0 Love It

Danny Boyle goes back to the day job

The director with the Olympic spirit talks about his new film, 'Trance'

© Rob Greig

Last year, it took a smiley bloke from Lancashire to wipe the grimace clean off London’s face. Danny Boyle was in charge of the national anti-depressant that was the Olympics Opening Ceremony. He’s the film and theatre director best known for movies including ‘Trainspotting’ and ‘28 Days Later...’, and for winning an Oscar in 2009 for ‘Slumdog Millionaire’. But for one night only, this 56-year-old was the nation’s entertainer-in-chief. We feared watching through our fingers at ‘X Factor’-style theatrics and a guest appearance from Status Quo. Instead, Boyle gave the world dancing nurses, flaming rings and an enormous clip of the lesbian snog from ‘Brookside’. He became a national hero overnight.

Did Boyle feel the love on London’s streets afterwards? ‘Yes, it was lovely to be honest,’ he says, beaming at the memory as we sit in a members’ club in the West End. ‘People would look you in the eye and say thank you. They didn’t want an autograph. It was genuine. It wasn’t because you’re famous, but because of what you’ve done.’

Seven months after the ceremony, Boyle is still hard at work: he has a new film, ‘Trance’, in cinemas this month, which he’s promoting. When we meet he’s wearing a black suit with a smart shirt and tie. ‘I’m dressed for a shoot with the Daily Mail, of all papers,’ he laughs. He’s hardly Middle England. Boyle is outspoken on the coalition government’s arts cuts and he has an unfancy background. His parents were Irish immigrants: his dad a labourer, his mum a dinner lady. But he scrubs up well.

He had to be just as dapper when he turned up at Buckingham Palace last summer to film the Queen and Daniel Craig. ‘You couldn’t wear jeans,’ he remembers, ‘and it was shirt and jacket.’ Was Her Maj a pro under his direction? ‘She was great. She deals with cameras all the time, it’s part of her life. She’s sharp. She astutely judged that the Jubilee would be very formal and this could be less so. But it was insane trying to get them in the same room. There was a feeling that we should shoot them separately, but I was like, “No, we’ve got to do them together!” She also wanted some of her people to be in it – like this guy Paul, who’s a footman and has been with her for donkey’s years. I thought: That’s cool.’

So, was he offered a gong in the New Year’s Honours List? ‘It really isn’t my cup of tea,’ he says. ‘It’s a personal thing. It’s no reflection on anybody else. What we did wasn’t meant to promote anybody’s career. I’m privileged enough as it is. I didn’t think it was right.’ If he’s a little uncomfortable, you can see why: declare that you’ve turned down a gong and you’re sanctimonious; say nothing, and you leave everyone else to chatter about you. ‘I didn’t want any publicity. But I also don’t want to be distortingly coy. I’m proud of what we did and it belonged to all those people. That’s enough for me. The other thing is, I’m not a man of the people. People say: “Oh, he wants to stay a man of the people.” Ridiculous!’

Now that Boyle has marshalled such a huge project as the Olympics Opening Ceremony and had 007 perform for him, can he see himself directing something on the scale of a Bond movie? ‘I love people like Christopher Nolan and Ridley Scott, and I love watching their films. But I like a smaller crew. And it might sound a bit naff, but I like it being a little more guerrilla, which you can only get with a small team.’ His movie debut, ‘Shallow Grave’, made in 1994 after more than a decade working as a director and producer in TV, and as a director for the Royal Court and RSC in theatre, was just such a guerrilla film. ‘Trainspotting’ followed in 1996, and since then he’s applied his zesty, loud and frenetic style to the zombie movie ‘28 Days Later...’, sci-fi ‘Sunshine’ and souped-up fantasy-realist film ‘Slumdog Millionaire’.

The new film, ‘Trance’, is a London-set psychological mind game of a movie that sees James McAvoy as a slick employee at a high-class auction house who’s dragged into a fast-moving conspiracy when he’s hit over the head during a robbery at work and loses his memory. The thieves – including a vicious Vincent Cassel – need him to remember where a painting is hidden – which in turn leads to hypnotherapy sessions with Rosario Dawson and plunges the film into a tricksy storytelling vortex.

