Ewan McGregor talks about his new documentary about the Battle of Britain alongside pilot brother Colin…

What was it like having Colin, a RAF pilot, doing the programme with you?
“Our mum won’t make it through the opening credits I’m sure. She’s quite teary at the best of times, so she’ll soon be reaching for the tissues!”

What did you know about the war?
“For boys of our generation it was kind of a standard thing to make Airfix models. We’d also read war comics and play war games.”

Did you learn a lot making the film?
“Yes. I was just very uneducated about The Battle of Britain and what it meant. I had a vague idea that, like other parts of World War Two, it was just going on all of the time. I hadn’t realised that it was a specific period of time and that it saved Britain from invasion – I didn’t pay attention in my history classes! So, my experience of making this programme with Colin has really been putting all of that into place.”

And you were allowed to be a passenger in a Spitfire. What was that like?
“Fantastic. There’s something so beautiful about the shape of the wing when you look down and see it. What freaked me out, though, was how close the planes were together because when you look across it really seems like your wings could ding each other! But, when we did the peel overs and the things you see in war movies it was just amazing.”

What about interviewing some of our surviving airmen?
“I was interested to find out about what it felt like to hit a German plane because there’s a lot of gung-ho speak, that old-fashioned RAF thing about bringing them down. And I wanted to know what it felt like really to do that, to shoot down another plane full of human beings. But, I wasn’t surprised by their answer, not really, and I thought it was absolutely fair enough. They said, rather eloquently, that the Germans weren’t coming over to drop leaflets.”

As part of the documentary, you read out some of Winston Churchill’s famous speeches. What was that like?
“They’re so historically important, meaningful and brilliantly written. I felt a little bit inadequate reading them really.”

Are you proud of your brother’s career?
“Very. I was in a make-up truck on a film and we were all getting our slap put on and moaning about the coffee when my phone blipped with a text from Colin. It said, ‘Emergency landing in Basra last night, slept under canvas, being mortared left and right.’ And I looked up and said, ‘Guys, we’ve got to stop moaning about the coffee!'”

*Battle of Britain screens on BBC1 on Sunday, September 19