Ewan McGregor won’t soon forget his fashion turn as Halston
New York — Imagine, if you will, a galaxy far, far away where the one-name fashion wonder Halston dresses Obi-Wan Kenobi in something fabulous from the swinging ‘70s.
Ewan McGregor can. Sort of.
McGregor is in the unique position of being the sole person – on this planet anyway – who might care, considering his dual roles as the Jedi master and the flamboyant designer, the latter the subject of a new Netflix miniseries and the former a Disney+ “Star Wars” installment that has the Scottish actor on set in Los Angeles.
“It would be much more comfortable,” he told The Associated Press during a recent interview on Zoom. “It would all be in cashmere, you know, none of that heavy blanket material stuff.”
Although “Halston” doesn’t drop until Friday, it has already generated some heat for McGregor and director Daniel Minahan, both among the series’ executive producers with Ryan Murphy.
Halston’s niece, Lesley Frowick, along with other relatives, bashed Minahan’s passion project Monday as “frankly, garbage” and “inaccurate,” having seen nothing more than a trailer. Frowick, by phone from California, said the family and the Halston Archives were not consulted.
Minahan told AP he spoke to Halston’s brother, Robert Frowick, in the late ’90s while developing the project. Robert Frowick died in 2007 and his widow disputes her husband was consulted.
“I think everyone’s entitled to their opinion. This is not a documentary. It’s a dramatic series,” Minahan said. “And the people who knew Halston and were around him who have seen it have responded really well to it.”
In addition, award-winning “Pose” star Billy Porter, a fashion lover supreme, has questioned casting straight actors like McGregor in gay roles, noting gay actors rarely have equal access to straight parts.
“I felt that Ewan was the best person for the job,” said Minahan, who is gay. “I just can’t imagine anyone else doing it. He was my No. 1 choice.”
For his part, McGregor – rushing from interview to interview to promote the series while slinging his lightsaber once again – said word that Frowick and another of Halston’s six nieces were unhappy “makes me sad.”
“We were so meticulous,” he said. “Dan Minahan has been researching this, wanting to make this for more than 20 years, so it’s a shame.”
Halston was a Midwesterner who revolutionized his industry with comfortable deconstructed gowns, washable Ultraseude shirt dresses and a minimalist, clean approach that redefined American fashion starting in the 1960s. He was known for making Jackie Kennedy’s blue inaugural pillbox hat (he started as a milliner) and had a stable of beautiful muses and A-list friends, including Elizabeth Taylor, Liza Minnelli (played by Krysta Rodriguez), Babe Paley, Bianca Jagger and Andy Warhol.
By the disco era, Halston was a regular at Studio 54, later designing costumes for the famed choreographer Martha Graham. His bright, sensual clothes, Minnelli has said, were clothes that danced with you.
Halston lost the use of his trademarked name in a business deal that made him rich but left him at the mercy of a series of corporate overseers. Born Roy Halston Frowick in Des Moines, Iowa, he died in 1990 of AIDS-related complications at age 57, having left behind his New York world after his ouster from the company that bore his name. He fell into the embrace of family in Northern California, where he died in a San Francisco hospital.
His decision to bring his aesthetic to the masses included making clothes for J.C. Penney and cranking out an onslaught of goods: luggage, carpet, uniforms for the Girl Scouts and Braniff Airways – and an unforgettable first scent that came in a tear drop bottle designed by another member of his inner circle, Elsa Peretti. She became a jewelry designer for Tiffany & Co. (thanks to an introduction by Halston) and was one of his bevy of models dubbed the Halstonettes.
The series is full of Halston snorting cocaine, Halston having sex with male hookers and call boys, and Halston spending lavishly. He had a penchant for decking out his mirrored Olympic Tower atelier in fresh orchids and flying in dinners from top New York restaurants to the retreat he rented from Warhol in Montauk.
The biopic, based on the 1991 book “Simply Halston” by Steven Gaines, also delves into his own reinvention, from poor boy in Indiana (his large family moved a lot) to elegant, black turtleneck-clad workaholic with a short fuse.
McGregor, as part of his preparation, learned to sew, whipping up botched baggy trousers with one pocket on the inside and one on the outside. He also had tea with Minnelli, though he promised to keep the details private.
“I just wanted her to know that he was in safe hands with me,” McGregor said. “You know, there’s lots been said about Halston over the years and I wanted her to know that I respected her love for him and I respected their friendship. I couldn’t imagine how deeply I felt her love for him until we had tea.”
Rodriguez, known for her work on stage and TV (she was Ana Vargas on NBC’s “Smash”), did her own singing in “Halston.” She didn’t meet Minnelli and admits to nerves taking on the living legend for Netflix.
Her resemblance to Minnelli, with her large round eyes, is uncanny.
“I definitely was nervous. I had to quit the voice that said what would Liza think or else I would never step foot on set,” she said. “I didn’t reach out to her. I thought her and Ewan had a really special moment and I wanted to keep that, what they created together.”
McGregor, 50, may be back with the Force, but he said he won’t soon forget Halston.
“I loved playing him so much,” he said. “I don’t think there will be any Halston in Obi-Wan but there will be a little bit in me. I think he saw beauty everywhere.”