different experience. I was reading the book to full out my understanding of the character I was playing. I didn't read it for pleasure I read it for work but I thought it was good.
How does Ron Howard's directing style compare to other directors who you have worked with, say Danny Boyle or Woody Allen?
Directors are all unique. They don't have an opportunity to work with other directors. As actors you are always working with other actors and so you learn from them and techniques rub off on each other. Directors are always on their own set.
Ron is a brilliant director. He's so technically proficient. He's great with the actors because he's been an actor, so he's able to direct the playing of scenes. A lot of a directors are able to tell you what they would like out of a scene, but not necessarily how you get there, but with Ron he's also able to unlock how you can play things because has done these things before.