Twenty years after theatergoers first watched the misfortunes of a group of fictional London heroin addicts in the dark comedy Trainspotting, the men are set to reunite for the sequel, T2 Trainspotting. The film opens March 17 in the United States.
Director Danny Boyle, who won an Academy Award for best director for 2008’s Slumdog Millionaire, discussed the film with WBEZ film contributor Milos Stehlik.
On the pressure to stay true to the original while creating something fresh
Danny Boyle: You’ve got to make the same thing, but different (laughs). If you make it exactly the same it’s inauthentic, because (then) you’re a middle-aged man making this film about boyhood again. It just doesn’t work like that. If you make it completely different, everybody’s like, “I don’t recognize it! What are you talking about? What is this?”
People do remain the same. Our knowledge of humans is (that) the more we change the more we remain the same as well. So it is an examination of them returning to Edinburgh 20 years later … reigniting the chemistry of that friendship. And it’s (about) how much they’ve changed and how much they haven’t.
On how his perspectives have changed 20 years later
Boyle: I think, really, it looks at how bad men are about aging. I think that’s really what it’s about. I mean, what we discovered in doing it is how much more sensible women are about measuring out time. They just are. They get such flak about aging but actually they’re much more sensible about it, and there are biological reasons for that I think. There’s a clock inside them that let’s them — whereas men have this idea, this Dorian Gray idea of eternal youth, that we can always have a good time, just like the old days. And indeed, the film really is a movement from boyhood to manhood, really what that 20 years represents in a way.
On convincing Ewan McGregor to do the sequel
Boyle: Ewan and I famously, kind of — I say famously — we fell out over The Beach. We didn’t treat him very well. And he was very magnanimous about it really. And so we healed our friendship … It’s a beautiful thing if you can find it in your own life. I’ve been very lucky with Ewan. I have a kind of love affair with Ewan. And as soon as we got back together again it was very simple the way we work together. It’s very symbiotic. He inspires me as a director and I hope I inspire him. He certainly does wonderful work for me.
There’s a final image in the film, which is (McGregor’s character) Renton in his childhood bedroom … that came out of just me and him talking, and it’s one of the proudest things I’ve ever shot. It’s a very simple thing but I remember saying to him, “If I get knocked down by a bus, Ewan, later on today, and that’s the last thing I’ve ever shot in my film career, I will die a happy man.” And he said, “Oh don’t say that! We’ve only just started working together again!” But I hope you’ll know what I mean if you see the movie.
On directing the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Olympic Games in London
Boyle: It took a couple of years, that, and a bit of stress. But yeah, we made a decent job of it. We did it in the right way. It was interesting because, although it’s obviously a very different form in many ways, in my world you have to have the same — you enter things with a set of principles and you have to believe in them and stick to them because there’s so many distractions and so many people trying to change you, subtley or not so subtlely. And then there’s the role of money and all that kind of stuff. You have to keep faith in your belief. Establish what it is and keep faith in it.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. Hit play above to listen to the entire segment.