Danny Boyle’s second film, this time an adaptation of the “seminal” Irvine Welsh novel. McGregor has gone with big, feathery ‘dos, and here he shows that he can cut it close, to the core. The less hair he has, the closer we get to the skull, cutting into the meat beneath the bone, which is especially nice in a fun and fairly lighthearted film about junkies parading through the most economically depressed parts of Edinburgh.
Film rating: Like you need me to tell you about Trainspotting. Puh-leaze. Hair rating: A serious upgrade from his hair in Danny Boyle’s first film, Shallow Grave, which had the whimsy of a youthful rebellion and kind of a David Cassidy thing going on. 5 out of 5 Scottish Manes.
The Pillow Book, 1996:
This is one of those curious erotic art movies that a whole generation discovered on free premium cable weekends in their youth, this reviewer included. You start to get the sense that Ewan McGregor would be much happier showing you his cock in his movies than not showing you his cock. Insert your own lightsaber joke in there somewhere. That said, we’ll be sticking to ratings of the hair on his head here, and not his public hair (which doesn’t seem to change). Also, here’s a fact that I’m making up: McGregor’s hair in this film is an intentional homage to Brando’s coif in Last Tango In Paris, long and wild and reeking of the desperation of a pale young man desperate to find himself in the world and in the arms of exotic beauties.
Film rating: If you haven’t seen this, you should. Did I not mention that it was erotic? Hair rating: The same 3 out of 5 Scottish Manes that Shallow Grave got.
A Life Less Ordinary, 1997:
Another seriously underrated Danny Boyle crime thriller, delightfully silly, and features what 1/5th of movies from the 90s had: a story about a girl being kidnapped by socially awkward boy and the bloom of romance that comes from it. Also, like 1/10th of 90s movies, it featured Cameron Diaz. As L. P. Hartley said, “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there,” and with that in mind, the 90s seems like the other side of the fucking world from now. Similar to his hair from Shallow Grave, though equally more spunky and muted, I would affectionately call this “Britpop hair.” Danny Boyle later temporarily adopted Leonardo Dicaprio as his leading man, which is odd, because Leo’s hair is so boring.
Film rating: This is not yet the cult classic that it should be. Hair rating: 4 out of 5 Scottish Manes for McGregor’s cross between a helmet of hair and a mullet.
Velvet Goldmine, 1998:
Ewan McGregor stars as Curt Wild, a glam rock star in the 70s who is basically patterned after Iggy Pop with a dash of Lou Reed sprinkled in. Jonathan Rhys Meyers is playing a mash up of David Bowie and Marc Bolan, and the film also features Christian Bale, Toni Collette, Eddie Izzard, and a character playing Oscar Wilde and homages to the works of Jean Genet and Orson Welles. Obviously this is the ultimate 90s film about flirting with one’s sexuality, which has been a recurring buzz point in McGregor’s career, showing that he’s perfectly comfortable not living within the lines of what is considered in the typical in heterosexuality. McGregor’s “Britpop hair” returns, which is fitting considering Britpop itself was just repackaged youth culture from the late 60s and early 70s.
Soundtrack rating: 3 out of 5 Satellites Of Love. Film rating: Not a perfect movie, but there is a some dazzle for rock fans. Hair rating: Curt Wild has a Haircut Wild? Sorry.
The Star Wars prequel trilogy (The Phantom Menace, 1997, Attack Of The Clones, 2002, Revenge Of The Sith, 2005):
Film students and those interested in modern mythmaking should be studying Ewan McGregor’s hair in these films, especially since there’s a progression that ties these prequels to a series of sequels that were created 30 years earlier, but take place in the future of these films, and all of it is set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. George Lucas obviously paid close attention to Joseph Campbell’s chapters on The Hero’s Hair Journey. Ewan McGregor is continuously the best part of these films, bringing serious charm and the closest to what could be called depth to any of the characters. He’s playful and rogue-ish as need be, continuously winking at and nudging the audience along for the ride.
You can actually watch McGregor shed his indie roots, filaments, and tresses and take on the more glamorous Hollywood trim:
Film(s) rating: The films get continuously better. Hair rating: 5 out of 5 Scottish Manes for the entire trilogy, though I find it hard to believe that Alec Guinness ever had hair this cool or quite so action packed in his youth.
Eye Of The Beholder, 1999:
This movie is both wonderful and terrible at the same time. Had it been more competently directed it could have been politely referred to as a misfire of a Hitchock homage. It co-stars Ashley Judd and features meaningful/slightly less than meaningful cameos by Geneviève Bujold, K. D. Lang, and Jason Priestly. Bujold’s character introduces a certain motif of protected identity, as preserved from a certain chameleonic appearance, specifically the need to have a plethora of wigs at your disposal so people won’t know the real you, including yourself. Even though this was the beginning of the end of his career as a leading man in Hollywood (the Michael Bay “thriller” The Island was the final nail in that coffin), Ewan McGregor’s hair here is the prototype for a lot his mainstream fare ten years later.
