"The Vatican weren't throwing their doors open for us as they were still upset over 'The Da Vinci Code.' ... We've been asked a lot about the controversy with the Vatican but no one has made it clear what the controversy is!," the actor said in an interview for ABC News Now's "Popcorn" with Peter Travers.
McGregor portrays Camerlengo Patrick McKenna in "Angels & Demons," adapted from Dan Brown's bestselling novel. Camerlengo is Italian for chamberlain, and in the Roman Catholic Church, he is one of the Pope's advisors. Though "Angels & Demons" was written as a prequel to "The Da Vinci Code," this movie presents it as a sequel.
As Camerlengo, McGregor's character, Patrick McKenna, runs the Vatican in the interim after the Pope's mysterious death before the Cardinals elect a new pope. McGregor defends the film, saying, "It's a very old school, fast-paced thriller with bombs ticking in the background and set in the world of the Vatican. There is nothing anti-Catholic nor anti-Christian about it."
McGregor insists that, at the heart of the film, the conflict is mainly between science and religion. The parties within the Catholic faith who are represented as evildoers are found out and punished by the cardinals and thus, McGregor insists, the Catholic Church as a whole is not tarnished.
Working with Howard was a good experience for McGregor, but the man who he credits with having gotten the best work out of him is "Slumdog Millionaire's" Danny Boyle. Boyle directed McGregor in "Shallow Grave," "Trainspotting" and "A Life Less Ordinary," a romantic comedy with Cameron Diaz.
In "Trainspotting" McGregor played Renton, a heroin addict; he lost a lot of weight and shaved his head for the role. Shortly after the movie was made, McGregor married Eve Mavrakis in France. They had to do a blood test for the marriage license to rule out STDs and he recalls, "There I was sitting looking gaunt with people coming in and saying that's Ewan McGregor looking thin at a sexually transmitted disease center."
Despite his early success with Boyle, McGregor sadly admits he has not worked with him since 1997's "A Life Less Ordinary." McGregor and Leonardo DiCaprio were in contention to play the lead in Boyle's adaptation of the backpacker fantasy "The Beach" and DiCaprio eventually got the role. "We haven't spoken to each other since then, which is a great shame," he says.
McGregor is an indie cinema icon from his work in "The Pillow Book," and "Velvet Goldmine," among others. But maybe his biggest impact on cinema will be the role of Obi Wan Kenobi in the recent "Star Wars" trilogy. He pays tribute to the original Obi Wan, insisting he wasn't creating something new: "My job was to play Alec Guinness as a younger man. I created it from his performance."