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Danny Boyle • Director

“Once you are 46, you have made your choices and have to live with them”


- BERLIN 2017: We spoke to British director Danny Boyle at the Berlinale about the making of his very untypical sequel, T2 Trainspotting, screened out of competition

Danny Boyle  • Director
(© Berlinale)

Twenty-one years after his groundbreaking success, Trainspotting, British director Danny Boyle (28 Days Later, Slumdog Millionaire [+see also:
film review
interview: Danny Boyle
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) teamed up with his producers, writers and actors to make the very untypical sequel, T2 Trainspotting [+see also:
film review
interview: Danny Boyle
film profile
, which had its world premiere out of competition at the Berlinale.

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Cineuropa: Who came up with the idea to do a sequel to Trainspotting?
Danny Boyle: After the first film proved a success, in 2002 Irvine Welsh decided to write a sequel, which was the book Porno. He gave us the rights, and we did adapt the book, but it wasn’t good enough, because it felt like a rehash with a slightly different story and different jokes. No matter how we did it, people would feel disappointed. When I got together with the screenwriter, John Hodge, and the two producers, we developed a script that was much more personal. The story is about time and ageing, which is really part of what the actors sell themselves and has a lot to do with what they look like.

What was your approach?
We wanted to make a new film in which it would be interesting to revisit these characters. Because of the success of the original, we were able to get something like $50 million, whereas we always make films under the cap of $20 million, so they let us make the film that we wanted to make. The actors were not expecting a big payday from the sequel; all of them were paid equally, and if the movie turns out to be a success, we will give them a back-end. 

Was T2 Trainspotting a reunion?
It wasn’t like a school reunion for any of us, because the actors arrived at different times. Jonny Lee Miller and Robert Carlyle did it during their summer holidays because they are on these big TV shows. We didn’t have Ewan McGregor for a while, because he was finishing American Pastoral in Los Angeles.

In your film, the characters have to deal with the various changes in the world. Did you try to make an untypical sequel?
I was inspired by the British TV show The Likely Lads, about two working-class characters who were brought back seven years later for a series. They changed but still remained the same. There was a huge element of comedy in it, and it had a big effect on me. The extraordinary thing about film, TV and the camera is how it deals with time, all the time. When you watch a film, you are watching edited time. If you watch an actor in your favourite movie, he is frozen in that image for you. By putting these two ages, these two times, together, you kind of give the actors back to the audience because they suffer the effects of time as well. That is the power of cinema.

Will your film appeal to young people who have not seen the original?
It is impossible to know whether people who have not seen part one will enjoy it. As a director, I can’t judge that. The results in the UK show it is doing well financially and suggest that people are going to see it. These days, everybody has seen bits of it on YouTube, and a modern audience will watch bits of things on YouTube before they make a choice at the cinema.

How did you deal with social media?
In terms of social media, everybody wanted us to update the “Choose Life...” spiel because the first was a big hit, and they put it on T-shirts and posters. So we did. In 1996, he was mocking consumer addictions, the choices of the time. Now, he is mocking modern addictions, which are social media, social networks and so on, and the cost that lies behind them. People in factories in China are producing these bits of digital equipment and ruining lives with them. 

The speech by McGregor’s character is really a confession because he says he changes and chooses disappointment. Choose losing the ones you love, choose not being the person you wanted to be – and he wanted children and didn’t have them. By the time you are 46, you have made your choices and have to live with them. It is actually a confession about his own hurt locker.

Was it difficult to find the right visual style, owing to the high expectations after the first Trainspotting?
There was a big obligation to honour the work of DoP Brian Tufano, who shot the first one. We could not work with him, because he is not in good health. With Anthony Dod Mantle, we tried to let the style of the film emerge more at the editing stage, which is interesting because the film is about time, and so is editing.

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