Ewan Mcgregor Alec Guinness Comparison Essay

Ewan McGregor

McGregor in 2012

BornEwan Gordon McGregor
(1971-03-31) 31 March 1971 (age 46)
Perth, Perthshire, Scotland
ResidenceLos Angeles County, California, U.S.
Years active1993–present
Spouse(s)Eve Mavrakis
(m. 1995; separated 2017)
RelativesDenis Lawson(maternal uncle)
AwardsFull list

Ewan Gordon McGregorOBE (; born 31 March 1971[1]) is a Scottish actor, known internationally for his various film roles, including independent dramas, science-fiction epics, and musicals.

McGregor's first professional role was in 1993, when he won a leading role in the British Channel 4 series Lipstick on Your Collar.[2] Some of his most well-known roles include heroin addict Mark Renton in the drama films Trainspotting (1996) and T2 Trainspotting (2017), JediObi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequel trilogy (1999–2005), poet Christian in the musical film Moulin Rouge! (2001), young Edward Bloom in Big Fish (2003), Rodney Copperbottom in Robots (2005), Camerlengo Father Patrick McKenna in Angels and Demons (2009), "the ghost" in Roman Polanski's political thriller The Ghost Writer (2010), Dr. Alfred Jones in the romantic comedy-drama Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (2011), and Lumière in a live-action adaptation of the musical romantic fantasy Beauty and the Beast (2017).

McGregor won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film for his dual performance in the 2017 FX anthology series in the third season of Fargo and received Golden Globe nominations for Best Actor – Musical or Comedy for both Moulin Rouge! and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. McGregor has also starred in theatre productions of Guys and Dolls (2005–07) and Othello (2007–08). He was ranked number 36 on Empire magazine's "The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time" list in 1997.[3] In a 2004 poll for the BBC, McGregor was named the fourth most influential person in British culture.[4][5] He has been involved in charity work and has served as an ambassador for UNICEF UK since 2004. In 2016, he received the BAFTABritannia Humanitarian Award.[6]

Early life[edit]

McGregor was born in Perth and raised in Crieff.[7][8][9] His mother, Carol Diane (née Lawson), is a retired teacher at Crieff High School and latterly deputy head teacher at Kingspark School in Dundee.[10][11] His father, James Charles Stewart "Jim" McGregor, is a retired physical education teacher and careers master at Morrison's Academy in Crieff.[12][13][14] He has an older brother, Colin (born 1969), a former Tornado GR4 pilot in the Royal Air Force.[15] His uncle is actor Denis Lawson[2] and his aunt by marriage was actress Sheila Gish, which makes him a step-cousin of Gish's actress daughters, Kay Curram and Lou Gish.[16]

McGregor attended the independent Morrison's Academy in Crieff. After leaving school at the age of 16, he worked as a stagehand at Perth Theatre and studied a foundation course in drama at Kirkcaldy College of Technology,[17][18] before moving to London to study drama at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama when he was 18 years old.[2]


Film and television[edit]

Six months prior to his graduation from Guildhall, McGregor won a leading role in Dennis Potter's six-part Channel 4 series Lipstick on Your Collar (1993).[2] Not long afterwards, he starred in the BBC adaptation of Scarlet and Black (also 1993) with a young Rachel Weisz, and made his film debut in Bill Forsyth's Being Human (1994).[19] For his role in the thriller Shallow Grave (also 1994), he won an Empire Award.[20] The film was his first collaboration with director Danny Boyle.[2] His international breakthrough followed with the role of heroin addict Mark Renton in Boyle's Trainspotting (1996), an adaptation of Irvine Welsh's novel of the same name.[2][19]

McGregor played the male romantic lead role in the British film Little Voice (1998). He was cast as the young Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999); the character was originally played by Sir Alec Guinness in the first Star Wars trilogy.[2] While the prequels received criticism from Star Wars fans, McGregor's performance was well received.[21] He reprised the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi for the subsequent prequels Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002) and Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005).[22] His uncle, Denis Lawson, had played Wedge Antilles in the original trilogy.[23]

McGregor starred in Moulin Rouge! (2001) as the young poet Christian, who falls in love with the terminally-ill courtesan Satine (Nicole Kidman). He starred alongside Renée Zellweger in Down With Love (2003).[2][24] He also portrayed the younger Edward Bloom in the critically acclaimed film Big Fish (2003) alongside Albert Finney, Jessica Lange, Alison Lohman and Billy Crudup. In the same period, he also received critical acclaim for his portrayal of an amoral drifter mixed up with murder in the drama Young Adam (also 2003), which co-starred Tilda Swinton.[25][26]

