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Wednesday 7 December 2016

'Dad always kept us out of the public eye' - Meet Ewan McGregor's actress daughter Clara

But now Ewan McGregor's eldest daughter Clara, is ready to step into the spotlight with her first film role, she tells our reporter

Jane Mulkerrins

Published 27/04/2016 | 02:30

Supportive: Clara McGregor with dad Ewan.
Supportive: Clara McGregor with dad Ewan.

When Ewan McGregor graced the red carpet in New York last month, at the premiere of his latest film, Miles Ahead - the biopic of Miles Davis - the 45-year-old Scottish actor posed happily for photographers, a beautiful woman on his arm.

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For once, however, that woman was not his wife of 21 years, the French production designer Eve Mavrakis.

And although her face may not yet be familiar to the public, or even to the paparazzi, 20-year-old Clara McGregor, the eldest of the couple's four daughters, looks set to soon become a red-carpet regular in her own right.

Now in her second year at New York University's prestigious Tisch School of the Arts, Clara is following in her famous father's footsteps, making her first forays into the world of acting.

On a bright spring morning in Manhattan, we meet at the SoHo Grand Hotel.

"The premiere last month was the first time I was really out 'in public' with my dad," she tells me, as we settle down at a table with two pots of tea.

New York state of mind: Ewan McGregor's 20-year-old daughter Clara is juggling her first film role with her film studies at NYU.
New York state of mind: Ewan McGregor's 20-year-old daughter Clara is juggling her first film role with her film studies at NYU.

"When we were growing up, he always kept us out of the public eye."

Infinitely more elegantly dressed than most students, in a grey cashmere sweater, black leggings and a chic grey woollen overcoat, she is also unfeasibly pretty, with enormous, wide-set green eyes, pillowy lips and a set of very white, very straight, very un-British teeth.

Having spent much of her formative years in Los Angeles, to where the family decamped from north London eight years ago, Clara has an accent that is unmistakably American, but still bears the traces of her parentage - there's a soupcon of a Scottish lilt, and a suggestion of a French flavour underneath.

"I still speak only French to my mum," she reveals. "As do my sisters. And as I get older, I realise what an enormous advantage that is. I am starting to appreciate my European roots more and more."

With two 14-year-old girls, Esther and Jayman (the latter of whom was adopted from Mongolia a decade ago) and five-year-old Anouk, McGregor Senior, star of Moulin Rouge, Star Wars and Shallow Grave, is heavily outnumbered at home.

"It really is such a strongly female household," Clara laughs. "Sid, our dog, is the only other boy, giving Dad some back-up."

Composed, mature and delightfully down-to-earth, Clara shows only the tiniest tell-tale signs that her father is worth $35 million - living, for example, nearby in fashionable SoHo, alone.

For years she had aspired to be a photographer, "but then I got to college and I became really fascinated by film," she explains.

Rather than exploiting her father's name, Clara is starting small. "I don't even have an agent yet - I want to get good at it first, to really master it."

She's already landed her first role, in Groove, a small independent film to be shot on location around New York, starting next month.

Does she feel the pressure of taking on the McGregor mantle?

"I'm sure people will have certain expectations and there will be comparisons," she nods. "But I want to try and find my own voice, and my own career."

Her father is famously private about his family and has made efforts to shield them from the spotlight.

"Sometimes we would talk about fame and how to cope with it. He made clear that they were separate things - the fame, and the working and making of films."

However, Clara says he is fully supportive of her acting ambitions.

"I think it made him happy, because it is something he loves so much. It is probably nerve-racking for him too. But my parents have never tried to deter me at all."

Clara was born the same month - February 1996 - that Trainspotting was released. Danny Boyle's film about heroin addiction sent McGregor's career into the stratosphere, and Clara enjoyed an unusually itinerant childhood, as the family followed her in-demand father on location around the world.

"We lived in Australia for a while, we lived in Alabama for a while..." she recalls, happily. "I got really good at making new friends. It definitely built me into the person I am today.

"There were times when my dad went away to shoot and we didn't go with him," she adds. "But he was always incredibly present during my childhood, during my whole life."

McGregor said last year: "The biggest element of my life is that I'm a dad. That's the most important thing of all."

Constrained by the attention he received in London, McGregor moved the family to Los Angeles when Clara was 12, where he found, "people leave me alone and I don't get mobbed when I step outside the door".

Clara is at pains to make clear, however, that "it was not some glam, celebrity-filled upbringing". The most showbiz element of her youth was her education: at the liberal, arts-focused Crossroads, the private school in Santa Monica whose illustrious alumni include Kate Hudson and Gwyneth Paltrow.

Her parents encouraged her to achieve academically, too, and to have weekend jobs.

"They always made sure I had to work for everything I wanted. Which was a pain in the ass when I was in high school, but it did create a drive in me," she laughs.

In her final year of school, Clara applied to only one college: New York University.

"LA can feel like living in a bubble. It is so comfortable there, it can get a bit boring. I crave the grit, the challenge.

"It's harder to meet people in LA too," she believes (and by people, she means boys). "You're always in your car, alone. In New York, there's a real spontaneity. You could walk into a coffee shop and meet the love of your life."

She met her current boyfriend on campus, however - he's a 21-year-old fellow NYU student, also studying film. "It's very new, but it's been really lovely so far," Clara says, lighting up. He's met her mum but, so far, has yet to meet her dad.

How does she break the news that her father is a film star to new boyfriends and friends, I ask.

"I usually just let them figure it out for themselves," she shrugs. "And now, at school [university], nobody really cares. People are more interested in who you are."

Like many of her generation, Clara is a vocal supporter of Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders; however, she is not yet eligible to vote.

"This election is the first time I have seriously thought about becoming a US citizen," she confesses, draining the last of her green tea. "This is my home, and it feels strange not having a say. But I think I might only be allowed to have two citizenships. And I feel French and British too. And my mum would be so sad if I lost my French citizenship..."

As we say goodbye on the street outside, she asks if it might be possible to scratch one thing from the record: her boyfriend's name.

"I haven't discussed it with him, and I don't know if he'd be okay with being mentioned," she says, apologetically.

"I've never given an interview before; I'm really just getting used to all of this."

But the day after we meet, she posts a portrait of herself, shot by the supermodel-turned-photographer Helena Christensen, to Instagram - part of a sultry set of pictures that have quickly garnered attention on both sides of the Atlantic.

I'd bet my bottom dollar on her learning to get used to it all rather soon. © The Sunday Telegraph

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