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Ewan McGregor plays legendary designer Halston in new Netflix series

By Tanya Lara Published May 12, 2021 9:11 pm

Talk about range!

Scottish actor Ewan McGregor has played a heroin addict (Transpotting), a singing poet (Moulin Rouge), a Jedi master (Star Wars prequels and the upcoming Obi-Wan series), and now legendary designer Halston.

Netflix drops Halston’s first season on Friday, May 14.

Showrunner Ryan Murphy, who also created Ratched and The Politician, told Vogue on casting McGregor, “He was, to us, the only choice. The thing that Ewan got about Halston was that Halston had a vision in his mind of who he wanted to be in life. He was self-created.”

Ewan McGregor as era-defining designer Halston.  Photos courtesy of Netflix

In 20018, Netflix signed a staggering $300-million developmental deal with Murphy. The year before, the streaming giant signed a deal with Shonda Rhimes for a third of that—$100 million.

The biopic follows Halston (born Roy Halston Frowick) as he creates a worldwide fashion empire that defines an era.

“You’re only as good as the people you dress," he often said. Bianca Jagger, Andy Warhol, Liza Minnelli and the whole motley crew of artists, actors, socialtites and models at Studio 54 were his to dress and play with. He was also repotedly addicted to cocaine.

Prior to the disco-glamour of New York in the disco-era ‘70s, he became famous as Jackie Kennedy’s milliner, designing her famous pillbox hats. She wore one at the inauguration of her husband John F. Kennedy in 1961 and on the day he was assassinated in 1963.

Halston, born Roy Halston Frowick, died in 1990 at 57.
Halston was a milliner to Jackie Kennedy, who made the pillbox hat famous in the ‘60s.

Halston’s family is not happy with Murphy’s Halston. In a statement to the Associated Press, they called the biopic fictionalized.

“The Halston Archives and Family were not consulted on the upcoming Netflix series involving an inaccurate, fictionalized account of famed fashion designer, Halston. The Halston Archives remains the only definitive and comprehensive source on the man and his legacy as the personally appointed custodian of his private papers and effects.”

Alongside McGregor’s Halston are his “Halstonettes” Krysta Rodriguez (as Liza Minnelli) and Rebecca Dayan (Elsa Peretti).

Sketching an era.
With his “Halstonettes” in the Netflix series.

On a straight actor playing a gay character, McGregor told Variety, “I hear the discussion and I respect both sides of it, I really do.” He was reacting to Tony award-winning actor Billy Porter (Kinky Boots), who pointed out that while gay actors don’t get gay roles unless they are flamboyant while straight actors are winning awards for them.

McGregor said, “I haven't walked in Billy Porter's shoes. I don't know what it's like to lose out parts when you might feel it's to do with your sexuality. So I can only respect his point of view."

He added, “If it had been a story about Halston’s sexuality more, then maybe it's right that gay actors should play that role. But in this case—and I don't want to sound like I'm worming out of this, because it's something I did think a lot about—I suppose ultimately I felt like it was just one part of who he was.”

Krysta Rodriguez as Liza Minnelli.

Vogue says of the real Halston, “It was through business dealings, however, that the heroic essence of Halston fell into jeopardy. A 1973 transaction saw him lose control of his name, and in 1982 he inked the JCPenney partnership that would appall the fashion establishment, while ironically sketching the blueprint for countless high-end/high-street designer collaborations to come. Away from the boardroom, his perennially high social axis also took its toll, something which Murphy’s high-voltage rendition doesn’t pull any punches on.”

In 1988, Halston tested positive for HIV. He left New York for San Francisco where he was cared for by his family. He died in March 1990 at 57.