McGregor voiced two successful animated features; he played the robot Rodney Copperbottom in Robots, which also featured the voices of Halle Berry and Robin Williams,[27] and he voiced the lead character in Gary Chapman's Valiant (both 2005), alongside Jim Broadbent, John Cleese and Ricky Gervais.[28] Also around this time, McGregor played two roles—one a clone of the other—opposite Scarlett Johansson in Michael Bay's science fiction action thriller film The Island. He also headlined Marc Forster's 2005 film Stay (both 2005), a psychological thriller co-starring Naomi Watts and Ryan Gosling.[29][30]

He narrated the Fulldome production Astronaut (2006), created for the National Space Centre.[31] Around the same time, he also narrated the STV show JetSet (also 2006), a six-part series following the lives of trainee pilots and navigators at RAF Lossiemouth as they undergo a gruelling six-month course learning to fly the Tornado GR4, the RAF's primary attack aircraft.[32] McGregor starred opposite Colin Farrell in the Woody Allen film Cassandra's Dream (2007),[19][33] and he co-starred with Jim Carrey in I Love You Phillip Morris and appeared in Amelia (both 2009) alongside Hilary Swank. He played "the ghost" - the unnamed main character - in Roman Polanski's political thriller The Ghost Writer (2010). He portrayed Camerlengo Patrick McKenna in Angels & Demons (also 2009), the film adaptation of Dan Brown's novel of the same name. At the 2011 Seattle International Film Festival, he was awarded with the SIFF Golden Space Needle Award for Outstanding Achievement in Acting.[34]

In 2012, he was a member of the Jury for the Main Competition at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival.[35] At the San Sebastián International Film Festival, he was awarded the Donostia Lifetime Achievement Award and became the youngest recipient of the award.[36]

McGregor starred in the action comedy film Mortdecai (2015), alongside Johnny Depp, Olivia Munn, and Paul Bettany. Robbie Collin of The Daily Telegraph felt the film was "psychotically unfunny".[37] He made his directorial debut with American Pastoral (2016), in which he also starred.

He reprised his role as Mark Renton in T2: Trainspotting 2 (2017).[38] McGregor played Lumiere in the live action version of Disney'sBeauty and the Beast (also 2017), directed by Bill Condon. Filming began in May 2015 at Shepperton Studios in London, and the movie was released in March 2017.[39] He then starred in FX anthology series in the third season of Fargo (both 2017), which garnered him a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film for his dual performance of Emmit Stussy and Ray Stussy at the 75th Golden Globe Awards.[40] McGregor is set to play an adult version of Christopher Robin in a live-action film of the Winnie the Pooh franchise, directed by Marc Forster; co-starring with Hayley Atwell.[41]


From November 1998 to March 1999, McGregor starred as Malcolm Scrawdyke in a revival of David Halliwell's Little Malcolm and His Struggles Against the Eunuchs, directed by his uncle, Denis Lawson. The production was first staged at the Hampstead Theatre before transferring to the Comedy Theatre in London's West End.[42] In November 2001, McGregor made a cameo appearance in The Play What I Wrote.[43]

From June 2005 to April 2007, McGregor starred alongside Jane Krakowski, Douglas Hodge and Jenna Russell in the Donmar Warehouse revival of Guys and Dolls after it transferred to the Piccadilly Theatre in London.[44] He played the leading role of Sky Masterson. McGregor received the LastMinute.com award for Best Actor for his performance in 2005,[45] and he was nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Musical in 2007.[46]

From December 2007 to February 2008, McGregor starred as Iago in Othello at the Donmar Warehouse alongside Chiwetel Ejiofor as Othello and Kelly Reilly as Desdemona.[47][48] He reprised the role on BBC Radio 3 in May 2008.[47]

Motorcycle journeys[edit]

Main articles: Long Way Round and Long Way Down

A motorcyclist since his youth, McGregor undertook a marathon international motorbike trip with his best friend Charley Boorman and cameraman Claudio von Planta in 2004. From mid-April to the end of July, they travelled from London to New York via central Europe, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Russia, Canada and the United States on BMW R1150GS Adventure motorbikes, for a cumulative distance of 22,345 miles (35,960 km).[49] The trip included visits to several UNICEF programs along the route, and formed the basis of a television series and a best-selling book, both called Long Way Round.[50]

The Long Way Round team reunited in 2007 for another motorcycle trip from John o' Groats in Scotland to Cape Town in South Africa.[50] The journey, entitled Long Way Down, lasted from 12 May until 5 August 2007.[50] McGregor's brother Colin joined the motorcycle team during the early stages of the Long Way Down journey,[50] and his father Jim also rode on sections of both Long Way Round and Long Way Down.[51][52]

McGregor appeared in a two-part BBC documentary in April 2012 entitled Ewan McGregor: Cold Chain Mission in which he travels by motorbike, boat, plane and foot to deliver vaccines to children in remote parts of India, Nepal and the Republic of Congo. The trip was part of his work as a UNICEF Ambassador.