For Boyle, ‘Trance’ has had the happy effect of leading to a romantic relationship with female lead Dawson, but it’s not easy to write about a film that hinges on some key twists (Boyle sent me a letter before a screening, asking me to help him ‘protect the film’s most intimate secret’). When he talks about it, he mentions films like ‘Memento’ and ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’– films unafraid to take a story somewhere a bit head-scratchy. It’s very much a Boyle film: choppy, fast, inventive, with pumping music and colourful performances. It’s also violent: there’s a scene where we see a bullet blowing apart someone’s head in slow motion and in close-up.

Boyle says ‘Trance’ emerged from the dark side of the Olympic dream. ‘It’s what happens to your brain when you’re trying to do the Olympics,’ he laughs, ‘the savagery you’re not allowed to depict when you’ve got the job of being family-orientated and celebratory!’ He shot it right in the middle of planning the Opening Ceremony. ‘On paper, the Olympics was two years’ work, and if you want to sit around a table for two years, you can. But it will drive you insane.

‘So we negotiated two sabbaticals, one for “Frankenstein” at the National Theatre, and the other to shoot “Trance”. They were the antithesis to the celebratory nature of the Olympics. You look at them and think: There you go. That’s what you really want to do.’ On some days he’d pop into the office after filming. ‘We’d have bizarre days where you’re blowing someone’s head off on set, and then you’d go into a meeting about the Queen.’

Somehow Boyle pulled it off, and along with ‘Skyfall’ director Sam Mendes, he made 2012 the year when British film directors became household names. ‘There’s a wider issue here,’ he insists, as we prepare to leave. ‘Mendes, Stephen Daldry [the ‘Billy Elliot’ director who oversaw all the Olympic ceremonies] and me: we all came out of the theatre. So when politicians suggest that culture shouldn’t be core to the new baccalaureate exams [planned to replace GCSEs, but recently abandoned], it’s insane.

‘The other danger at the moment is to regional theatres and their funding. All three of us came from them. You risk something very valuable by letting them decay. One of the things people think we’re good at – and fucking cool at – in this country is culture.’ And no one is more responsible for that at the moment than Danny Boyle.

Trance’ opens in the UK on Wed Mar 27.

A guide to Danny Boyle's London

'Trainspotting' (1996)

It's a Scottish tale through and through, but Boyle's big-screen adaptation of Irvine Welsh's skagtastic era-defining novel winds up in the capital. Ewan McGregor moves to London and his ne'erdowell junkie pals join him to pull off one last big heroin deal.

Read more

'28 Days Later…' (2002)

It's become one of the iconic images of modern British film. Cillian Murphy, in hospital garb and holding a plastic carrier bag, wanders across a litter-strewn but otherwise deserted Westminster Bridge in the aftermath of a viral apocalypse in Boyle's contemporary zombie movie.

Read more

London 2012 Opening Ceremony

The Olympics was Boyle's biggest gig yet: telling the rest of the world what's so great about our city, our country and our history. He had the nation eating out of his hand as the National Health Service danced and the Industrial Revolution was reborn as musical theatre.

'Trance' (2013)

Boyle's new psychological thriller is set entirely in London and mostly shot around east London and the Docklands. The locations make for an evocative capital backdrop, and were handy for the director's evening job: he juggled the film's shoot with his work on the Olympics.

Read more

More Time Out film features

The 50 films we can’t wait to see in 2015

A new Bond, a new Star Wars, a new Terminator, plus movies from Scorsese, Spielberg and Paul Thomas Anderson – 2015 is shaping up to be a humdinger

Read more
By: Tom Huddleston

The 20 best horror films on Netflix

No idea which are the best horror movies on Netflix UK? We’ve handpicked the most scary movies available to stream online

