FILMING in glamorous locations is one of the many perks of being an actor, unless you're Ewan McGregor.

While shooting Moulin Rouge, the smash hit Baz Luhrmann musical set in Paris, he romanced Nicole Kidman on a movie set in Sydney, rather than Montmartre.

And while latest movie Angels & Demons is set in a sun-drenched Rome, Ewan says he didn't make it there either.

"Imagine that? That was the only reason I took the job and then they said my scenes were in LA.

"I've often fantasised that Rome would be a great place to work. Swan off set with your sunglasses on, walk to the nearest cafe, but that didn't happen."

In the blockbuster adaptation of Dan Brown's novel, Ewan plays Camerlengo Patrick McKenna, a man charged with the interim ruling of the Vatican City after the death of the pope.

The Vatican denied permission for any filming to take place within its walls, so director Ron Howard set about reconstructing the location's most famous sights - including the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel - in Los Angeles.

Ironically, Ewan has been sent to Rome to discuss his new film, and sits in a deconsecrated church chatting about his LA experiences in front of a backdrop of original frescos.

Angels & Demons marks a return to the big screen for Ewan after a spell pursuing other interests - notably motorbiking around the world with best friend Charley Boorman.

He's back in the game with a bang. High-profile movies this year include I Love You Philip Morris with Jim Carrey and The Men Who Stare At Goats, with George Clooney.

Slightly quirky-looking on screen, he's very attractive in the flesh and looks effortlessly trendy in blue jeans, a black jacket and black scarf, topped off with his signature quiffed hair.

He's also charming and very open about his 15-year film career, but you can tell he's secretly itching to get outside in the sunshine and finally head to a real Italian cafe.

Angels & Demons, the follow-up to 2006's controversial The Da Vinci Code, deals with the clash between science and religion, when the Illuminati, an ancient secret society, threatens to destroy the Vatican.

But while The Da Vinci Code film sparked protests from the church, Howard's latest adaptation of Dan Brown's work has been billed as "harmless" by one Vatican reviewer.

Ewan, 38, admits he's not religious but says he wouldn't have put his name to an 'anti-Catholic' film.

"I don't think it attacks the Church. It's a far-fetched story set in the world of the Vatican, which is an interesting world.

"I wouldn't like to think it was an attack on the Catholic Church."

The camerlengo he plays has been brought up in the church, adopted by the late pope, and has to make difficult choices to uphold his faith. In Ewan's words, he's "extreme in terms of what he does, but he's doing it to save his church".

The experience was an interesting one for the actor.

"I had to use my imagination. I can imagine a man dedicating his life to his faith and that that would be a rich thing to do if you were a believer.

"But I wasn't brought up with any religion, so all the ceremony, the funeral and some of the ritual stuff we did was new to me. We had a priest on set to help us with that and make sure we were accurate."

The film opens with a shot of the obviously emotional camerlengo destroying the papal ring, as tradition dictates.

Great reverence is paid to the Vatican scenes, but Ewan admits he wasn't on his best behaviour all the time.

"One of the first things we shot was the pope's funeral and it was a relentlessly long day," he says.

"There was a lot of going up and down the stairs and Ron would say 'cut' and we'd come all the way back up the stairs and it was all day long this procession.

"Then someone, it could have been me, started singing Bohemian Rhapsody, not during the take I hasten to add, but it became kind of the theme tune of the day. There was a lot of singing going on behind the scenes."

While most of Ewan's scenes were set in the Vatican, his co-star Tom Hanks, who plays symbologist and sometime detective Robert Langdon, was busy chasing around Rome after the baddie.

"We had only three or four scenes [together] and a bit of running around, but it was very nice. He's a lovely man and a great actor and like most good actors, he was very comfortable to work with and there was no starry behaviour, you know, he was one of the cast."

Ewan was born into a showbiz family of sorts - his uncle Denis Lawson is an actor - and went to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in the late 80s to learn his craft.

Six months before graduating he won the lead role in Dennis Potter's BBC drama Lipstick On Your Collar and went on to have his first big film break in Danny Boyle's Shallow Grave.

Since then, Ewan has stripped off in The Pillow Book, Velvet Goldmine and Young Adam, starred in three Star Wars films and turned his hand to singing and dancing in Moulin Rouge, as well as taking the lead role of Sky Masterson in the West End production of Guys & Dolls.

Looking back at his career, he insists he has no regrets, saying each film has been a "stepping stone".

"I'm not driven to achieve a goal, I'm just driven to do the best I can and to find something interesting to do next, so in that respect I can't fail or succeed.

"I'm so fortunate to be comfortable in my nice home and my kids are at a good school, so I don't have to accept roles for money, I don't feel I have to be in big films. That gives me an amount of freedom in my choices and that makes me really happy."

When he's not away filming, Ewan is very much the family man, splitting his time between homes in Los Angeles and London.

In 1995, he married Eve Mavrakis, a French production designer, and the couple have two daughters, Clara, 13, and Esther, seven. In 2006, they adopted Jamiyan, now seven, from Mongolia.

He says he'd love to try his hand at directing one day, but will wait for his daughters to grow up before embarking on any big projects.

"My youngest ones are seven and I think it demands a year and a half of your time to direct a film properly, so I think I'll wait 'til they're a little bit older before I take my headspace away from them for that length of time.

"They do have an awareness that I'm an actor and that people come and ask me for my autograph, they find it strange, but they understand it. And we've tried very, very hard, apart from me being away a lot, to give them as normal a time as possible at home."

More work is coming his way, but for now, Ewan's just excited that his eldest daughter might be now be old enough to watch some of his films.

"Not all of them, maybe not Trainspotting, Young Adam or The Pillow Book," he says, with a laugh.

"But stuff like Brassed Off and Little Voice, I suddenly got quite excited that she could see those and be of an age where she can appreciate and hopefully like them."