Ewan McGregor recalls his embarrassing first meeting with George Lucas about ‘Star Wars’

Phantom menace submarine
‘Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace.’ Lucasfilm

While promoting his directorial debut “American Pastoral” (opening on Friday), an adaptation of Philip Roth’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1997 novel, Ewan McGregor couldn’t escape looking back on his work on the “Star Wars” prequels.

Talking to The Hollywood Reporter for its Masters interview series, McGregor took us back to one of his most embarrassing moments: his first meeting with franchise creator George Lucas.

“I remember going there, meeting George, and being allowed to read the script,” McGregor said, referring to his first visit to the north London studio where they’d shoot “Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace.” “I had to read it in the producer’s office — like, literally, being almost locked in with the script, so that it doesn’t get leaked — and then being shown around the sets with George. There was a great big submarine thing that I end up in with Liam [Neeson] and Jar Jar Binks.  And I remember looking at this huge polystyrene thing [that had been made to look like a] submarine, and there was a cockpit. And I looked at it and I went, ‘Will we go under?’ He looked at me and went, ‘What?’ I said, ‘Will we go underwater with it?’ And he looked at me like I was insane. He said, ‘None of that is real, you know.’ And I went, ‘Oh. Yeah.'”   

Though the submarine scene would be shot in a studio with green screen, McGregor said “Phantom Menace” did have some practical sets.

“There was like an environment to work in and as we got into episode two and three, they moved the shoot to Australia, and by that point it became more and more blue screen and green screen,” he said. “I thought it was a shame.”

McGregor recalls working alongside a puppet of Yoda in “Phantom Menace.”

“I worked with Yoda, like it was on set,” he said. “Frank Oz I think was operating him with his team of people… It was amazing. You’d be really in the moment with Yoda and then they would go cut and all the puppeteers would stop… And then by episode two and three, he was, and R2D2 was the same way. It was computer-generated. It was a shame not to be sort of working with the real thing.”

Watch the complete interview with McGregor below:

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