Irish Eye on Hollywood:
Ewan McGregor Adapts Philip Roth in Directorial Debut

EwanMcGregor. (Photo: WikimediaCommons)
EwanMcGregor. (Photo: WikimediaCommons)

By Tom Deignan, Contributor
August / September 2016

“I know it’s just my Irish resentment, but I don’t like being looked down on.” That’s a line from American Pastoral, the great 1997 novel by Philip Roth, which will be turned into a prestige film to be released this October. Roth has always had a complicated relationship with the Irish throughout his literary career. Many of Roth’s best novels explore mid-century urban America, where the children of Irish and Jewish immigrants often bumped up against each other – if not brawled outright. At least, that was the boys. As for the Irish girls, Roth’s male protagonists often viewed them as both desirable yet unreachable. The irony, of course, is that both the Irish and Jewish characters are viewed as undesirables by the WASP establishment. Now that Roth has retired from writing, filmmakers are mining his work for all it is worth (The Human Stain, The Humbling). The American Irish-Jewish dynamic should very much be front and center in American Pastoral. In the film, Seymour “the Swede” Levov marries an Irish American former Miss New Jersey named Dawn Dwyer who, for all of her grace and beauty, always feels inferior as she tries to break into the world of true privilege. She is the one who uttered the line about “Irish resentment.” Fittingly, Irish American Oscar winner Jennifer Connelly is slated to play Dawn Dwyer in American Pastoral. The film explores not only the courtship of Dawn and The Swede, but also the fallout when their daughter becomes unhinged and seems to join a violent, politically-radical cult in the 1960s. American Pastoral is the directorial debut of Scottish actor Ewan McGregor (above) and also stars Rupert Evans and Dakota Fanning. ♦

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