Film rating: Just go watch 2003’s Young Adam instead, and prepare to be both bemused and aroused, sort of. Hair rating: 2 1/2 to 3 out of 5 Scottish Manes.
Moulin Rouge!, 2001:
The intersection of campiness and musical theater in McGregor’s career. If the producers of Glee were smart, they’d try to lure the actor into a guest starring role. The actor’s hair is dyed black here, and somewhat messy as he’s a lovelorn artistic type with no money or time for combing, at least not while there’s a love song in his heart. This hair returns in 2003’s curious pastiche of America’s 1960s sex comedies, Down With Love, only it’s slicked back and slightly Don Draper-esque, the powercut of a New York businessman.
Film rating: Whatever. Hair rating: 2 out of 5 Scottish Manes.
McGregor’s hair in this is a combination of a messy cut and a side parted straight cut, and it perfectly befits his academic hipster chicness within the film. In fact, this Marc Forster movie, which stars both McGregor as well as Ryan Gosling and Naomi Watts, is the perfect non-threatening pseudo thriller for the young couple with hipster leanings looking for something to watch together on the couch while they pontificate and grope one another.
Film rating: I wish I could convince people to like this movie as much as I do. Hair rating: As Morrissey said, “If your hair is wrong, your life is wrong,” and McGregor’s hair is not wrong here, so we’ll say just this side of a 5 out of 5 Scottish Manes.
Scenes Of A Sexual Nature, 2006: This reviewer actually hasn’t seen this film yet, but it’s brought up here solely because its title serves as a nice meta statement on McGregor’s career.
Angels & Demons, 2009:
McGregor plays a priest high up in the Vatican who is closely involved in murder mystery involving the late Pope that has ancient overtones. His hair is perfectly parted, and comes with a certain old world authority, or something you might see in a BBC period piece. Given the playful but good natured deviousness we’ve come to know and love from McGregor, the hair here seems slightly stiff and sinister. Spoiler alert: The hair is in character.
The Men Who Stare At Goats, 2009:
George Clooney only has two modes for his acting output, the first being to operate in a wacky and farcical manner, as in his films for the Coen brothers and here, and intense and direct, the George Clooney we all prefer, where he just stares at you and delivers cool monologues and looks cool. I would put forth that Ewan McGregor easily marries these two styles in every one of his performances, just dialing it up or down as the character/script require. If Roger Moore and Mark Wahlberg had a baby, it would be Ewan McGregor, only with highlander sex appeal and better hair from who knows where. Obviously the hair would be better, right? That’s why we’re here.
Film rating: For a film featuring George Clooney, Jeff Bridges, and Kevin Spacey as psychic warriors for the U.S. Government who call themselves “Jedi Warriors,” this should’ve been a lot better. Hair rating: A respectable 3.5 out of 5 Scottish Manes.
I Love You Phillip Morris, 2009:
McGregor’s hair went on quite a journey in the movies in 2009, but most vividly here, in this romantic comedy/drama in which we plays a sweet southern belle of a prison inmate who falls in love with Jim Carrey’s conman character. McGregor is basically playing Sookie Stackhouse but with a mash up of Greg Kinnear’s hair in As Good As It Gets and Peter O’Toole’s hair in Lawrence Of Arabia. Michael Fassbender would later borrow this hair for Prometheus.
Film rating: The film is energetic with a certain kind of sweetness at its core, so avoid if you’re prone to toothaches. Hair rating: Golden blonde hair (the sign of the dandy in Hollywood?) suits McGregor better than the jet back dye jobs of previous films, so 4 out of 5 Scottish Manes.
a vehicle for Gina Carano to beat the shit out of a lot of the hot young buzzworthy actors of today. Again McGregor brings a certain charm and glint in the eye to his role while sporting a playful take on a Hitler Youth haircut. Every young person who fronts a band should probably be sporting a version of this haircut currently.
Film rating: 2.5 out of 5 kicks in the face! Hair rating: 5 out of 5 Scottish Manes.
BONUS RATING: Ewan McGregor appearing on The Jonathan Ross Show in 2011, in which he starts off his appearance by jumping his motorcycle over a gaggle of British celebrities, including the brilliant Alan Partridge (Steve Coogan), while Cee-Lo watches from the wings:
McGregor’s hair here is pure smooth daredevil cool. The helmet comes off and the hair is completely untouched, just slicked bath and smooth and ready to party, and/or be interviewed. He unzips his jumpsuit and there’s talk show guest clothes waiting underneath, perfectly uncreased. Tell me that’s not a Bond move right there. And, it goes without saying, but look at how much cooler the guest’s hair is than the interviewer’s.
Jack The Giant Slayer, forthcoming in 2013:
The movie looks pretty unspectacular, but in the trailer Ewan McGregor appears to be sporting a fancy man’s spiked hair ‘do with a van dyke beard. That’s a winning combination if ever there was one.
Film rating: Looks like all the worst parts of Snow White And The Huntsman accentuated. Hair rating: 6 out of 5 Scottish Manes.