By Stephen M. Silverman
May 19, 2003 01:00 PM

In the wake of two “Star Wars” movies, the musical “Moulin Rouge” and the current kitschy retro romance “Down With Love” — in which he basically played second fiddle to the sets and effects — Scottish actor Ewan McGregor has gotten back to his roots.

He has surfaced in a new gritty drama similar to his astounding launching pad in 1996’s “Trainspotting,” say reports from the Cannes Film Festival.

The new vehicle, says Reuters, is “Young Adam,” a grim drama set in ’50s Scotland. “Cannes 2003 has seen its first critical hit,” the Screen International trade paper said of his performance as a young drifter who finds work on a barge, and then finds the body of a woman floating in the water. The reception for McGregor was warm at the film’s screening this weekend.

“I had quite a run of big ones with ‘Star Wars,’ ‘Moulin Rouge’ and ‘Black Hawk Down.’ That’s great, they were fantastic all of them,” McGregor, 32, told Reuters. Still, he said, “I had a feeling … that I certainly wanted to do something smaller.”

“Young Adam,” however, was certainly something smaller. “I read it and I had the same gut feeling when I read the ‘Trainspotting’ script for the first time,” he said. “It was one of those one in a million roles.”

In “Trainspotting,” McGregor memorably and symbolically climbed into a toilet in his depiction of the highs and lows of being a heroin addict.

“The excitement and adrenaline you get from making a small film is that you all have to pull together,” said the actor. “There are fewer of you and I love that, the fact that you know everyone. On a film like ‘Star Wars’ or ‘Moulin Rouge,’ at the end of the film you still do not know some of the people who made it because there were hundreds of them.”

Not that he’s turning his back on his role as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the George Lucas epics set in a galaxy far, far away.

McGregor’s next work will be his third Star Wars epic, which is in now in pre-production for a projected 2005 release. “I find the process very difficult,” he said. “It couldn’t be more opposite to the experience on this film.”