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The Impossible - Ewan McGregor DVD interview

The Impossible

Compiled by Jack Foley

EWAN McGregor talks about some of the challenges – both emotional and physical – of making tsunami drama The Impossible. The film is out on Blu-ray and DVD on Monday, May 6.

Q. Did you find yourself thinking of your own family when filming this movie?
Ewan McGregor: I wouldn’t make parallels with my family because I have never been in a situation like that with my kids and, goodness, let’s hope that we are never in that situation. But I had three phenomenal acting boys who became my boys. Was I thinking about my children? I was just thinking about these boys I was working with because I felt that we created a family together with the five of us. At the beginning of the film, the first eight minutes of the movie, we shot that first in Thailand. And we created that bond during rehearsal where we were getting to know each other. So I didn’t have to utilize thoughts of my own kids. I just thought about them.

Q. Do you remember the moment when you heard about the real tsunami?
Ewan McGregor: I don’t. I remember hearing about it and being horrified about it but I don’t remember where I was.

Q. Did you meet the real Spanish family upon whose story the film is based?
Ewan McGregor: I didn’t meet them before the film started, but I met them in Thailand for the first time. It was in the hotel they left in 2004 on the day of the tsunami. They arrived back there and it was extraordinarily emotional for them. They’d never returned to Thailand since the tsunami. They had wanted to but they couldn’t do it until they could all do it together. And it was this film that brought them back. They arrived back after we had shot in the hotel, doing all the sequences before the water came. Then we went off to do other scenes while the art department destroyed the hotel, basically, and turned the hotel into the post-tsunami hotel and that is when the family came back. They came back and were faced with The Orchid as it had been after the water had hit.

Q. What were their reactions?
Ewan McGregor: Maria is a very open woman, an emotional woman, and she talks very beautifully and eloquently about how she feels about that experience in her life. So, she very much wears her heart on her sleeve. But some of the boys are quiet about it and the father, Henry, is a very quiet man, a gentle man, a very nice guy but you wouldn’t be able to read his emotions. It struck them all in very different ways.

Q. When you shoot a harrowing a film like this can you have a laugh and crack a joke when the cameras are off, or is the tense atmosphere pervasive?
Ewan McGregor: It was a strange film to make in that respect for lots of reasons. And the main one being that it is a true story and it happened and there was a real disaster and thousands of people lost their lives in the tsunami. Thousands lost loved ones. You carry that with you all the time. And we should, because it is our responsibility to respect that and to respect all those people. It is a complicated scenario because you are putting a movie camera and recreating something that really happened in Thailand.

The Thai crew was all affected by the tsunami, so you carry that responsibility and you never ever want to feel that you are using it for the purposes of the movie but yet you are making a movie. You want the movie to be as good as possible and as effective as possible because if you are going to tell the story you want to tell it well. You are also dealing with the kids and for my part I was dealing with the younger two boys for a lot of my story line. But yeah, after work you have to let it go somehow. And the Thai people have bounced back. It is a place where people go on holiday. They want people to be enjoying themselves and people seem to me to have a very healthy memory about the tsunami and what it meant but also they want things to move forward and they want to rebuild their country.

Q. Did you have second thoughts, because making a film might seem like trivializing the real horror?
Ewan McGregor: No. The objective is to tell the story and I felt by looking at this one family’s story it might help me understand the tsunami in a much broader sense. I think the numbers are so horrendous you can’t wrap your head around it, but by focussing on one story you get some kind of understanding. And it is a film about human beings and I like to be involved in films that are about that, the exploration of what makes us tick in these situations. I think films should be allowed to do that. It is a story about survival and our instinct to survive and how strong that is and also the human instinct to help other people, which I think comes out in situations like this. People selflessly putting their lives at risk to help others is something you hear a lot about in situations like this.

Q. Did you encounter any cynicism when you first arrived in Thailand?
Ewan McGregor: No. I don’t think we did. I never head anything negative. What was a problem was terrible weather. The day of the real tsunami was a beautiful day and a lot of survivors have talked about that.. In the middle of this horror you would look up and the sky would be absolutely blue and it was a beautiful day and because we were shooting outside you couldn’t really recreate that sunlight. So we couldn’t shoot it in the rain — we had to wait for sunlight. We would be waiting and waiting and then there would be a gap in the clouds and we would go ‘Okay, now is the time’ and we would all get ready and the cameras would roll and you’d hear, ‘Action!’ Then it would pour with rain again immediately. It was spooky how often that happened!

The Impossible is released on Blu-ray and DVD on Monday, May 6, 2013.

Read our review