In a June 2015 interview, McGregor indicated that a long discussed South American trip with Boorman was still in the planning stages, but he expected that an excursion through the Baja California Peninsula would take place first.[53]

Personal life[edit]

McGregor married Eve Mavrakis,[1] a Greek-French production designer whom he met on the set of Kavanagh QC, in 1995.[2] Together they have four daughters, one of them adopted from Mongolia.[1][54][55][56] McGregor has a heart and dagger tattoo of the names of his wife and daughters on his right arm.[24][57] The family lived in Los Angeles County, California, having relocated from London.[58] With his children raised in his wife's Jewish faith, McGregor has said, "My involvement in religion has more to do with the Jewish faith now and not the Christian faith, which I was very vaguely brought up in".[59] As of May 2017, he was estranged from his wife and dating actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead, whom he met on the set of season 3 of Fargo in which they starred together.[60] On 19 January 2018, McGregor filed for divorce from his wife, citing irreconcilable differences.[61][62]

McGregor is involved in charity work, including UNICEF UK since 2004 and GO Campaign. During the Long Way Round journey in 2004, McGregor and his travelling companions saw some of UNICEF's work in Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Mongolia,[50] and during the Long Way Down trip in 2007, he and Charley Boorman did some work for UNICEF in Africa. McGregor hosted the annual Hollywood gala for the GO Campaign in 2009 and 2010. He has worked with the Children's Hospice Association Scotland, as featured in Long Way Down. In 2012, he travelled with UNICEF immunization workers to remote parts of India, Nepal and the Republic of Congo for a BBC2 documentary entitled Ewan McGregor: Cold Chain Mission.[63] In June 2015, McGregor read Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Match Girl" for the children's fairytales app GivingTales in aid of UNICEF, together with other prominent figures such Roger Moore, Stephen Fry, Joan Collins, Joanna Lumley, and Michael Caine.[64]

In 2007, on an episode of Parkinson, McGregor stated that he had given up alcohol after a period where he was arguably a functioning alcoholic, and that he had not had a drink in seven years. In 2008, he had a cancerous mole removed from underneath his right eye.[65]


Main article: Ewan McGregor filmography

Awards and nominations[edit]

Main article: List of awards and nominations received by Ewan McGregor

In 2010, McGregor was appointed by the French government as a Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Arts et Lettres (Knight of the Order of the Arts and Letters).[66][67] McGregor was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2013 New Year Honours for services to drama and charity.[1][68][69]



  • "Choose Life" with PF Project, Trainspotting#2: Music from the Motion Picture, Vol.#2, 1997.
  • "TV Eye" with Wylde Ratttz, Velvet Goldmine: Music from the Original Motion Picture, 1999.
  • "Come What May" with Nicole Kidman, Moulin Rouge! Music from Baz Luhrmann's Film, 2001.
  • "Elephant Love Medley" with Nicole Kidman, Moulin Rouge! Music from Baz Luhrmann's Film, 2001.
  • "El Tango de Roxanne" with Jose Feliciano, Moulin Rouge! Music from Baz Luhrmann's Film, 2001.
  • "Your Song" with Alessandro Safina, Moulin Rouge! Music from Baz Luhrmann's Film, 2001.
  • "Here's To Love" with Renée Zellweger, Down With Love: Music from and Included in the Motion Picture, 2003.
  • "The Sweetest Gift", Unexpected Dreams – Songs From the Stars, 2006.
  • "Be Our Guest" with Emma Thompson, Ian McKellen, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Beauty and the Beast, 2017.
  • "Days in the Sun" with Adam Mitchell, Stanley Tucci, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, Emma Watson, Audra McDonald, Clive Rowe, Beauty and the Beast, 2017.
  • "Something There" with Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, Nathan Mack, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Beauty and the Beast, 2017.
  • "The Mob Song", with Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Emma Thompson, Ian McKellen, Stanley Tucci, Nathan Mack, & Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Beauty and the Beast, 2017.


