Ewan McGregor’s latest feature, the offbeat comedy-drama “Beginners” by writer/director Mike Mills, is a sophisticated look at gay life, as the film’s father figure, Hal (Christopher Plummer), lives openly after almost a half-century in the closet. Now 75 and widowed after losing his wife, he’s free as can be, and his son, Oliver (McGregor) has to make sense of it all. McGregor spoke about making the film.
On the late-in-life coming out:
“I thought the two opposing things were really interesting — where somebody is really living for the first time, and dying. What’s maybe interesting for gay people about it is that it’s an older gay man coming out and really embracing his sexuality and indulging in the gay world. He really goes for it with this great gusto that he uses to approach his new gay life, which is really inspiring and lovely.”
On the love and life lessons:
“There’s of course a lot about love and acceptance. It’s a very moving film. It was a blessing for me to do as an actor, and I could only imagine that it has a very deep effect on you; it seems so real.” On gay history:
“I think it must be very difficult for young gay men to imagine what life was like for a young gay man in the ’50s. I learned a lot about it. I don’t think I was as aware of how difficult it was to be gay in that time, and how dangerous it was.
“That image of the older man being thrown in the back of that van because he’s in a gay bar — it’s difficult maybe for a young gay man to comprehend that, so it gives you a deeper understanding of what it might have been like to be gay in those days.”
On meeting Mike Mills before taking the role:
“I just wanted to know more about his story. That really shows that it’s landed in you if you’re hungry for all those details. Then, that was it. I was onboard.”
On Mills’ story:
“When he talks about his father, he talks about his straight father and gay father and how wonderful his gay father was and how much more accessible he was. It’s very interesting to hear him talk about that ... It isn’t a straight-forward scenario, and it was nice that we showed that, and that coming to terms with not his father’s sexuality but with what your childhood meant when you find out that your parents have been hiding this from you.”