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Danny Boyle on his 'Trainspotting' sequel and why women age better than men

by Michelle Lanz | The Frame

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Danny Boyle attends 'T2 Trainspotting' photocall at Via Lactea on February 2, 2017 in Madrid, Spain. Juan Naharro Gimenez/Getty Images

Hollywood loves knock-offs, sequels and retreads, or as the movie business likes to call them, re-imaginings. But director Danny Boyle is not a follower.

Throughout his movie career, the British director has taken huge leaps from genre to genre — the apocalyptic zombie tale “28 Days Later,” the family film “Millions,” the outer space drama “Sunshine,” the survival thriller “127 Hours” and, of course, the best-picture winning “Slumdog Millionaire.” Oh yeah, he also directed the opening ceremonies for the London Olympics.

For years, fans have been asking Boyle to make a sequel to “Trainspotting,” his 1996 tale about a band of colorful heroin addicts. Now, he’s finally said yes, reuniting his original cast of Ewan McGregor, Jonny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle and Ewan Bremner.

To start, I was curious about what these drug-addicted hooligans have been up to the past two decades.

Interview highlights:

On what's changed for the characters in the second film:

One of them's been in prison, really, since we saw him last-- Begbie. And Renton has been in exile in Amsterdam, and living a clean life in Amsterdam. Sick Boy has kind of descended into a kind of just social use of cocaine only, but Spud remains the victim of the immense power and terror of heroin, really, and he remains an addict who's on and off. And it's astonishing that he's survived. He's the most hapless and hopeless of all the characters I suppose. But yes, they have survived. And the casualty remains Tommy from the first film. And it's sort of like, some people say this is more like a post mortem than a sequel in a way. It's certainly a reckoning that has to be had about the way that they've behaved in the first film when they did have that effortless bravado of, you know, you don't care about anything, you're reckless with your own safety, and all the things you can get away with in your 20s. And now they're all in their mid-40s and they realize the way the equation actually works is [that] time doesn't care about them, and they have a reckoning to do. 

Why a 10-year-anniversary sequel didn't work out:

We did attempt a sequel 10 years ago, at a 10-year anniversary, which is kind of a convenient point to have another go, and because Irvine Welsh had published a book which was kind of a 10-years-later sequel. And we attempted adapting it, and we abandoned that adaptation. It was a caper-- it was just another version of the first film, really, just slightly different circumstances. And additionally, the actors-- I used to joke about this-- the actors hadn't changed that much. They do moisturize, they do go to the spa, they try to give the impression they're hard-living, they're not in fact, because they know their currency is partly their looks and remaining as young-looking as possible. Cut to 10 years further on, they do look like a generation has passed now. So there's a story, a poignancy, just in that alone. As well as, something that is why we made the film really, which is that the passage of time sees us able to clearly differentiate the first film's boyhood, if you like, and that fact that this [second film] is manhood. And it's looking really at male behavior over time, is really why we made the film, through the prism of these characters of course who are wonderful characters to use.

How the film shows that women are better at aging than men:

The past is alive in all of us and particularly in these male characters... I mean, this is something we found doing the film, is how much better women are at aging than men. Women get such flak to do with age and beauty and all that stuff. Mostly, of course, prompted by men. But it's actually men who age so badly because we constantly reach back to the past and try-- without saying we're wallowing in the past, without being nostalgic-- we are trying to relive the past constantly, in an age-inappropriate way. And the characters are certainly guilty of that, and that's some of the fun of the film is you see them behaving in the way that they behaved in the first film. It's not something that's going to get them anywhere, and they kind of realize that now. You can't carry on like that. Even though they're dyeing their hair even though it's falling out.

On turning to television with the FX limited series "Trust," about oil heir John Paul Getty:

It's a great way of telling the story cause it's a multi-decade, dynastic depiction of the family over time. Five decades, but actually not in chronological order... It's very interesting as well, I'm just going through this process now. As a director, it's important that you embrace that it is television, that you're not making 10 mini feature films. Which is the danger that you can think like that... that part of your process is to hand over the leadership of the episodes to the characters, because then they pass that on to other directors who will direct the other episodes.

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