“Is there a ’37 Dresses, but with Oscars’ joke to make here, or is that an obscure reference even for us?”
~Our Research Staff
Here’s a sentence you didn’t expect to read today. Let’s talk about Ewan McGregor.
Specifically, Ewan McGregor’s ability to star in, and anchor, both blockbuster films as well as critical darlings, without putting enough attention on himself to warrant award recognition.
Consider this. The 49-year-old British actor’s first onscreen appearance was 28 years ago. In that time, he has 91 credits to his name, won a Golden Globe for his work on Fargo‘s third season, and has two additional Golden Globe nomination alongside three Emmy nominations.
But he’s never once been nominated for an Academy Award.
For 99% of actors, this is not exactly surprising. There are plenty of actors who are household names, with plenty of credits, who have never even sniffed award season. But give us a moment to call bullshit.
How Has Ewan McGregor Not Gotten an Oscar Nomination?
Ewan McGregor has spent his entire career playing a wide range of roles in various acclaimed films. He’s good as a campy villain, he’s good as a romantic lead, he’s good as the doting son of an infirmed parent, and he was like, fine as a Jedi.
But, for whatever reason, he has never been seen as an Academy Award nominated actor, despite acting in so many Academy Award nominated films it’s starting to feel that adding McGregor to your cast is a guaranteed way to boost your odds for an Oscar nomination.
We crunched some numbers, and what we found was wild.
Of the 64 theatrically released films he has appeared in, 17 have been nominated for at least an Academy Award. That means that more than a quarter of the feature films (26.5%) that Ewan McGregor has appeared in ended up with an Oscar nomination. That’s insane. We should also point out, he’s been nominated for a Golden Globe for two films that he appeared in, and one of those, Salmon Fishing in the Jungle, got three Golden Globe nominations…but not a single Oscar nomination, despite the fact that, again, statistically, 1 in every 4 film with Ewan McGregor will get some Academy love.
Those 17 films have been nominated for 36 Academy Awards, with a total of six statues. But here’s where things also get even wilder. Between 2005 and 2010, McGregor was in ten films that failed to earn an Oscar nomination (by far the longest stretch of his career). This period included roles in some films with cult appeal (The Men Who Stare at Goats and I Love You Phillip Morris each came out in 2009) as well as some films that were clearly easy paychecks (Angels and Demons, also in 2009).
So outside of this five year stretch, it was three times as likely that there would be a McGregor film with an Oscar nomination than there not being one. From 1996 to 2005, the only years where he wasn’t a part of an Academy Award nominated film were 1997, 2000, and 2004. And from 2010 onward, he’s only missed having an invite to the Academy Award ceremony in 2011, 2014 and 2016. And that’s failing to consider that Birds of Prey very possibly will end up with at least some special effects, costumes, or makeup nominations.
Let’s dive into those seventeen films as a way to salute Ewan McGregor, Hollywood’s most game awards bridesmaid.
Star Wars Episode IX: Rise of Skywalker (2019) (voice): Nominated for Score, Visual and Sound Effects
Admittedly, maybe part of the reason the numbers are so skewed is that McGregor has technically appeared in five Star Wars films, and Star Wars films, even when bad, are a shoo-in for at least technical awards (with one hilarious exception coming up). Still, “the Star Wars movie that tried to erase the previous Star Wars movie” still featured the voice of Ewan McGregor, and got Academy love as a result.
Christopher Robin (2018): Nominated for Special Effects
Oh right, he was in this wasn’t he?
Listen, not all Oscar-nominated films are memorable. But not all memorable actors have Oscar nominations.
Beauty and the Beast (2017): Nominated for Costume and Production Design
Ewan McGregor played the candlestick in the live-action Beauty and the Beast movie. This movie made $1.26 billion dollars. Maybe that’s just as much of a pointed indictment of the film industry as our overly long “26.5% of every film with Ewan McGregor has an Oscar nomination, but he doesn’t” article, but who’s to say.
Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015) (voice, uncredited): Nominated for Film Editing, Score, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, and Visual Effects
This one again feels like it’s cheating, but hey, it still counts. What really is distressing to think about is that The Force Awakens was nominated for more Oscars than any other Star Wars film outside of A New Hope.
August: Osage County (2013): Nominated for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress
Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep were nominated for this film that pretty much existed so that the two very famous and successful actresses in this movie could get Oscar nominations, and we never saw it so we can’t tell you how our boy Ewan was in it. But it couldn’t have been too hard to just toss him a Best Supporting nod here for whatever he was doing, Academy.
