Ewan McGregor is widely (and rightfully) acknowledged as one of the highlights of George Lucas’ trilogy of Star Wars prequels. Although the never-ending backlash and backlash to the backlash about the respective merits and flaws of The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith will likely never be resolved by fans, pretty much everyone agrees that McGregor’s performance as a younger, less tragic version of Obi-Wan Kenobi was one of the best parts. It is peculiar to think that one of the stars of the original trilogy gave McGregor the following advice about Star Wars: don’t do it. And McGregor did not pay attention, for the simple and perfect reason that he really, really wanted to.
The original Star Wars actor in question is one Denis Lawson (who also happens to be Ewan McGregor’s uncle), who portrayed Wedge Antilles. A fan-favorite character who transcended being a briefly seen bit part to appearing in all three of the original films. The character first appeared in A New Hope as one of the pilots attacking the Death Star as it approaches Yavin-4, flying in the same Red Squadron as Luke Skywalker (he was Red 3 to Luke’s Red 5, if there’s a pecking order). By the time of The Empire Strikes Back, he had transferred to Rogue Squadron (presumably for space bureaucratic reasons) and defended against the Imperial assault on the Hoth Rebel Base. Finally, in Return of the Jedi, Wedge helped lead the attack on the second Death Star and, along with Lando Calrissian, personally blew that thing up (although no one seems to have given him a medal for that). In the subsequent Star Wars Expanded Universe of books and novels, Wedge became a much more major character, before the 2012 Disney purchase of Lucasfilm ret-conned all that to “Legends” status.
So why did Denis Lawson advise his famous nephew Ewan McGregor not to appear in Star Wars? According to McGregor, Lawson seems to not like the franchise all that much and frankly, seems kind of irritated with it. McGregor implies that the amount of fame Lawson received for a small role in the films (compared to his decades of work in British theater and dozens of other roles) annoyed him. He also said that the experience was “a couple of weeks work, sitting in a cardboard spaceship.” Which about sums up the feelings Lawson had for a galaxy far, far away pretty neatly.
Both Ewan McGregor and Denis Lawson returned to their respective Star Wars roles for cameos in Rise of Skywalker, with McGregor popping in for some quick vocal work and Lawson briefly showing up to compliment Lando. Lawson had previously turned down an offer to appear in The Force Awakens, so he might have turned around a little on the franchise in recent years. For his part, McGregor has never wavered in his love of Star Wars (or inability to not make lightsaber noises) and will be appearing in the upcoming, much-anticipated Disney+ Obi-Wan Kenobi series.