Star Wars’ Ewan McGregor Explains Why He Almost Turned Down Playing Obi-Wan Kenobi

Obi-Wan Kenobi/Ben
(Image credit: Disney+)

Picking up a lightsaber is no easy task for a Jedi or for the actor playing said Jedi. Ewan McGregor understood this from the get-go. Joining the Star Wars universe meant he wouldn’t be the independent movie guy anymore; he would be a blockbuster star. As a young actor, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to take on the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi, the iconic Jedi previously played by Alec Guinness. In fact, McGregor almost turned it down. 

After starring in Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting, McGregor wanted to be “urban grunge,” in that he wanted to be in edgy and independent movies. Then along came Star Wars. The actor spoke about this decision and his experiences as Obi-Wan on the podcast SmartLess

I really had to think about it. Because it came quite shortly after that ‘Trainspotting’ period, and by that time I was so full of myself. I was like, ‘I am Danny Boyle’s actor. I am f---ing urban grunge. I am the Oasis of the British movie industry,’ and then when ‘Star Wars’ came along, I felt, ‘I don’t know if I want to do this. This isn’t me.’ I suppose I was worried about type-casting or something like that. It’s just going to be so big, I think. I was so into being this sort of antihero. An indie British actor, is what I felt like. I felt like that defined me.

It’s understandable why Ewan McGregor was apprehensive about joining the cast. Just joining the Star Wars franchise makes you a household name. However, when you are taking on the younger version of an already iconic character, the expectations and attention are even higher. To make a life-changing decision like this takes time, and it makes sense that McGregor wasn’t so sure about it at first. 

While he may have gone from indie darling to household name when the first of the prequels came out in 1999, Ewan McGregor has still been in his fair share of independent and unique projects. Between The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, one of McGregor’s best movies Moulin Rouge!, was released.  Then, in between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, he continued to say yes to a range of projects, like the rom-com Down With Love, the musical Big Fish and the animated movie Robots.

In the 20-ish years since the Star Wars prequels came out the audience reception was all over the place. McGregor thinks it’s because the critics were just disappointed it wasn’t like the Star Wars they grew up with. Despite this, the prequels still had a dedicated fan base, and McGregor always stood behind them. Eventually, he started being asked if he’d ever return to the role of Obi-Wan, and his answer was always yes. 

Now that yes has turned into the Disney+ show Obi-Wan Kenobi. The project was in development for years, and Ewan McGregor said that the moment everything really changed was when Disney decided to turn the project into a series. Following a successful first season the actor has said he would be down to do a second season of Obi-Wan Kenobi.

It feels like Ewan McGregor and the Star Wars fans are happy he decided to say “Hello, there” and not turn down the chance of a lifetime to play one of the most iconic Jedi.

Riley Utley
Weekend Editor

Riley Utley is the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. She has written for national publications as well as daily and alt-weekly newspapers in Spokane, Washington, Syracuse, New York and Charleston, South Carolina. She graduated with her master’s degree in arts journalism and communications from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. Since joining the CB team she has covered numerous TV shows and movies -- including her personal favorite shows Ted Lasso and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. She also has followed and consistently written about everything from Taylor Swift to Fire Country, and she's enjoyed every second of it.