  1. ^ abcdMcGregor, Ewan Gordon. ukwhoswho.com. Who's Who. 2015 (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. (subscription required)
  2. ^ abcdefghi"Profile – Ewan McGregor". Hello!. Archived from the original on 20 August 2008. Retrieved 9 July 2008. 
  3. ^"Empire Magazine's Top 100 Movie Stars 1997". Am I Annoying.com. Retrieved 26 March 2011. 
  4. ^Smith, Tony (12 February 2004). "iPod designer voted UK's most influential cultural icon". The Register. Retrieved 17 November 2016. 
  5. ^"iPod designer leads culture list". BBC News Online. 12 February 2004. Retrieved 17 November 2016. 
  6. ^"BAFTA LA To Honor Ewan McGregor At The 2016 British Academy Britannia Awards". BAFTA. 14 September 2016. Retrieved 20 September 2016. 
  7. ^The Hollywood Reporter (26 November 2012). "Ewan McGregor on His Career and 'The Impossible'". YouTube. Retrieved 1 July 2015. 
  8. ^"Ewan McGregor 1971". Perth & Kinross Council. Archived from the original on 1 July 2015. Retrieved 30 June 2015. 
  9. ^"Starring role for actor's mother Maternity unit closure puts Mrs McGregor in front of the spotlight". The Herald. Glasgow. 31 October 2000. Retrieved 30 June 2015. 
  10. ^Dhingra, Dolly (25 January 1999). "Obi-Wan Kenobi's mum". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 30 June 2015. 
  11. ^"Carol McGregor: Malawi Diaries". The Scotsman. Edinburgh. 12 August 2007. Retrieved 30 June 2015. 
  12. ^"Morrisonian Club". Morrison's Academy. Retrieved 30 June 2015. 
  13. ^"Ewan McGregor biography". Tiscali.co.uk. Archived from the original on 8 October 2007. Retrieved 15 January 2008. 
  14. ^"Ewan McGregor Biography (1971–)". Film Reference.com. Retrieved 15 January 2008. 
  15. ^Barratt, Nick (11 November 2006). "Family Detective". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 22 January 2018. 
  16. ^"He is the actor formerly known as Denis Lawson. Now he's more famous as Ewan McGregor's uncle. But he's not bitter". The Herald. 18 May 2001. Retrieved 14 May 2017. 
  17. ^Jinman, Richard (3 June 2005). "The Guardian profile: Ewan McGregor". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 July 2015. 
  18. ^"Perth Theatre, past and present..."Perth Concert Hall. Retrieved 1 July 2015. 
  19. ^ abc"Filmography – Ewan McGregor". Hello!. Retrieved 9 July 2008. 
  20. ^"Empire Awards, UK: 1996". IMDb.com. Retrieved 9 July 2008. 
  21. ^Shepherd, Jack (13 October 2016). "Star Wars: Ewan McGregor wants to return as Obi-Wan Kenobi". The Independent. 
  22. ^Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith – Web Documentaries of Revenge of the Sith DVD (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 2005. 
  23. ^Star Wars Trilogy (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 2004. 
  24. ^ ab"Ewan McGregor Biography". Yahoo!. Retrieved 9 July 2008. 
  25. ^Slater, Matthew (9 October 2003). "Young Adam's dark tale". BBC News Online. Retrieved 9 July 2008. 
  26. ^Dawtrey, Adam (21 September 2003). "Thomas' distrib misstep". Variety. Retrieved 9 July 2008. 
  27. ^Hartlaub, Peter (11 March 2005). "It's a bucket of bolts that rattles agreeably. Robots mingles brass, laughs and, yes, Robin Williams". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 9 July 2008. 
  28. ^Holden, Stephen (19 August 2005). "These Brave Pigeons Are Doing Their Part for the War". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 July 2008. 
  29. ^Clinton, Paul (22 July 2005). "'Island' just interesting enough". CNN. Retrieved 9 July 2008. 
  30. ^Dargis, Manohla (21 October 2005). "Something Is Happening, but Who Knows What It Is?". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 July 2008. 
  31. ^"Astronaut with Ewan McGregor". EwanMcGregor.net. 14 July 2006. Archived from the original on 15 June 2008. Retrieved 14 November 2013. 
  32. ^"Ground School". STV. 27 July 2007. Archived from the original on 13 January 2009. Retrieved 10 July 2008. 
  33. ^Moore, Roger (29 January 2008). ""Dream" gives wakeup call to Woody Allen". Denver Post. Retrieved 9 July 2008. 
  34. ^"2011 Golden Space Award for Outstanding Achievement in Acting". Archived from the original on 22 February 2013. Retrieved 25 October 2012. 
  35. ^"The Jury of the 65th Festival de Cannes". Cannes Film Festival. Archived from the original on 24 May 2012. Retrieved 25 April 2012. 
  36. ^"2012 Donostia Lifetime Achievement Award". BBC News Online. 28 September 2012. Retrieved 25 October 2012. 
  37. ^Collin, Robbie (22 January 2015). "Mortdecai, review: 'psychotically unfunny'". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 6 August 2016. 
  38. ^Kit, Borys (4 December 2015). "'Trainspotting 2,' With Original Cast, Lands at TriStar". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 6 August 2016. 
  39. ^"Ewan McGregor to Play Lumiere in 'Beauty and the Beast'". The Hollywood Reporter. 21 April 2015. Retrieved 28 April 2015. 
  40. ^Mitovich, Matt Webb (7 January 2018). "Golden Globes: Big Little Lies, Handmaid's Tale and Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Are TV's Big Winners". TVLine. Retrieved 8 January 2018. 
  41. ^Lesnick, Silas (26 April 2017). "Ewan McGregor Will Headline Disney's Christopher Robin Movie". Comingsoon.net. Retrieved 26 April 2017. 
  42. ^"McGregor play opens in West End". BBC News Online. 22 January 1999. Retrieved 17 December 2011. 
  43. ^Wolf, Matt (25 November 2001). "V Legit Reviews: The Play What I Wrote". Variety. Retrieved 17 December 2011. 
  44. ^"'Guys and Dolls' musical". Guys and Dolls the Musical. Archived from the original on 4 July 2008. Retrieved 9 July 2008. 
  45. ^Singh, Anita (25 October 2005). "McGregor wins theatre award". The Scotsman. Edinburgh. 
  46. ^"The nominees and winners of the 2006 Laurence Olivier Awards". The Society of London Theatre. Archived from the original on 5 February 2008. Retrieved 15 January 2008. 
  47. ^ ab"Ewan McGregor returns to London stage for minimum wage". International Herald Tribune. 12 May 2007. Archived from the original on 3 May 2008. 
  48. ^"Ewan McGregor to Play Iago in Othello at London's Donmar". Broadway.com. 11 May 2007. 

