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Ewan McGregor reveals the audience members he found most distracting when performing on-stage

These individuals distracted McGregor during his Shakespearian performances.

Ewan McGregor is one of the most talented actors of our time. However, while performing in William Shakespeare's Othello as the role of Iago, some of the audience members enjoying his performance proved to be particularly distracting.

McGregor shared the stories during his spotlight panel at New York Comic Con 2023. The topic arose when the idea of McGregor playing villains rather than heroes was broached. McGregor reflected on how much he enjoyed playing villians. "It is fun, I've done it a couple of times," McGregor said. "I really like it. I need to do that a bit more."

Turning to the villain Iago, McGregor explained that the Othello performances took place in the Donmar Warehouse, a "small, intimate" venue in London. McGregor continued that the performance began with very dark lighting, but the space was gradually illuminated as the show progressed towards intermission. "You can see every person in the room," McGregor said. "There's a sort of unwritten rule when you go see someone else's show. As an actor, you don't tell them you're coming. Just so you don't put people on edge, or anything. So every night, there's somebody. I remember being in the middle of a siloloquoy and looking up: 'Oh, there's Jude Law.'"

But that wasn't the only distracting audience member endured by McGregor during his 90+ performances in the role. "The worst one was, I looked up and I saw Sir Peter Hall, who was a legendary Shakespeare director," said McGregor. McGregor explained that he never learned how to perform in iambic pentameter, instead thinking "it was more important to just make it true - to mean what I was saying as Iago." But when he saw Hall, he became overly focused on his breathing. "Totally fell apart. My confidence was gone."

Still, McGregor says one performance as Iago stood out as particularly important. During one dress rehearsal, McGregor's ex brought in their two young daughters, then around "five or six." His daughter Esther was so intrigued, she was brought back for a matinee performance of the whole show. "The whole play, I'll never forget, her sitting there. She had a little head scarf on," McGregor said. "That was my best show that I did out of all 90 shows, because I was just doing it for her. And she loved it."

There is another Shakespearian role that McGregor would like to play in the future. "I would like to play the Scottish King at some point," said McGregor. "I'd love to play him. I think he'd be amazing." You can relive all of McGregor's anecdotes by watching McGregor's NYCC '23 panel on Popverse now.


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About the Author
Avery Kaplan avatar

Avery Kaplan

Contributing writer

Avery lives and writes in Southern California. She is the co-author of Double Challenge: Being LGBTQ and a Minority with her spouse, Rebecca Oliver Kaplan. Avery is Features Editor at Comics Beat, and you can also find her writing on StarTrek.com, The Gutter Review, Geek Girl Authority, and in the margins of the books in her personal library.

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