Ewan McGregor Admits He 'Had Never Heard' of Halston Before Playing the Designer in New Series
Still, the actor said he "could tell instantly from the photographs" that he wanted the role
Ewan McGregor had never heard of Roy Halston Frowick before being asked by writer-director Dan Minahan (Game of Thrones) to play the legendary fashion designer in the upcoming Netflix series, Halston. But after seeing pictures of the tastemaker and his iconic inner circle, the actor was sold on the role.
"To find out that he was so massively famous in his time and I had never heard of him — that didn't make much sense to me," McGregor told The Hollywood Reporter of the '70s superstar.
"I didn't know Dan Minahan and I didn't know Halston," McGregor, 50, added in a new interview with the outlet. "I was just really taken with the presentation. He showed me all these photographs of Halston and the people in his circle — Liza Minnelli, [jewelry designer] Elsa Peretti, [his lover] Victor Hugo."
"I could tell instantly from the photographs: I wanted to play him. Just something about the way he holds himself, something in his eyes," McGregor added.
According to THR, Minahan had been trying to make a feature film about Halston for almost 20 years, before re-pitching the idea as a limited series based on the biographical novel Simply Halston by Steven Gaines in 2019.
With the Star Wars alum on board, Minahan began approaching streaming services. "It was a hard sell," he admitted. That is, until Ryan Murphy (the creative force behind some of the most talked-about shows of the last decade including Glee, Pose and American Horror Story) heard about the project.
"Ryan jumped right in and said, 'Don't give it to anyone else,'" Minahan recalled. "Suddenly we got fast-tracked into production."
During the interview, McGregor also said he had concerns about playing a gay character and addressed a 2019 Hollywood Reporter Actor Roundtable conversion during which Pose star Billy Porter said, "If 'flamboyantly' wasn't in the description of the character, no one would see me ever for anything. Straight men playing gay — everyone wants to give them an award."
"I hear the discussion and I respect both sides of it, I really do," McGregor said. "I haven't walked in Billy Porter's shoes. I don't know what it's like to lose out parts when you might feel it's to do with your sexuality. So I can only respect his point of view."
The Birds of Prey actor continued: "If it had been a story about Halston's sexuality more, then maybe it's right that gay actors should play that role. But in this case — and I don't want to sound like I'm worming out of this, because it's something I did think a lot about — I suppose ultimately I felt like it was just one part of who he was."
Last week, Netflix released the premiere date of the project, along with the key art and a collection of Andy Warhol-inspired polaroid photos of the cast, including Krysta Rodriguez as Minnelli, Rebecca Dayan as Peretti, Gian Franco Rodriguez as Hugo and Bill Pullman as David Mahoney. On Wednesday, new photos on-set (included here) were also unveiled by THR and the streaming service.
Halston will follow the fashion designer — who introduced ultra-suede and hot-pants to mainstream America and inked a deal with mass retailer J.C. Penney while outfitting Studio 54 frequents like Cher, Bianca Jagger and Lauren Hutton — as he builds a brand synonymous with "luxury, sex, status and fame" in New York City during the 1970s and '80s.
It will also show the late designer's downfall when a "hostile takeover forces him to battle for control of his most precious asset… the name Halston itself," a Netflix description reads, referencing the tension between the designer and corporate executives.
Murphy recently opened up to Vogue's Hamish Bowles about what attracted him to the upcoming series.
"I grew up in Indiana—where Halston is from—surrounded by cornfields and churches, and I always heard about two people who had gotten out and gone on to bigger, glamorous things: One was Florence Henderson, and one was Halston," the American Crime Story producer said. "He was always a big figure in my mind—a representation of somebody who had come from humble beginnings and had gone on to do something incredible with his life—and I was always moved by him."
Reflecting on Halston's public persona, Murphy said, "I think, [the designer] used drugs and sex as a release from the pressure, from the creation, from the worry of having the lights turned off, and we made sure to dramatize that."
"Many creative people burn out from too much sex, too much drugs or alcohol, too much pressure," he continued. "So we wanted to be careful to make that part of his creative experience."