Alec Guinness was an English actor. He is known for his six collaborations with David Lean: Herbert Pocket in Great Expectations (1946), Fagin in Oliver Twist (1948), Col. Nicholson in The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor), Prince Faisal in Lawrence of Arabia (1962), General Yevgraf Zhivago in Doctor Zhivago (1965), and Professor Godbole in A Passage to India (1984).

Guinness is really most remembered for his portrayal of Obi-Wan Kenobi in George Lucas's original Star Wars trilogy for which he receive a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

In 1959, he was knighted by Elizabeth II for services to the arts. In the 1970s, Guinness made regular television appearances in Britain, including the role of George Smiley in the serialisations of two novels by John le Carré: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Smiley's People. In 1980 he received the Academy Honorary Award for lifetime achievement.

Guinness was also one of three British actors, along with Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud, who made the transition from Shakespearean theatre in England to Hollywood blockbusters immediately after the Second World War.

Guinness died on 5 August 2000, from liver cancer, at Midhurst in West Sussex.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Pedro Borges

Spouse (1)

Trade Mark (4)

Known for playing multiple complex characters and changing his appearance to suit.
Often played noble and fiercely proud leaders and authority figures

Trivia (70)

He was known to have a love-hate relationship with what became his most famous role as Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977). Guinness claimed that Obi-Wan's death was his idea as a means to limit his involvement in the film. Guinness was also said to throw away all Star Wars related fan mail without even opening it. Contrary to popular rumors, he did not hate working on the films. What he hated was the fact that many of the Star Wars fans only knew him as Obi-Wan Kenobi despite all the success of his previous roles. He was also frank in saying that he disliked the dialogue. Although he often spoke critically of Star Wars, the three leads, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher, have always spoken very fondly of him, praising him as being a very professional actor who was always respectful to the people he worked with.
"de Cuffe" is his mother's surname; he never knew the identity of his father (source: obituary, Daily Telegraph, 7 August 2000).
He was awarded the Companion of Honour in the 1994 Queen's Birthday Honours List for his services to drama.
He was awarded the CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in the 1955 Queen's Birthday Honours List for his services to drama.
He was awarded Knight Bachelor of the Order of the British Empire in the 1959 Queen's New Year Honours List for his services to drama.
He was a huge fan of the television series Due South (1994).
Despite popular belief, he never uttered the line "May the force be with you" in any of the Star Wars films (the closest he came was "the force will be with you").
He was voted third in the Orange Film 2001 survey of greatest British film actors.
The qualities he claimed to most admire in an actor were "simplicity, purity, clarity of line".
He made his final stage appearance at the Comedy Theatre in London on May 30, 1989, in a production called "A Walk in the Woods", where he played a Russian diplomat.
His widow, Merula Salaman, died on October 17, 2000, just two months after her husband.
In his last book of memoirs, "A Positively Final Appearance", he expressed a devotion to the television series The Simpsons (1989).
He received an honorary D.Litt degree from Oxford University in 1977 and an honorary D.Litt degree from Cambridge University in 1991.
He was a Grammy nominee in 1964, in the Spoken Word category, for the album "Alec Guinness: A Personal Choice" (RCA Victor Red Seal: 1964), on which he read a selection of his favorite poems.
He had starred as Eric Birling alongside Sir Ralph Richardson in the first-ever showing of "An Inspector Calls" at the New Theatre in London on October 1, 1946.
He was awarded the Laurence Olivier Theatre Special Award in 1989 (1988 season) for his outstanding contributions to West End Theatre.
His biography is in "Who's Who in Comedy" by Ronald L. Smith, pg. 198-199. New York: Facts on File, 1992. ISBN 0816023387.
Ewan McGregor was not the only actor in the Star Wars prequels to study his performances. The voice for the character Watto was modeled after Guinness's performance as Fagin in Oliver Twist (1948).
He reportedly answered one Star Wars fan's boast that he had seen the first movie over a hundred times, with a nod and the words "Promise me you'll never watch it again.". The boy was stunned, but his mother thanked Guinness.
