Q&A: Danny Boyle Talks 'Trainspotting' Sequel Plans With Original Cast, His Films, Plus Bonus Blu-ray Review
If there is one filmmaker who I could proudly proclaim as the best and most diverse director working today, hands down it’s Danny Boyle. His amazing originality, ability to re-invent himself with each movie and sheer eclectic vibe of his body of work makes Boyle a filmmaking force to be reckoned with, bar none. One of his early calling cards is hitting glorious Blu-ray via Lionsgate on Sept. 13 in the form of one five-star "Trainspotting: Collector’s Edition" and I don’t mind saying not only does it look picture perfect, it’s chocked so full of extras that it might as well have been a box set! (Check out the review below!) But for those like me who crave a little more detail about ALL the work, I did previously get a chance to sit down with one-on-one with Danny (a once in a lifetime experience!) and the end result was a comprehensive look into the vast and stellar body of work that has made up his brilliant career. From the inspirations behind "Shallow Grave" to the possibility of a director’s cut of "The Beach" (plus interesting exclusive news on the likelihood of "Trainspotting 2!"), I delved deep to dissect the movies of one of the most innovative filmmakers of his generation – read on Boyle fans and choose life!
"Shallow Grave" was very Hitchcockian in its delivery – what drew you to that material and what were some of your influences making the film?
Danny Boyle: "Blood Simple." Big one – the Coen Brothers. In fact, when I sort of auditioned for the script – I think they were meeting five or six directors – that was the thing I said when I went in to meet John (Hodge) the writer and Andrew (Macdonald) the producer. I said, ‘Listen, it’s a rip off of "Blood Simple," but I love it because of that!’ (Laughs) And I think there’s some truth in that because they gave me the job! I was the only guy who came up with honest answers and I said, ‘In fact, if you’re gonna use me we’d have to go one stage further with it and add an extra ingredient to the end.’ To deliver the ending more, which I said is basically what they did in "Blood Simple" – so that was a big influence on that. It’s also "Goodfellas" as well. "Goodfellas" was a big influence around that time because it wasn’t so much the use of voice over which influenced us into "Trainspotting" - cause there’s a hell of a lot of voice over in "Goodfellas," more then you’d ever expect in a movie and we had a lot in "Trainspotting" as well – it was the feeling that you could make a dynamic film with voice over. That it wasn’t going to be something that drained the film of energy, it was something that made you fill the film with energy. And I remember seeing it and thinking if we use a lot of voice over you’ve got to get a lot of shots because voice over is boring unless the shots are changing the whole time.
With "Trainspotting" being the complete opposite of "Shallow Grave," why did you choose to direct it next?
DB: Andrew was given the book by this friend of his and he sent me and John the book and I started reading it and that literally...I can virtually quote the first page for memory. I remember reading the first page and thinking f#cking hell - I’d never read anything like it. It was just so fresh and kind of different and although some people criticize the movie cause they said it was a bit pop cultural-ish, that was in the novel. The vibrancy of the writing was like f#ck you. You want the f#cking usual drug stuff? F#ck off – these guys enjoy it, they get a super hit off it. All this kind of stuff was going on in it and then there was another side to it as well like there always is, but it was irreverent and I loved it. I thought we’ve got to make this film and that was like after a page and you just knew. It’s a masterpiece I think, masterpiece of a book; it really is a very, very special book.
"A Life Less Ordinary" was your third and final film with Ewan McGregor – will we ever see the two of you work together again?
DB: Yeah, I think we will. He sent me a script recently of something he wanted to do. It didn’t really appeal to me as a director, but I definitely think we’ll work together again. We certainly have a plan for a sequel to "Trainspotting" as well, but that’s a way down the road, I think we’ll work together again before then, I hope we do anyway.
And that’s interesting that you would talk about a sequel to "Trainspotting" because every one of your films is something brand new, you reinvent yourself with each picture – would you be able to do that with a sequel?
DB: Oh, it’s gonna be so different. The idea of it is that take the same actors, playing the same characters, in the same time, so all that’s the same – but they’re forty. It’s middle aged and that’s what it becomes about. Like when you’re twenty you think you can do anything with your body basically, the risks you take. When you look back at what you’ve done you think oh my god and they hit forty and they can’t do that anymore. And it’s triggered by Begbie, the Robert Carlyle character comes out of jail. So you can keep him in jail for five years, ten years, fifteen, whatever the story needs. And in the book, cause Irvin Welsh had written a sequel to it, he escapes from jail. John’s done a preliminary draft of the script and he has this great escape from jail – it’s really cool. Very funny and very crazy and then he re-ignites the whole chain of friendship if you like, but they are now different guys trapped like so many people are really, trapped in their hometown.
Would you see all the original guys back, Ewan, Jonny, Robert...
