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A lot of actors have committed their minds, bodies and souls to accurately play a role on screen. Daniel Day-Lewis is famous for never stepping out of character until filming is absolutely complete, and Christian Bale has likewise lost and gained a number of pounds for different roles. Hell, even Jared Leto sent rats and condoms to his castmates when he was The Joker. But would an actor do heroin, a highly addictive drug that pretty much destroys lives, for a role? Ewan McGregor at least thought about it. In his words:
I did actually think about trying heroin. At first, early on, I thought: how can you play a heroin addict without having taken it? I was young and I thought, fuck it, just do it. And also John Hodge, our writer, was a doctor, so I thought he could probably get us some and administer it so we don't die. I thought I'd do it with Danny. I just wanted to get f---ed up with Danny! But we didn't. Because of course as soon as we started the first thing I remember doing was meeting heroin addicts in Glasgow.
Arguably the role that launched him to stardom, Ewan McGregor played Renton in the cult classic Trainspotting. Renton was a heroin addict, something that is terribly difficult to understand for anyone who has never done the drug. As McGregor told The Hollywood Reporter, how could he play a drug addict without understanding the power the drug has over the victim? He was young at the time and felt that if he tried a little in a controlled environment then he'd be alright.
Smartly, McGregor decided that trying heroin probably wasn't the best idea, and his decision cemented itself when he met real heroin addicts in his research. The team behind Trainspotting met with Calton Athletic (who actually appear as extras in T2 Trainspotting), a drug recovery group that filled production in on details that'd they never know by doing heroin themselves. Once McGregor met with the group and saw what they had been through, he realized that it'd be "hugely disrespectful to them to be taking heroin."
I won't pretend to understand the mind of an actor, but I think we can all agree that sometimes they go a little overboard in their preparations for performances. Doing heroin would have been WAY overboard, but it's still a pretty interesting story, and you can't argue about McGregor's commitment to the role.
You can see Ewan McGregor reprise the role of Renton in the long awaited sequel, T2 Trainspotting. Danny Boyle returns to direct, as well as the rest of the original cast. The film has already broken records with its opening in the UK and is Boyle's biggest opening weekend ever. The sequel opens in the U.S. on March 3.