Why Ewan McGregor's split with wife Eve Mavrakis was such a shocker to us all
Did a little bit of you curl up and die as it was revealed that Ewan McGregor’s 22-year marriage to wife Eve Mavrakis was at an end?
The resolutely unshowbusiness-y couple were reported to have separated as far back as May as photos emerged in the British tabloids of the actor cuddling Fargo co-star Mary Elizabeth Winstead in London.
Celebrity relationships finish abruptly all the time. So why do certain A-list break-ups hit us stronger than others?
In the case of McGregor, the fact that fame appeared not to have gone to his head, and that he is clearly the loving father of four well-adjusted daughters, seemed to mark him apart. He and his wife weren’t Hollywood kooks — they were ‘one of us’, humble, low-key, just getting on with their lives.
What’s more, the fact that the marriage was confirmed as over as pictures of McGregor (46) kissing Winstead (32) appeared in The Sun brings an unseemly whiff of scandal. “Married Star Wars star Ewan McGregor snogs TV lover Mary Elizabeth Winstead in London cafe,” screamed one headline — painting the Trainspotting star as the guilty party.
He and French-born Eve Mavrakis married in 1995, just as his stock in Hollywood was set to sky-rocket. They had met on the set of Kavanagh QC, where Mavrakis worked as production designer. Twelve months later, McGregor was anointed a movie star thanks to the impish drugs romp Trainspotting.
That same year, Mavrakis gave birth to their first daughter, Clara — today an up-and-coming model (his youngest two kids are adopted). Theirs was a heartening example of wealthy, famous people embracing the ordinary rather than living on a glamorous pedestal.
McGregor walked the walk, too. He refused to appear on Piers Morgan’s Good Morning Britain this year in protest at the host’s attack on the post-Trump inauguration women’s marches. “Was going on Good Morning Britain, didn’t realise [Piers Morgan] was host,” he tweeted. “Won’t go on with him after his comments about #WomensMarch.”
It is not uncommon for people to invest vicariously in celebrity relationships. Movie stars are perfect strangers, but because they are a fixture in our lives, we create a false intimacy by which we feel we know them like an old friend. So McGregor will have struck many as an archetypal cheeky chappie who saw the error of his party-hard lifestyle and put his life together. Some people will have seen him as an inspiriting example.
By his own admission, post-Trainspotting he spun dangerously off the rails. Late-night sorties with rock-star pals and weekly benders brought him closely to the brink. Which is why he knocked drinking on the head and hasn’t touched a drop since.
“I used to hang out a bit with Oasis, and Damon Albarn was always knocking about somewhere or other, and like a fan, I felt part of it,” he said in 2012. “It was certainly a high point of my life. But it was also a time of massive debauchery — but then again, I was in my 20s.
“I got away with it more or less unnoticed. I was a maniac on the booze, but I only remember it fondly.”
He had described his marriage as a rock of stability — and credited his wife with mending his wild-boy ways.
“I knew right then that I really wanted to be with her,” McGregor told Graham Norton five years ago. “I knew I wanted to be with her in a different way to all the other many, many, many women I had been with up until that point. And I wasn’t wrong. I made the right choice.”
Ironically, at the time, he was asked about the secret of an enduring marriage.
“You know each other so well and you’re so comfortable in each other’s company,” McGregor said in an interview. “I get asked what’s the secret to a happy marriage a lot, and there’s no answer to it without trivialising it. You can’t just say ‘If you do this or do that, you’ll have a great marriage’ because it doesn’t work like that. There’s no secret other than to be in love with the woman you’re sharing your life with.”
They’re not the first golden couple to disappoint us. The break-up of rock group Sonic Youth following revelations that singer Thurston Moore was cheating on his bass-playing wife Kim Gordon left many Gen Xers emotional scarred. “Gen X Is Unsure if It Will Love Again After the Sonic Youth Divorce,” went one headline at the time.
Moore was roundly vilified following the split — but, as in the case of McGregor and Mavrakis, who are any of us to judge?
Again, though we may think we ‘know’ these individuals, they are utter strangers. There are people close to us whose personal lives are a complete mystery — so why should we have a greater insight into the romantic doings of those we have only seen on stage or in movies?
Moreover for a marriage to founder after 22 years is not unusual.
“Sometimes people drift apart without really noticing it,” one experienced marriage counsellor says (he asked not be named for fear clients might feel he was airing their besmirched laundry). “When they first get together, the relationship is the entire focus.
“They invest all of their time in one another. Then kids come along and the majority of time is invested in nurturing them. So there is a total change in emphasis. People take their eye off the ball relationship wise.”
When a celebrity couple splits, there is, moreover, a temptation to take sides. Some will see McGregor as an affable everyman who made a mistake. Others may cheer his wife (51) for extricating herself from a toxic situation. Often, we discern a motive that may not actually exist.
“Sometimes people identify with the person who stayed at home,” says the counsellor. “They put their career on hold to look after the kids. Now, they are going to try and reboot their life. People may think, ‘Well what about me? Perhaps I need to reinvigorate my life after all that I invested in the kids’. Celebrities become role models or heroes and we can try to emulate their behaviour.”