Ewan goes from handsome hero to Shakespearian villian

Ewan McGregor, often cast as the handsome hero (like Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars movies), will play Shakespeare’s most amoral villain in a stage production of Othello which will also star two of our other top actors: Chiwetel Ejiofor and Kelly Reilly.Donmar Warehouse theatre director Michael Grandage said it was like a board game, arranging for Ewan, Chiwetel and Kelly to be available at the same time for his production of Othello, in which Chiwetel will play the noble Moor, Kelly his Desdemona and Ewan is Iago, the jealous confidant who brings about their destruction.The three thespians enjoy movie careers that pay handsomely, certainly in the case of the two leading men.But when Othello begins performances at the Donmar on November 29, with an official first night on December 4, they will be on the Equity minimum wage.”We’re up to £400 a week now,” Grandage joked.However, he put that sum into perspective when he pointed out that his three leads “command, I hope, huge salaries for their films – but that hopefully means they can afford to come to the Donmar.”It’s the other members of the company who need to survive on £400 a week”.The factor that unites Grandage’s chosen trio is that he has worked with them all before. Indeed, Chiwetel was in The Vortex, the first play Grandage directed as artistic director when he took over from Sam Mendes at the Donmar five years ago.Later, he directed the brilliantly gifted Kelly in After Miss Julie and then persuaded Ewan to kick up his heels and croon in Guys & Dolls.Grandage, just returned to London after his triumph on Broadway with the Donmar’s Frost/Nixon, casually mentioned Othello to Ewan when they were working together on Guys & Dolls.”I said, ‘Have a read of Othello and if you have a response, then call me’, in the way of these things,” he laughed.”Ewan did call me a year later and said: ‘Oh, by the way…'”Talking about the play, all the actors agreeing they liked the intimacy of it for the Donmar’s stage was one thing.”But the fact that they were all free at the same time meant the planets must have been in alignment somewhere,” Grandage told me.The director and Chiwetel have discussed the exoticism of Othello’s world, with the actor introducing him to a 19th-century Ethiopian king who may or may not end up influencing the director’s sense of the production.But he’s also, of course, intrigued by Iago, Othello’s seemingly friendly lieutentant who deceives all around him.”Iago has become a byword for manipulation, particularly in politics,” explained Grandage, who told me he targeted Ewan because he was struck by how the actor manages to be charming without it seeming a front.”You know, some people can act being nice. With Ewan, it’s genuine.”The whole point of people being duped by Iago is that they don’t notice he isn’t nice. He really has to be geuinely charming and charismatic, so all these people get taken in.”He added that with Ewan playing Iago “you’re going to get that fantastic duplicity that lies at the heart of the character”.Ewan has just completed shooting the thriller movie Incendiary.Next week, he continues his long-running charity motorbike adventure. This one’s called The Long Way Down, and involves the actor travelling from Scotland to Cape Agulhas, South Africa, after which he goes into rehearsals for Othello.Chiwetel was in Ian Rickson’s sublime production of The Seagull at the Royal Court and he’s in constant demand to make movies in the U.S.In Kelly Reilly, meanwhile, we have one of our most fearless actresses.She’ll become a huge movie star when directors stop worrying what the studio money men think and just cast her – believe me, she would have enlivened any number of films that she was seen for but which ultimately went to other, bigger-named but lesser actresses.You’ll have to be patient to get tickets. Priority booking begins on September 10 and regular public booking on October 15.? The box office is on 0870 060 6624. Source: www.dailymail.co.uk