His favourite hotel in London was the Connaught, in which he always stayed whenever visiting the city.
A heavy smoker for most of his life, he finally managed to give up the habit in his last years.
One of his last jobs was providing the voice (his first and only voice-over) for a cartoon character on a British television ad campaign by the Inland Revenue advising the public about the new tax return forms which were to be introduced. He said in his diary of the recording (made on March 30, 1995) "I did it feebly.".
He won Broadway's 1964 Tony Award as Best Actor (Dramatic) for "Dylan", in which he played the title character, poet Dylan Thomas.
Both he and his wife, Merula Salaman, converted to the Roman Catholic Church in the 1950s.
Following his death, he was interred at Petersfield Cemetery in Petersfield, Hampshire, England.
In certain prints of The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), a film in which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor, his last name is misspelled "Guiness".
In his autobiographical volumes, Guinness wrote about an incident at the Old Vic when, in the company of National Theater (which originally played at the Old Vic) artistic director Laurence Olivier in the basement of the theater, he asked where a certain tunnel went. Olivier did not really know but confidently decided to take the tunnel as it must come out somewhere nearby, it being part of the Old Vic. In reality, the tunnel went under the Thames, and they were rescued after several hours of fruitless navigation of the dark, damp corridor. Guinness remarked that Olivier's willingness to plunge into the dark and unknown was characteristic of the type of person (and actor) he was. As for himself as an actor, Guinness lamented at times that he did not take enough chances.
He went bald on top, and according to his Time magazine cover story of April 21, 1958, he was embarrassed by it but chose not to wear a hairpiece in private life. He told the Time writer that he had shaved the top of his head as a young man in his first professional acting engagement, playing a coolie. It never grew back properly after that, he lamented.
He had played the Fool to Laurence Olivier's first King Lear under the direction of Tyrone Guthrie in 1946 when he was 31 and Olivier was 39. Olivier was generally considered less-than-successful in the part due to his youth and relative lack of maturity in classical parts (though his contemporaneous "Henry V" was a smash and hinted at his future greatness as an interpreter of William Shakespeare). However, Guinness received raves for his acting. Both actors went on to knighthoods and Best Actor Oscars in their long and distinguished careers.
He was the subject of a cover story in Time magazine for the week of April 21, 1958, shortly after he won the Best Actor Oscar for The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957).
In the last year of his life, Sir Alec had been receiving hospital treatment for failing eyesight due to glaucoma, and he had been diagnosed with inoperable prostate cancer in January 2000. By the time his liver cancer was discovered in July 2000, it was at an extremely advanced stage, making surgery impossible.
He had his first speaking role on the professional stage in the melodrama "Queer Cargo" (he did not appear in the film). At age 20, the tyro actor played a Chinese coolie in the first act, a French pirate in Act 2 and a British sailor in Act 3, a foreshadowing of the shape-shifting he would do in his cinema career, where he once played as many as eight roles in a single film (Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)).
He is the only person to receive a best acting nomination in any of the Star Wars movies.
He was made a Fellow of the British Film Institute in recognition of his outstanding contribution to film culture.
While filming The Swan (1956) in Hollywood, he met James Dean, just days before the young actor's death. Sir Alec later recalled predicting that Dean would die in a car crash: when Dean showed Guinness his newly-bought Porsche, Guinness advised him to "Get rid of that car, or you'll be dead in a week!". Guinness unfortunately proved right.
He was the favorite actor of both David Lean and Ronald Neame. He had worked on many of both director's films.
During his service in the Royal Navy, he commanded a landing craft invading Sicily and Elba, and helped to supply soldiers in Yugoslavia.
