Ethan Hawke Recalls Losing Beloved Role To Ewan McGregor

ytsfreeSeptember 16, 2022

Ethan Hawke recalls losing out on the lead role in Moulin Rouge! to Ewan McGregor. Released in 2001, the romantic musical follows a young English poet, played by McGregor, who falls in love with the star of the titular cabaret, played by Nicole Kidman. Moulin Rouge! was directed and co-written by Baz Luhrmann, the same filmmaker behind 1996’s Romeo + Juliet, 2013’s The Great Gatsby, and this year’s Elvis movie.


Hawke and McGregor have now joined forces for the Apple film Raymond and Ray. Written and directed by Rodrigo García, the film follows McGregor and Hawke as two estranged half-brothers who reunite at their father’s funeral, with whom both had a rocky relationship. Other than the Star Wars and Moon Knight actors, the cast also includes Maribel Verdú, Sophie Okonedo, Maxim Swinton, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Chris Silcox, and Chris Grabher. Raymond and Ray is fresh off its world premiere at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival ahead of its October 21 release on Apple TV+.

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During an exclusive interview with Screen Rant promoting Raymond and Ray, Hawke recalls the time that his now co-star beat him out for the lead role in Moulin Rouge!. Though Hawke attests to giving “one of the greatest screen tests of [his] life,” it wasn’t enough to beat out McGregor for the part. Read what he said below:

Ewan doesn’t like this because he gets embarrassed, but I gave one of the greatest screen tests of my life for Moulin Rouge. I did not get the part. I crushed this audition. And it just goes to show you how much I like Ewan’s work. I still went to see the movie on opening day and loved it. So, I got over it.

But I will say, someday that audition will be seen and people are gonna rethink. [Laughs]

Although Hawke lost out on the lead role in Moulin Rouge! to McGregor, his career didn’t suffer long-term as a result. The same year the musical was released, Hawke starred in Training Day alongside Denzel Washington and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. This is one of Hawke’s two Oscar nominations for acting, the second coming in 2014 for Richard Linklater’s Boyhood. His Moulin Rouge! performance likely would’ve been very different from McGregor’s, and the idea of him starring in the film makes one wonder how Luhrmann’s musical would have been different with him on board. Hawke might’ve channeled the same earnestness McGregor did, or perhaps he would’ve found different shades to the lovelorn Christian.

Everything worked out well for Moulin Rouge! and McGregor in the end, too. In addition to being a commercial success, Luhrmann’s lavish musical won multiple Oscars and was lauded by critics, with much of the praise going towards Kidman and McGregor’s performances. Hawke’s audition might’ve been excellent, but McGregor was ultimately the better fit. Today, there’s nothing but a friendly rivalry between Hawke and McGregor but hopefully, someday, that Moulin Rouge! audition tape will be released so audiences can decide who would have been better in the lead role.

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