DB: Yeah, that would be the deal is that we would all do it. So you’d have to pay everybody the same, we’d have to do it like a collective and share everything so that there was no...I think it would be wonderful to set it up like that. And it would also be about the audience who first saw the film cause they also would have aged and all those questions about am I gonna have kids, who am I gonna live with, what am I gonna do in my life, am I getting ill, all those things, it becomes about that. So it actually could be a really boring film, (laughs) the complete opposite of "Trainspotting!" But to address your question, it could be completely different from the original "Trainspotting."
With all the turbulence behind "The Beach," will we ever get a chance to see a Danny Boyle director’s cut DVD/Blu-ray with possible commentary and docs on the whole behind the scenes problems?
DB: I wanted to do one – I was gonna do one when we doing "Sunshine." One of the things that takes a long time when you’re doing a CG movie like that or space movie, is there’s a period really where you’ve cut it, pretty much your normal rhythm and then your waiting like another six months for the CG to be rendered and developed and delivered. The theory was to do it then, that was the thinking and we nearly started it and didn’t quite start it. So we never got started and then we got caught up in everything and you don’t quite do it. That was the perfect time to do it, so I wished we’d done it. I’d still like to do it definitely...
It’s my dream DVD! Would love to see the Danny Boyle cut!
DB: Yeah, it would be really interesting. Now that’s not to say that the cut that’s out there isn’t my cut, it is my cut absolutely. I was left alone by studio and star and everybody to do it the way I wanted it, so I had complete support from everyone – so I can’t claim anything like that. What I did feel was the pressure of the responsibility of that kind of budget, that kind of money really, which wasn’t very good for me. And now I’m kind of free of that, I wouldn’t have that obligation anymore because the film is out and it would be very interesting to bring a slightly different sensibility to it – so hopefully yeah.
You left the US, returned home, and went on the make the groundbreaking "28 Days Later" – is it even possible for a filmmaker to make films their way within a Hollywood studio system?
DB: Oh, yeah. James Cameron? James Cameron?
Besides a big huge budget movie, doing a small intimate film the way you want to do it?
DB: Yeah, there are some great filmmakers. You look at "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," that’s a great movie; I mean I love that movie. You look at "No Country for Old Men," you look at "There Will Be Blood," there’s some fantastic filmmakers here.
Was your leaving about comfortability then?
DB: It’s partly to do with I like being able to know exactly what I want to do and I don’t have to check it. And my problem is I didn’t grown up in America, I grew up partly in America through culture, but actually I didn’t grow up in America. So like you would know what car someone would drive, but I wouldn’t have a f#cking clue. You might be wrong, but you’d be able to say with confidence it’s an SUV, she’s an SUV type - I wouldn’t have a clue. Where as if I was in England, I could look at somebody and say yeah, she’d have a 4x4 or she’ll drive a mini. Things like that are really like (he snaps his fingers)...and I miss them here. And because we share the same language, you’re expected to have the same degree of information because there’s no barrier and America’s an open country. There’s no barrier, so you’re expected to be able to know it and I don’t and that always undermines me a little bit – that’s my tale anyway.
"Millions" was again something completely new for you – what was it like making a family film?
DB: I loved working with Frank (Cottrell Boyce, writer). I’m from Manchester and the sister city, although they’re big enemies, big rivals, is Liverpool which is just along the way, just a ship canal separates us. And he was a writer from there and I’ve always loved his writing and he sent me this script. And I think he’d struggled with it, I think he’d tried to get it made a few times and people didn’t really understand it or appreciate it and I loved it, absolutely loved it. And it felt very personal to me. For me the reason it was personal is not just because I was brought up a very strict Catholic and a kid kind of imagines religious figures or anything like that, it wasn’t that actually. People think it’s that, and it is sort of a bit that, but what it is is the kid is imaginative. Now he’s only eight, so what he sees are religious saints cause that’s the way we’ve been brought up, but those saints will be replaced by music, girls, you know all the stuff it gets replaced by when he gets in his teens. It’s just the imagination that’s important, not the money and I really identified with that and that kid cause I was like that. I wasn’t a weirdo, but that was me really. Although he came from a different class then I come from, it felt very personal to me making that film. And I love working around Manchester, I made a TV thing there and I’d love to work around Manchester again cause that’s where I come from, you know?
"Sunshine." I feel like that movie – and that’s why I put the film as #1 on my top ten list that year – is my generations "2001: A Space Odyssey." The film managed to create some very amazing visual effects on a shoestring budget – how were you able to create so much with so little?
