Ewan McGregor’s been places: He’s sung atop the Moulin Rouge with Nicole Kidman and waged a brutal lightsaber fight on a lava planet with Darth Vader. For the longest time, though, he wouldn’t get near a horror movie, whether it was starring in one or even watching one.
But doing a film like “Doctor Sleep” (in theaters Nov. 8), an adaptation of the Stephen King novel – and a followup to “The Shining” – appealed to McGregor because it was “something I hadn’t really tackled before,” the Scottish native tells USA TODAY.
Set 40 years after the heinous events at the Overlook Hotel, the film stars McGregor as a grownup Danny Torrance, who forms a bond with young teenager Abra (Kyliegh Curran) with similar psychic abilities, or “shine.” Adult Dan, now sober after years of using drugs and alcohol to suppress his extrasensory powers, helps Abra when she’s targeted by a gang of psychic vampires.
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While many kids grow up loving horror flicks, McGregor didn’t have the best experience with them.
“I was exposed to some really nasty horror movies when I was really young,” McGregor, 48, says. The dad of one of his friends at school “had the first video recorder of all of us,” and they’d watch “these terrible horror films. They’re probably silly now, but at the time when you’re 8, 9 years old, it was just too much for me, and it put me really off.”
Then, when he was playing abroad in a pipe band at age 13 or so, McGregor – “by accident, really” – saw John Carpenter’s original 1978 film “Halloween” at a private screening on a night off, and “it scared me so badly that I never wanted to see another horror film.”
When it came to “The Shining,” arguably one of the scariest movies of all time, he wasn’t interested in seeing it in his teenage years. “I had such an aversion to being frightened like that,” McGregor says. But in drama school, he finally did, while studying great actors.
“I was watching a bunch of Jack Nicholson movies and ended up loving it much more than I thought I would,” McGregor says. “It’s not a movie like ‘Halloween’ or a splatter horror film. It’s something much more than that.”
Over the last five years, McGregor’s become more interested in the genre, and one movie that turned the tide was Jordan Peele’s modern classic “Get Out.” “I felt like that sort of changed things for me somewhat,” McGregor says. “People are using the genre for social commentary and stuff.”
McGregor’s also breaking new genre ground in his next project, playing Batman comic-book villain Black Mask alongside Margot Robbie in the female-centric superhero movie “Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn),” out Feb. 7.
He triumphantly laughs and gives a name to this phase of his career: “It’s McGregor’s New Wave!”