Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning Philip Roth novel, American Pastoral follows an all American family across several decades, as their idyllic existence is shattered by social and political turmoil that will change the fabric of American culture forever. Ewan McGregor makes his directorial debut and stars as Seymour “Swede” Levov, a once legendary high school athlete who is now a successful businessman married to Dawn (Jennifer Connelly), a former beauty queen. But turmoil brews beneath the polished veneer of Swede’s life. When his beloved daughter, Merry (Dakota Fanning), disappears after being accused of committing a violent act, Swede dedicates himself to finding her and reuniting his family. What he discovers shakes him to the core, forcing him to look beneath the surface and confront the chaos that is shaping the modern world around him: no American family will ever be the same.
Ewan McGregor – the two-time Golden Globe nominee known for his wide-ranging roles in films spanning from ‘Trainspotting’, ‘Velvet Goldmine’ and ‘Moulin Rouge’ to the acclaimed dramas ‘Ghost Writer’ and ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen’ – was attached to play the central character of the Swede long before signing on to direct ‘American Pastoral’.
Ultimately, it was his love of the material that led to his decision to take a leap into his feature film directorial debut. “I was very moved by the script and I was completely taken by the Swede and the study of father daughter relationships,” he says. “He’s a man who believes very much in living his life the right way. He’s a product of the post-war era and he absolutely embodies the idea that there was once a seemingly attainable American Dream. In a sense, the Swede is the American Dream and his daughter Merry is the 1960s.”
McGregor knew this was a rare opportunity. “I’ve always wanted to direct, but I didn’t want to just direct for the sake of it,” explains McGregor. “I wanted to have a story that I was compelled to tell.”
Screenwriter John Romano says of his collaboration with McGregor, “Ewan understood Roth’s novel so well that when we began to collaborate, he pushed me even more towards the meaning of what Roth had written. The best example I can give is that the movie begins with a line that wasn’t there until Ewan became the director.”
Jennifer Connelly adds: “He’s a joy to be around and to work with. He’s so kind and generous and had a really nice way of communicating with everyone. He made a lot of time for his actors; we had a great rehearsal and very constructive rehearsal period.”
The actors were equally exhilarated to work with him in this new way. “It was my first time with an actor who was also directing the film and I could not have asked for a better experience than with Ewan,” says Dakota Fanning. “Watching him balance acting and directing has been really inspiring to me. He’s been able to support everyone and shows great respect for the entire cast and crew.”
CAST: American Pastoral
Ewan McGregor, Jennifer Connelly, Dakota Fanning, Uzo Aduba
DIRECTOR: American Pastoral