DB: That’s one of the advantages of working at home. We did it with this company MPC, had a very personal relationship with them; they are a big company, they do Potter and things like that, but they also want for their people, they want these ambition projects which are not about money, which are about dreaming and realizing things like that. And it was fantastic for me because I’m not a natural CG director, so it was a big learning curve for me to do it, but I did have a dream with it and I do love it actually. I saw, cause when they first come out you don’t watch them for years really, and I saw it quite recently over my daughter’s shoulder and her mates were watching it. And I didn’t watch it all, I saw about forty minutes of it and I thought ‘Ahh, that’s quite good’; I was quite pleased about that. People thought we made mistakes, but I was trying to explain to someone you’ve got to take risks with things. And sometimes you won’t succeed or some people think you won’t succeed, but that doesn't matter, you’ve got to take the risk. Cause when you take the risks you get moments that everybody agrees on, like the scene in the toilet in "Trainspotting" and suddenly everybody’s in agreement with it. But I remember thinking in prospect people said, ‘You’re not going to do that are you? That’s not a good idea.’ But it’s that risk, where you risk taste, you’re risking the boundaries of taste of what you’re suppose to do, that’s where you find good stuff. So it’s like although everybody likes the dance at the end of "Slumdog Millionaire," the theory of that, people were going ‘Are you sure?’ because that’s the safety first – are you sure? They’re trying to undermine you and say take the slightly safer option and you should never do that, you’ve got to take risks.
"Slumdog Millionaire" sometimes felt like a mix of some of your previous work – the sweetness of "Millions," the harshness of "Shallow Grave," the romance of "A Life Less Ordinary" and the kinetic energy of "Trainspotting" – was that a conscious decision?
DB: No, definitely not. But you could certainly...it’s interesting doing these interviews cause people say don’t you get bored doing interviews and it is a bit boring sometimes obviously when you’re saying the same thing, but then you do think of things and you do hear things that you haven’t thought of. And you think oh, yeah. And I think that’s right – you could argue that. You don’t really think like that, there’s odd moments, obviously there’s a moment in this, well, I suppose there’s two moments – I suppose the chase I was slightly aware of "Trainspotting," but more appropriately the scene in the toilet I thought well, that’s "Trainspotting" isn’t it? But it was such a great scene I thought you got to do it. I try not to repeat things – if I find myself repeating things I get really mad at myself.
So what drew you to "Slumdog Millionaire?"
DB: They sent it and said it was a film about 'Who Wants to be A Millionaire' and I just thought I don’t want to do a film about 'Who Wants to be A Millionaire.' The only reason I even started it was cause I’d seen Simon’s name on it and I knew him from "The Full Monty." I didn't know him personally, but I knew the work. And I was lost after about ten pages, that’s the absolute honest truth. It sounds like PR guff when you read it, but it’s true, I was just completely mesmerized by it. So we set off, went on kind of a fact checking mission – it’s an odd trip that you make with the writer to make sure he’s telling the truth. And it wasn’t, it felt very real and very honest to the place and so we set off to raise the money. And we raised somewhere between six and seven million pounds, which is about the limit of what I can raise without having to have a star in it or have a lot of studio interference.
And what was like working with Loveleen Tandan, a co-director on "Slumdog?"
DB: She was the casting director originally and she did such a great job. I mean she was really important to me cause you made mistakes all the time culturally, you’re making terrible mistakes and she was able to tell me when I am. And sometimes she’s right and sometimes the film has a logic that isn’t documentary like. So I asked her to come on the film the whole time, so she was there everyday, certainly helped with the kids, especially the Hindi bits and then I sent her out to shoot the second unit. And she wants to be a director, that’s what she wants to do, so I called her the co-director, gave her that credit.
So for the skinny on the "Trainspotting" Blu-ray release keep reading fans!
Title: "Trainspotting" (Collector’s Edition)
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Jonny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle
Director: Danny Boyle
Runtime: 94 minutes
Release Company: Lionsgate
The Flick: Far from being your average drug flick, "Trainspotting" manages to stylistically and successfully sit on the fence by looking and both the pros and cons of the world of euphoria. And the drug-addled gents of Trainspotting are indeed in love with the jazz that comes with a high-octane syringe – until the inevitable down side comes crashing down. Magician Danny Boyle shows in one glorious visual tapestry the wonders of why users get addicted, but also the hard and cold reality of the toll it takes on life. Not to mention the script is riddled with quotable dialogue (on Sean Connery winning the Oscar for "The Untouchables" – ‘That means f#uck all! It’s a sympathy vote!’) and contains one hell of an amazing cast (Ewan 'Renton' McGregor, Ewen 'Spud' Bremner, Jonny Lee 'Sick Boy' Miller, Kevin 'Tommy' McKidd and Robert 'hothead Begbie' Carlyle!) that to no surprise ALL went on to create a ton of memorable characters afterwards. But in the end "Trainspotting" marks the work of a visionary and unflinching filmmaker who blends unique cinematic mastery with style and substance – a trend that would continue throughout his body of five-star films.
Best Feature: The awesome ‘Retrospective: Now/Then’ section is filled with all things Danny geeks crave – from a look inside 'Boyle’s Book of Inspiration' to seeing the early filmmaker at the sound board used to edit Trainspotting that was intended for Ridley Scott to use right after for "White Squall" (after seeing the outcome of that flick, he should have given Danny that whole damn facility!) this peek that also includes sections on the look, music, plus interviews has it all.
Best Hidden Gem: Nothing is ‘hidden’ folks – this five star release IS the gem!
Worth the Moola: Every bleedin’ penny – choose Blu-ray.