New documentary reveals how Ewan McGregor was nearly dropped from first major film role

It was the film that propelled Ewan McGregor into the limelight as Scotland's hottest film star of the 1990s.

Ewan McGregor shot to fame with his starring role in Shallow Grave, a thriller which focused on three flatmates in Edinburgh's New Town whose lives spiral out of control after the dispose of the dead body of a new roommate.

But now Scots movie mogul Andrew Macdonald has revealed that McGregor's film career was nearly derailed before it got off the ground - after Channel 4 wanted him ditched as the star of Shallow Grave and the production “ran out of money.”

Speaking in a new BBC Scotland documentary, he revealed that he had to borrow props from his parents house for the making of the movie, which also launched the career director Danny Boyle and screenwriter John Hodge.

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In the documentary, fronted by Kirsty Wark, Macdonald said they had also come under pressure to drop McGregor as the star of Trainspotting as he was seen as too good looking for the role.

The next instalment of the BBC Scotland series, The Years That Changed Modern Scotland, examines the cultural revolution that unfolded in Scotland in the 1990s and recalls a golden era for Scottish film thanks to the worldwide success of Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, Rob Roy and Braveheart.

Macdonald and Hodge started developing Shallow Grave after meeting at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in 1991. Although set in Edinburgh, most of the 30-day shoot was in Glasgow due to its low budget.

Macdonald said: “At that time in the early 1990s, obviously we were all sons and daughters of Thatcherism. I certainly felt that I wanted to be entrepreneurial. You felt you could do it them.

“We had started making these video diaries. What we made them was about trying to raise the money Shallow Grave.

We sort of knew what we thought was wrong with British and Scottish film. One of the things was they weren’t telling stories about young people.

"Kerry Fox had been in (the feature film) Angel at my Table and she was really the one that got it green-lit. It wasn’t those two men.

"Channel 4 had a real wobble about Ewan McGregor and Christopher Eccleston at the time, which is a hard thing to believe and is how things change.

“We literally were running out of film. I had to keep the film in my office and sort of give it out as there was no more. The office was a portakabin in a warehouse in Maryhill.

Christopher Eccleston, Ewan McGregor and Kerry Fox played the three Edinburgh flatmates in Shallow Grave.

“We did literally run out of money. I had to take a prop truck to my parents’ house and fill it up with coffee cups, candelabras and all these other things because we’d built this huge flat and didn’t have enough money to fill it.”

Macdonald, Boyle and Hodge reunited to make Trainspotting and would also work together with McGregor on A Life Less Ordinary before a much-publicised rift with the director when Leonardo DiCaprio was chosen for the lead role in their fourth film, The Beach.

Recalling the making of Trainspotting, Macdonald said: “A friend of mine gave me the book when we were finishing Shallow Grave.

It was the same thing for me. It was about young people. I loved the fact it was written in the vernacular and it was funny.

"We made that decision (to cast McGregor), which was very controversial, because lots of people thought it had to be really grungy. They thought Ewan was too handsome, too attractive, too pretty.”

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