Upon notification that he was to achieve a lifetime achievement Oscar, he was not keen but expressed thanks. He informed the Academy that there was no way he would even consider flying to California to pick up this award. Academy President Fay Kanin, asked Dustin Hoffman who was doing promotional work from Kramer vs. Kramer in London, to meet with Guinness and persuade him to attend. As both men had very similar attitudes to their past work, Guinness warmed up to the idea and agreed to attend.
He has appeared in several of David Lean's movies. In them, he has portrayed Englishmen, an Arab, a Russian and an Indian.
He preferred working on stage to appearing in films. He also preferred appearing in newer plays rather than the classics, so that his performance would not be compared to how previous actors had played the role.
He was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1559 Vine Street in Hollywood, California on February 8, 1960.
Alhough knighted, he did not like being referred to as Sir Alec Guinness.
His stepfather fought in the Anglo-Irish War.
At a young age, Guinness received acting lessons from Martita Hunt, who dismissed him after two lessons, telling him he would never be an actor although lessons were resumed at a later date.
After Guinness won a two year scholarship from a dramatic academy, John Gielgud, one of the competition judges, offered him a role in his production of "Hamlet" in 1934.
His experiences with the Royal Navy involved shipping supplies to Yugoslav partisans during World War II.
The 2003 book "Alec Guinness: The Authorised Biography" reprints several letters that Guinness wrote to his longtime friend and correspondent Anne Kaufman in which he expressed his displeasure with and dubiousness about the quality of Star Wars (1977) as it was in production. Before filming started, he wrote: "I have been offered a movie (20th Century Fox) which I may accept, if they come up with proper money. London and North Africa, starting in mid-March. Science fiction--which gives me pause--but is to be directed by Paul [sic] Lucas who did American Graffiti, which makes me feel I should. Big part. Fairy-tale rubbish but could be interesting perhaps. Then after filming started, he wrote to Kaufman again to complain about the dialogue and describe his co-stars: new rubbish dialogue reaches me every other day on wadges of pink paper--and none of it makes my character clear or even bearable. I just think, thankfully, of the lovely bread, which will help me keep going until next April. I must off to studio and work with a dwarf (very sweet--and he has to wash in a bidet) and your fellow countrymen Mark Hamill and Tennyson (that can't be right) Ford. Ellison (?--No!)--well, a rangy, languid young man who is probably intelligent and amusing. But oh God, God, they make me feel ninety--and treat me as if I was 106. Oh, [the actor's name is] Harrison Ford--ever heard of him?".
Guinness had a 2.25% interest in the revenue from Star Wars (1977), which would be the highest grossing movie at the time (and second only to Gone with the Wind (1939) when adjusted for inflation). Guinness had agreed to a 2% interest to make the film, but he reported that just before release during a telephone conversation George Lucas had offered an additional 0.5% because of how supportive and helpful Guinness had been (with dialogue, other actors, etc.). After the release and stunning results at the box office, Guinness asked to confirm the additional 0.5% in writing, but was told it was (reduced to) 0.25%, although it is not clear who had decided this. This was revealed by Guinness in the 1977 interview with BBC's Michael Parkinson on the series "Talking Pictures". It was in general supported by many public comments by Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher all speaking highly of Guinness' professionalism and impact on the set. Apparently, Guinness did not quibble the 1977 worldwide revenue for Star Wars of $400+ million making Guinness' 2.25% probably around $9m for that year alone, with additional revenue well into 1979. In comparison, that exceeds other British actor high-water marks for Sean Connery and Roger Moore in the 1970s playing James Bond ($1m salary + $3-5m depending on revenue interests per film e.g. 5-12%).
Although Alec Guinness and Jack Hawkins each had top billings in The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) and Lawrence of Arabia (1962), they only shared one scene together in each film. Both coincidentally near the end of each film. Both films also won Best Picture Oscars.
His mother was Agnes Cuffe, his father believed to be Andrew Geddes, a Scottish banker, who paid for his education at Fettes Collge, a public school.
In WWII he was in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve as a sub Lieutenant then temporary Lieutenant commanding a landing craft on the invasion of Sicily and later delivering supplies to the Yugoslavian partisans.

