The mind behind “Slumdog Millionaire” and “127 Hours” says “T2” would not have been made if the original four actors hadn’t all agreed to reprise their “Trainspotting” roles.
Danny Boyle is a filmmaker who doesn’t repeat himself. His “28 Days Later” (2002), in which he reinvented and revitalized the zombie genre with fast-running, rage-infected ghouls, couldn’t be more different from “Sunshine” (2007), a grand-scale, stunning-looking meditative science-fiction feature about a doomed space mission to resuscitate the dying sun.
And his Bollywood-influenced, Oscar-winning “Slumdog Millionaire” (2008) seems like it was shot on a different planet than “127 Hours” (2010), a slow-paced, one-man tale of a guy pinned in a canyon by a fallen boulder in the desert Southwest whose only hope of survival is to free himself by sawing off his arm with a pocket knife.
And then there is “Trainspotting” (1996). Coming out two years after Boyle’s debut feature, the crime thriller “Shallow Grave” (1994), “Trainspotting” is unlike anything else he’s ever made. The tale of Scottish heroin addicts is rough, raw, disorienting, grungy looking and, yes, pretty funny. Made on a shoestring, it’s the picture that brought Boyle to worldwide prominence, thanks in no small measure to its startling and grossly memorable toilet scene.
Against all odds, “Trainspotting” struck a chord with audiences around the world. Ever since, Boyle said during a recent visit to Seattle, people keep coming up to him in the London Underground in his native England or on the streets of cities around the world, wanting to talk about that movie.
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Twenty-plus years later, the buzz around “Trainspotting” has yet to abate, Boyle said. Which brings us to the present day when his latest picture is hitting the theaters. Its title? “T2 Trainspotting.” It will open in Seattle on March 24.
Apparently, Danny Boyle does do sequels.
But only in this one particular case.
(Actually he had contemplated making the sequel to “28 Days Later,” but wound up handing off the directing of “28 Weeks Later” to another filmmaker while taking an executive-producer credit for himself.)
“T2” is special, he said, because of the way “Trainspotting” has resonated with audiences. They have “very personal” reactions to the picture, he said. Fans see in it what Boyle and his creative collaborators, screenwriter John Hodge and producer Andrew Macdonald, also saw in it when they decided to make the movie.
Their source material and inspiration was a 1993 novel by Scottish writer Irvine Welsh. As for the inspiration, “I think it was the voice of the characters,” Boyle said. That voice “electrified us.”
The movie they made “didn’t apologize” for these characters. It gave them a dimension beyond the portrayals of junkies usually seen on screen, thanks to the unexpected humor.
“Trainspotting,” Boyle said, “gave the world a different kind of anti-hero. It was like seeing ourselves without having to go through the horrors of drugs.”
Boyle, Hodge and Macdonald had been kicking around the idea of a sequel for years. The 2002 publication of Welsh’s novel “Porno,” the further adventures of “Trainspotting’s” central foursome — Mark Renton, Sick Boy, Spud and Begbie — crystallized their desire to make a new movie, but all agreed the first several screenplay drafts Hodge produced didn’t recapture the spirit of the original.
In 2014, with the 20th anniversary of “Trainspotting’s” release on the near horizon, the impetus to do the sequel intensified. The men wanted to explore the changes that had been wrought in the four characters over the course of two decades.
The script finally seemed right, but the key to going forward was whether the original four actors — McGregor (Renton), Jonny Lee Miller (Sick Boy), Ewen Bremner (Spud) and Robert Carlyle (the psychotic Begbie) — would agree to return to the roles. If even one of them had said no, the movie would not have been made, Boyle said.
“The film belongs to the four of them,” Boyle said. “They’re all equal.”
In the 20 years since “Trainspotting,” McGregor’s career has really taken off, with him playing Obi-Wan Kenobi in the “Star Wars” prequels and playing leads in such pictures as Roman Polanski’s “Ghost Writer,” “Moulin Rouge!” and “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.” The others have worked steadily, but in character parts.
Boyle said he was determined all would be treated the same in the sequel. He said he mailed each of them the script on the same day 18 months ago. And he assured them that everyone would receive equal screen time, their characters would have equal prominence, and everybody would be paid the same.
All quickly said yes. And with that, the sequel was a go.
Asked what’s behind his penchant for not repeating himself in his filmmaking, Boyle said it all comes down to “an instinctive response to the material.” It’s always a matter of personal taste with him. And his tastes are very wide-ranging.