EXCLUSIVE: Tonight at SXSW’s Zach Theatre premiere, Ewan McGregor and his daughter Clara McGregor get to show to an audience for the first time You Sing Loud, I Sing Louder. In a road trip drama constructed by Clara with writer Ruby Caster and director Emma Westenberg, they play an estranged father and daughter who come together after a major crisis. While he has started a new family, she has inherited the appetite for substance abuse and wildness he long ago put in his past, and she nearly dies after flatlining in an overdose. Hoping to save her and bridge the distance between them, dad takes daughter on a road trip, but does not tell her it will end when he delivers her to rehab. There are kernels of the real story of the McGregors here, but the tale is fictional and will resonate with any parent who wishes to catch their child’s every fall, but realizes at some point they become helpless bystanders. The film, which is available for acquisition, kicks off SXSW when it makes its World Premiere at 9:15 PM CST. Here, the film’s stars discuss their first onscreen collaboration and the challenges and rewards therein. And check out of the exclusive clip above.
DEADLINE: You Sing, I Sing Louder is a father daughter road trip story made more poignant in that it’s father daughter actors in the car. There are moments of humor, guilt and, when she goes missing for a bit, some terror for a dad who sees his old self in his daughter, and feels guilt for not being around. He tries to compensate for not being there and escorting her to rehab, keeping the purpose of her journey to himself. You both get to cover personal ground here. Ewan, why was a vehicle so close to him the right one for you and Clara to do together?
EWAN MCGREGOR: That’s a very complicated question. The simple answer is that Clara went out and had this written with Ruby Caster. It was because she did that, that we ended up making it. Why this subject matter, this story, is probably for Clara to answer, because she was the one who sat down and made it happen. For me, the reaction was immediate. Clara told me about it, but not much about the script just that she had been developing a story that was about us. Now, it’s about other relationships, and other dads, too, but Clara was also drawing from our story. From the moment I read it, there was no question that I wanted to do it for. Primarily because it was a fine script, but the fact I got to work with her, well…
DEADLINE: Beyond themes that would feel familiar to you as a person, what did you like most about the script when you first read it?
EWAN MCGREGOR: I liked the humor in it. It was tackling very serious issues, but the sense of humor was brilliant. And I liked the simplicity of the story.
DEADLINE: You are talking from a movie set in Manchester, before hopping a flight for SXSW for Saturday’s premiere. You’re a busy actor and that life can be a bit nomadic, a challenging way to raise a family. An opportunity to spend concentrated time making a film with your daughter would be catnip for any father. What was it like to connect on such an intimate level like that?
CLARA MCGREGOR: I want to answer first. Putting that time aside and diving into something together was just so much fun. There was bonding on a different level. I got to not only enjoy spending time with you dad, and enjoying that quality time, but I also got to appreciate my dad’s work on a different level. You know, I’d always obviously appreciated your work in movies and stuff that I’d seen, but getting to be in a scene with you, I really got to see how dialed in you were, and how much you were listening and being in that moment. That really cool for me; I got to appreciate what you do on a different scale.
EWAN MCGREGOR: For me, the same. I just was so proud of her. I had this feeling of pride all the time as I watched her. I was in these scenes with her and there was a great ease and naturalness to her acting, which I had never experienced before, because I’d never been in scenes with her before. In terms of the work I’d seen Clara do, this was just on a different level. There was something very easy about it. And then on top of that, and that was a lot. I mean, that is a lot for me. To get to play in the way I like to act, with Clara, was amazing.
Also, seeing her as the producer, seeing her with the crew and working with Emma Westenberg, I just felt proud. Her, Vera [Bulder], Greg [Lauritano] and the other producers, and Emma, I felt like there’s a new generation of talent. And it was a pleasure for me to just be the actor.
DEADLINE: For how long were you on this cinematic road trip?
CLARA MCGREGOR: We had 22 days of actually shooting, and I was out there for two months prior doing soft and hard prep. Dad joined us a little closer to shooting, and then a solid 22 days.
DEADLINE: When a parent suggests their kid do anything, their instinct is to do the opposite. Clara, how much did you find yourself doing this while you worked with your dad? What did you learn from his experience that might help you as an actress moving forward?
CLARA MCGREGOR: When Emma yelled action, I got to see how truthful my dad is, as an actor, and how dropped in he is. Always listening, just purely reacting honestly to each moment. We had a lot of trust in each other doing this and we let each other run with it.
DEADLINE: Ewan, did you succumb to that temptation to give her advice and expect for her to accept it from an authority figure?
EWAN MCGREGOR: No, I didn’t. She doesn’t need any advice. This was two people sharing their experience with each other. If there was ever a question, I think there was once or twice car there was, I was happy to help but didn’t feel the need to press that. We had a great director in Emma, and that was her place to be directing both of us. Not mine. There was one instance that where there was a very angry moment where Clara was expressing her anger to me. I could feel her holding back a bit, saying these words to her dad. Do you remember, Clara? And another moment in the motel room. I said, do it again, and fucking just let me have it! It wasn’t a note as much as encouragement, to bring it. It helped me, actually. And it felt safe to do that. It’s hard, because ultimately, you’re playing anger towards your real dad.
DEADLINE: I’m not going to be specific, but there’s a moment where the father who’s concerned about his daughter learns she is okay. Ewan, in that moment, your reaction is rather emotional. Is it too much to imagine that you were helped in reaching that by the fact that movie daughter was your daughter?
EWAN MCGREGOR: [Laughs]. I don’t know that I’ve ever really understood what meta means. But if it means what I think it might, I think this film is really a lot of that. It can be very meta and still definitely be a work of fiction and not at all biographical. Clara, that scene where you come in and you yell at me, that brought me back to myself [Laughs]. Meta moments.
CLARA MCGREGOR: Meta moments.
EWAN MCGREGOR: I don’t suggest this is autobiographical, but there we were, playing father and daughter and we are that. You can’t help but have that be in the room. Not necessarily our history, but just the fact that we are father and daughter is, all the looks and the little things between the lines and just sitting in a car together. We had a lot to draw from.
DEADLINE: Whatever it takes to allow you to find emotional depth?
EWAN MCGREGOR: Exactly. Clara, it’s amazing to hear you say we shot only about three and a half weeks. In my memory, it feels like we shot for months and months because it was such a rich experience. Very little budget and you stretch every inch of the money available. Shooting lots of scenes a day and it’s one of it was such a satisfying experience for the actors that in my memory, it’s crazy that it was only 22 days.
DEADLINE: Clara, you set this whole thing up. Would you hire and work with this actor again?
CLARA MCGREGOR: Yeah, I think I definitely would. He, it, was the best. I mean, it doesn’t get better than that, so, yes. I really didn’t want it to end. I think it made us a lot closer, don’t you think?
EWAN MCGREGOR: Yeah, totally. To see your daughter pull something like this off? I’m still just blown away and I can’t wait to be there [tonight] to see it with you, Clara, in front of an audience for first time. That’s what you make it for, to put it in front of people and let people, you know, feel things. And that’s gonna be very exciting to be able to set it on its journey. I can’t wait. I can’t believe I’m gonna be there, being in Manchester right now. But I wouldn’t miss it.