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Ewan McGregor Recalls “Star Wars: Phantom Menace” Getting 'Hammered' by Bad Reviews: 'That Was Hard'

“The first one was panned and we still had to make another two!” said Ewan McGregor of his first time playing Obi-Wan Kenobi

<p> Jeff Spicer/Getty Images for Disney; Lucasfilm Ltd./courtesy Everett</p> (Left to right:) Ewan McGregor in 2023, in "Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace"

Jeff Spicer/Getty Images for Disney; Lucasfilm Ltd./courtesy Everett

(Left to right:) Ewan McGregor in 2023, in "Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace"

Ewan McGregor is getting candid about playing Obi-Wan Kenobi in a galaxy far, far away.

The Scottish actor, 52, began playing one of the most iconic characters in the Star Wars universe in George Lucas’ 1999 prequel Episode I – The Phantom Menace

“I am happy that I am this character for a lot of people,” the actor told Variety in an interview published Wednesday. McGregor inherited the role from Alec Guinness, who played the mysterious Jedi in the 1997 Star Wars later titled Episode IV – A New Hope.

But the critical reception to Phantom Menace was less than warm, McGregor noted. “When these films came out, they were so disliked,” he said of the prequel trilogy. “That was hard.”

He added, “The first one was panned and we still had to make another two! It was weird to be in a film that was hammered.”

Related: Ewan McGregor Says He Used to Show His Kids the Disgusting ‘Trainspotting’ Toilet Scene ‘For a Laugh’

<p>20th Century Fox Licensing/Merchandising / Everett Collection</p> Ewan McGregor in "Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones"

20th Century Fox Licensing/Merchandising / Everett Collection

Ewan McGregor in "Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones"

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Set 32 years before the original trilogy starring Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford, Phantom Menace starred McGregor alongside Liam Neeson as his mentor, Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn. Natalie Portman starred as the young Padmé Amidala, queen of Naboo, while Jake Lloyd introduced audiences to the Force-sensitive child Anakin Skywalker — who would later become the villainous Darth Vader.

McGregor, speaking from the Göteborg Film Festival in Sweden, added that he felt “very reluctant” to play Obi-Wan at first.

“It wasn’t a done deal for me. I didn’t think it was at all who I was. I believed, at that point, I was a Danny Boyle actor. [His 2000 film] The Beach was more important and I meant it, it wasn’t flippant. I did ask a lot of people for advice.”

<p>AJ Pic/Alamy</p> (Left to right:) Natalie Portman, Liam Neeson, Jake Lloyd and Ewan McGregor in "Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace"

AJ Pic/Alamy

(Left to right:) Natalie Portman, Liam Neeson, Jake Lloyd and Ewan McGregor in "Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace"

Despite the reaction to Phantom Menace, McGregor reprised his role — alongside Hayden Christensen as Anakin — in 2002’s Attack of the Clones and 2005’s Revenge of the Sith. After another trilogy of films, the actor reappeared in the Emmy-winning Disney+ series Obi-Wan Kenobi, the 2022 miniseries devoted to his character following the events of Sith.

“I would love to do the second season, but there’s no talk of it yet,” McGregor told Variety. “There is a lot going on at Disney.”

Related: 'Obi-Wan Kenobi' 's Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen on 'Nice' Fan Reactions to 'Star Wars' Prequels

In an interview with Conan O'Brien in September, Neeson, 71, admitted he and McGregor "automatically" started voicing lightsaber noises when they pulled out their weapons while filming Phantom Menace. 

"George [Lucas] said, 'Uh, let's cut there. Boys, we can add that in later,'" Neeson joked.

McGregor will next appear in the film Bleeding Love (in theaters Feb. 16), costarring his daughter Clara.

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