The Impossible (2012): Nominated for Best Actress
We do not remember this movie at all, despite it earning nearly $200 million in the box office and garnering an Academy Award nomination for Naomi Watts (who has two more Oscar nominations than Ewan McGregor, though only 12% of her films have been nominated for an Oscar). But from this picture alone, we think Ewan should have gotten nominated in this film about the 2004 tsunami.
Beginners (2010): Won for Best Supporting Actor
McGregor’s understated performance as the grieving son is the lead role of this Oscar nominated film. While Christopher Plumber’s turn as a gay father coming out of the closet at the age of 75 only to come down with cancer four years later rightfully earned him an Academy Award, McGregor’s performance at least deserved a nomination in a year that Colin Firth won for playing a king who stutters.
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005): Nominated for Best Makeup (lol)
Revenge of the Sith is generally considered the best of the prequel films, so it’s kind of an impressive slap in the face that they didn’t give it any score, sound, or visual effects nominations. Instead the Academy was just like, “nice makeup job, we guess.”
Big Fish (2003): Nominated for Best Original Score
Honestly, when we first started writing this article, we thought Ewan McGregor was the son, listening to Albert Finney talk about his past. Turns out we mis-remembered this film. Billy Crudup (18% Oscar nomination rate, though only over 39 films) plays the son, Ewan McGregor (again, 26.5% over 64 films) played the younger version of Albert Finney in this movie that served as the last time that Tim Burton directed a movie that could be describe as, “large in scope, but still understated.” Keep in mind, Burton followed up this film with this kind of shit.
Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002): Nominated for Best Visual Effects
The less we talk about Attack of the Clones the better.
Black Hawk Down (2001): Won for Best Sound and Best Film Editing, Nominated for Best Cinematography and Director
2001 saw Ewan McGregor flex in a way that few actors manage in their career. He was in only two films that year, but those films were nominated for 12 Academy Awards and won four. But as much as “top-billed soldier in a critically acclaimed war film” is ripe for an Oscar nomination, it’s his other 2001 film that represents his biggest Academy snuff.
Moulin Rouge (2001): Won for Best Set Direction and Costume Design, Nominated for Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Makeup and Best Sound
Listen, this movie was built so Nicole Kidman (20% nomination rate, with one win and four nominations) could shine, but considering it was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actress, it’s pretty insulting that McGregor was left off the nomination list in a year that saw Sean Penn nominated for going full…well you know.
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999): Nominated for Best Sound, Best Sound Effects, and Best Visual Effects
We don’t need to talk about this.
Little Voice (1998): Nominated for Best Supporting Actress
We did not know anything about this movie, but people who are actively obsessed with Ewan McGregor (despite *gestures wildly at this article* we’re more genuinely curious than actively obsessed) have seen this movie. McGregor had a supporting role in this film about a shy, reclusive woman who is encouraged to sing. We think there’s a fire involved at some point?
Anyway, the domineering mother in this film got an Oscar nomination. This was the 12th movie McGregor ever appeared in, and was the 4th film to be nominated. We’re no math wizards here, but that seems like he started his career at a 33% Oscar nomination rate.
Velvet Goldmine (1998): Nominated for Best Costume Design
There are two vastly different demographics of people who have been huge fans of Ewan McGregor since the start of his career. You’re either a huge fan because of Trainspotting (his fourth film ever) or his role in the glam rock musical drama Velvet Goldmine. We need to stress this—between the age of 25 and 27, Ewan McGregor was in four Oscar nominated films. In three of these films, he played an avatar for Iggy Pop, a heroin junky, and a suiter in a Jane Austen adaptation.
How has this man not even gotten a single nomination!? Ben Affleck (18%) has two wins (though no acting nominations) (but still).
Emma (1996): Won Best Music, Nominated for Best Costume Design
Lol look at that hat and hair. We’re not going to argue he was robbed of an Oscar nom for this one.
Trainspotting (1996): Nominated for Best Screenplay
In his career, Ewan McGregor has played a junkie and a Jedi, a clone and a cartoonist, a solider and a singer. And while he’s never been deemed worthy of consideration as one of the “top five performers of a given year”, he’s always managed to find himself a part of films deemed worthy of Academy recognition.
So it’s fitting that, when roughly one out of every four Ewan McGregor film gets an Oscar nomination, that the first Oscar-nominated film featuring Ewan McGregor was the fourth film he ever did. Who’s to say if John Hodge’s screenplay of the Danny Boyle classic would have been nominated if a different actor was in place to center the lead role. All we know is, statistically, adding Ewan McGregor definitely helped its chances.