Personal Quotes (36)

[on how much he disliked working on Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) and his attempts to encourage George Lucas to kill off Obi-Wan Kenobi] And he agreed with me. What I didn't tell him was that I just couldn't go on speaking those bloody awful, banal lines. I'd had enough of the mumbo jumbo.
Failure has a thousand explanations. Success doesn't need one.
We live in an age of apologies. Apologies, false or true, are expected from the descendants of empire builders, slave owners, persecutors of heretics and from men who, in our eyes, just got it all wrong. So with the age of 85 coming up shortly, I want to make an apology. It appears I must apologize for being male, white and European.
[in 1985 to The Guardian newspaper, on what he intends to do by the end of his life] A kind of little bow, tied on life. And I can see myself drifting off into eternity, or nothing, or whatever it may be, with all sorts of bits of loose string hanging out of my pocket. Why didn't I say this or do that, or why didn't I reconcile myself with someone? Or make sure that someone whom I like was all right in every way, either financially or, I don't know...
[replying to a writer whose script he rejected, who sent him a note saying "We tailored it just for you"] But no one came to take measurements.
I gave my best performances during the war, trying to be an officer and a gentleman.
I prefer full-length camera shots because the body can act better than the face.
I don't know what else I could do but pretend to be an actor.
Once I've done a film, it's finished. I never look at it again.
Getting to the theater on the early side, usually about seven o'clock, changing into a dressing-gown, applying make-up, having a chat for a few minutes with other actors and then, quite unconsciously, beginning to assume another personality which would stay with me (but mostly tucked inside) until curtain down, was all I required of life. I thought it bliss.
An actor is an interpreter of other men's words, often a soul which wishes to reveal itself to the world but dare not, a craftsman, a bag of tricks, a vanity bag, a cool observer of mankind, a child and at his best a kind of unfrocked priest who, for an hour or two, can call on heaven and hell to mesmerize a group of innocents.
Personally, I have only one great regret - that I never *dared* enough. If at all.
[To a group of reporters upon winning his Academy Award in 1958]: No doorstop shenanigans for me, boys. I have a nice mantel where I'm going to display it.
[during filming of Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977)]: Apart from the money, I regret having embarked on the film. I like them well enough, but it's not an acting job, the dialogue - which is lamentable - keeps being changed and only slightly improved, and I find myself old and out of touch with the young.
[on media reports of his income from the Star Wars films]: The Times reports I've made £4.5 million in the past year. Where do they get such nonsense?
[on the performances in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977)]: The only really disappointing performance was Anthony Daniels as the robot - fidgety and over-elaborately spoken. Not that any of the cast can stand up to the mechanical things around them.
[on his first lunch meeting with George Lucas]: I liked him. The conversation was divided culturally by 8,000 miles and 30 years; but I think we might understand each other if I can get past his intensity.
The stage was my prime interest. I had no ambition to be a film actor, and a screen career seemed unlikely to come my way. I'd done a stage adaption of "Great Expectations" before the war and this had been seen by David Lean and Ronald Neame. I went into the navy during the war, and when I came out they were preparing their film [Great Expectations (1946)]. They remembered my performance on the stage and asked me if I'd go into their film as Herbert Pocket. I'd thought of film as a much greater mystery than the theater and I felt a need to begin in films with a character I knew something about.
[on The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)]: The original script was ridiculous, with elephant charges and girls screaming round in the jungle. When David Lean arrived, with a new screenwriter, it became a very different thing. I saw Nicholson as an effective part, without ever really believing in the character. However, it paid off; it was a huge success and I got an Oscar for it, though I don't think it made an enormous difference in my career.
Essentially I'm a small part actor who's been lucky enough to play leading roles for most of his life.
Flamboyance doesn't suit me. I enjoy being elusive.
I am always ashamed of the slowness of my reading. I think it stems from the fact that when I come across dialogue in a novel, I can't resist treating it as the text of a play and acting it out, with significant pauses and all.
[on Laurence Olivier after the death of the only acting peer of the realm] Olivier made me laugh more as an actor [in eccentric comedy parts] more than anyone else. In my case, I love him in comedy and am not always sure about him in tragedy.
[his diary entry after viewing Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) for the first time] It's a pretty staggering film as spectacle and technically brilliant. Exciting, very noisy and warmhearted. The battle scenes at the end go on for five minutes too long, I feel, and some of the dialogue is excruciating and much of it is lost in noise, but it remains a vivid experience.
An actor is at his best a kind of unfrocked priest who, for an hour or two, can call on heaven and hell to mesmerize a group of innocents.
An actor is totally vulnerable. His total personality is exposed to critical judgment - his intellect, his bearing, his diction, his whole appearance. In short, his ego.
[Asked if he was a rich man]: No, not rich. Compared to striking miners and workless actors very rich: compared to successful stockbrokers and businessmen I expect I would be considered nearly poor.
[Asked if Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) had made him a fortune]: Yes, blessed be Star Wars. But two-thirds of that went to the Inland Revenue and a sizable sum on VAT. No complaints. Let me leave it by saying I can live for the rest of my life in the reasonably modest way I am now used to, that I have no debts and I can afford to refuse work that doesn't appeal to me.
[on Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977)]: When it came to me in script form, I was in Hollywood on the last day of another movie and I heard it was a script by George Lucas, well that meant something; you know, American Graffiti (1973), this is a new generation, lovely. And then I opened it and saw it was science fiction and groaned, I thought "oh no, they've got the wrong man." I started to read it and I thought some of the dialogue was rather creaky, but I kept turning the pages, I wanted to know what happened next. Then I met George Lucas, fell for him, I thought he was a man of enormous integrity and bright and interesting, and I found myself involved and thank God I did.
[on winning the Best Actor award for The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)] No doorstop shenanigans for me. I'll put the Oscar on my mantel, which I realize makes very dull copy, except that I'll put a mirror on the mantel so that I'll get a view of Oscar's back too.
I can walk through a crowd and nobody would notice at all.
[on Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977)] Can't say I'm enjoying the film. New rubbish dialogue reaches me every other day on wadges of pink paper - and none of it makes my character clear or even bearable. I just think, thankfully, of the lovely bread, which will help me to keep going until next April.
[on playing Gulley Jimson in The Horse's Mouth (1958)] I try to get inside a character and project him - one of my own private rules of thumb is that I have not got the character until I have mastered exactly how he walks.
[One day, director Ronald Neame found Guinness sulking in his dressing room, refusing to come to the set. According to Neame, Guinness felt he had not been stroked enough and explained] Actors are emotionally 14-year olds. We need to be chastised like children, and we need to be hugged and told we're doing fine work. We are the children who never grow up.

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