Danny Boyle

Kelly MacDonald and a distinctly nervous Ewan McGregor in Trainspotting (1996)

Kelly MacDonald and a distinctly nervous Ewan McGregor in Trainspotting (1996)

  • Born:  1956
  • Rank:  68
  • Score:  545.60
  • Awards:  Oscar / DGA / BAFTA / Golden Globe / LAFC / CFC / BFCA
  • Nominations:  Oscar / DGA / BAFTA / BFCA
  • Feature Films:  8
  • Best:  Trainspotting
  • Worst:  The Beach

Top 5 Films:

  1. Trainspotting – 1996
  2. Slumdog Millionaire – 2008
  3. 28 Days Later – 2003
  4. Shallow Grave – 1994
  5. A Life Less Ordinary – 1997

Top 10 Best Director Finishes (Nighthawk Awards):

  • 1996 – 3rd – Trainspotting
  • 2008 – 1st – Slumdog Millionaire

In the mid-90’s, the amazing team of Danny Boyle, John Hodge (the screenwriter) and Ewan McGregor leapt into international cinematic success.  Their first film (Shallow Grave) was new and interesting, their next film was one of the best films of the 90’s (and one of my favorite films of all-time) and their third film, while a step back, was daring and original (and the first film to show off Ewan’s singing abilities).  After that, Boyle teamed with Leo for The Beach (in which my friend Tavis Sarmento is an extra in one scene), then stepped away from feature films for a few years, with some television and shorter work before finding new success teamed with Cilian Murphy in his pseudo-zombie film 28 Days Later no longer teaming with John Hodge).  He followed that with Millions (Ebert loved it, I thought it was okay), teamed with Murphy again for Sunshine, then of course came Slumdog and we all know what happened then.  It won everything and it deserved to because it was the best film of the year.

Trainspotting – #2 film of 1996

We remember things the way we remember them, not necessarily the way they happened.  The way I remember it, the first U.S. teaser for Trainspotting was the toilet scene.  That’s it.  Just the toilet scene.  Ewan going into the toilet (the worst toilet in all of Scotland) after his suppositories, finding them, then climbing back out in success.  That was the whole teaser as I remember it.  And I thought, I have to see this film.

And so I did.  And I couldn’t understand half the Scottish dialogue (and if you think it’s hard to understand on film, try reading the novel, where it’s written phonetically – it’s almost easier to read the novel aloud).  So I went and saw it again.  And that time I understood and I also loved it, so I went and saw it again.  And I knew I had seen one of the best films of the decade (but not, alas, the best film of the year because it is from the same year as Lone Star).

How can I explain how much I love this film?  First there is the directing.  Pitch perfect.  Boyle is fantastic from start to finish, starting with a frenetic pace and actually keeping it up until the end.  Then there is the writing.  It takes a much more episodic novel and makes a more coherent story out of it, complete with some of the most quotable dialogue in film history (“Choose life,” “That’s your theory” and of course “It’s shit being Scottish.  Some people hate the English.  I don’t.  They’re just wankers.  But us, we were colonized by wankers.  Couldn’t even find a decent civilization to be colonized by.”).

There is of course the acting.  Ewan McGregor began his rise to the top with this film before achieving stratospheric stardom as Obi-Wan and everything about his performance is spot-on.  Kelly MacDonald is fantastic and witty and above all, sexy.  Robert Carlyle is suitably psychotic a year before Full Monty made us rethink him.

There is the editing.  The way we come into the chase, right from the start.  The way pieces slide together, then come apart.  The amazing bookends to the movie with the titles and the speeches.

But, perhaps, most of all, there is the music.  They released two soundtracks to the film and I own both.  And the soundtrack merges so perfectly with the film that the mix tape versions I use of “Lust for Life” and “Born Slippy” aren’t the versions from the CD’s but rather versions I recorded straight from the film with the dialogue intact over the songs.  And will “Temptation” ever sound the same as it does when Kelly MacDonald is dressed in her school-girl outfit singing it on the end of the bed?

Final note on the film:  Because Jonny Lee Miller starred in my Mom’s favorite show, the short-lived Eli Stone and because Kevin McKidd is on Grey’s Anatomy, she decided to watch Trainspotting one day (because she doesn’t listen to me).  She turned it off because there was too much male nudity.  I tried to explain to her that she is the only straight female on the planet who would turn off a movie because of too much nude Ewan McGregor.