Read more
By: Tom Huddleston

15 films you need to see before the end of 2014

From blockbusters to biopics, we look forward to the best films coming to cinemas between now and Christmas The latest film interviews Andy Serkis As the actor monkeys around in ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’, he talks chimps, ‘Star Wars VII’ and playing Hitler Few actors have done more to revolutionise filmmaking than Andy Serkis, the unseen star of apocalyptic blockbuster ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’. Wearing a ludicrous green Lycra ‘performance capture’ suit (basically a high tech leotard), Serkis has no qualms about wriggling around as Gollum in ‘Lord of the Rings’, or chestbeating in ‘King Kong’. Rather than view it as a sideline to ‘proper’ acting, the 50-year-old north Londoner has become the king of performance capture technology, where an actor’s movements are digitally recorded and translated into a computer image. He’s even opened a dedicated studio in Ealing, the Imaginarium, where he’ll direct ‘The Jungle Book’. His turn as chimp leader Caesar in the new ‘Apes’ was shot in performance capture. It’s a breathtaking example of technology and Serkis’s raw and powerful acting – even if you can’t see his face.Is performance capture your life’s work? ‘I’ve championed the technology because I really believe in it. It’s the most liberating tool for an actor. It enables you to play anything, regardless of shape, colour or sex. I wouldn’t say it’s everything, but it’s a massive chunk of my life.’ You’ve been doing it for years, but are there still times when you feel

Read more

The highs and lows of Bruce Willis

We chart the skyscraping highs and bum-flashing lows of wisecracking action man and all-American idol Bruce Willis The latest film interviews Andy Serkis As the actor monkeys around in ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’, he talks chimps, ‘Star Wars VII’ and playing Hitler Few actors have done more to revolutionise filmmaking than Andy Serkis, the unseen star of apocalyptic blockbuster ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’. Wearing a ludicrous green Lycra ‘performance capture’ suit (basically a high tech leotard), Serkis has no qualms about wriggling around as Gollum in ‘Lord of the Rings’, or chestbeating in ‘King Kong’. Rather than view it as a sideline to ‘proper’ acting, the 50-year-old north Londoner has become the king of performance capture technology, where an actor’s movements are digitally recorded and translated into a computer image. He’s even opened a dedicated studio in Ealing, the Imaginarium, where he’ll direct ‘The Jungle Book’. His turn as chimp leader Caesar in the new ‘Apes’ was shot in performance capture. It’s a breathtaking example of technology and Serkis’s raw and powerful acting – even if you can’t see his face.Is performance capture your life’s work? ‘I’ve championed the technology because I really believe in it. It’s the most liberating tool for an actor. It enables you to play anything, regardless of shape, colour or sex. I wouldn’t say it’s everything, but it’s a massive chunk of my life.’ You’ve been doing it for years, but are there still times when y

Read more

Ten reasons we love Robin Williams

We pay tribute to the wild, unpredictable Hollywood star whose career ranged from outright comedy to Oscar-winning dramatic roles The latest film interviews Andy Serkis As the actor monkeys around in ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’, he talks chimps, ‘Star Wars VII’ and playing Hitler Few actors have done more to revolutionise filmmaking than Andy Serkis, the unseen star of apocalyptic blockbuster ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’. Wearing a ludicrous green Lycra ‘performance capture’ suit (basically a high tech leotard), Serkis has no qualms about wriggling around as Gollum in ‘Lord of the Rings’, or chestbeating in ‘King Kong’. Rather than view it as a sideline to ‘proper’ acting, the 50-year-old north Londoner has become the king of performance capture technology, where an actor’s movements are digitally recorded and translated into a computer image. He’s even opened a dedicated studio in Ealing, the Imaginarium, where he’ll direct ‘The Jungle Book’. His turn as chimp leader Caesar in the new ‘Apes’ was shot in performance capture. It’s a breathtaking example of technology and Serkis’s raw and powerful acting – even if you can’t see his face.Is performance capture your life’s work? ‘I’ve championed the technology because I really believe in it. It’s the most liberating tool for an actor. It enables you to play anything, regardless of shape, colour or sex. I wouldn’t say it’s everything, but it’s a massive chunk of my life.’ You’ve been doing it for years, but are there sti

Read more

The 20 most hilariously bad sci-fi movies

The 100 best sci-fi movies Check out our epic celebration of sci-fi on screen, from established masterpieces to small-scale oddities. We hope it’ll serve not just as a fun read for film fans, but as inspiration for future directors, writers and perhaps even budding scientists. Get it right, and science fiction can be the most awe-inspiring cinematic genre there is. Get it wrong, and the results can be catastrophic, embarrassing – and really fun to watch Take a closer look at the world of sci-fi... The 100 best sci-fi movies This is a golden age of science fiction cinema. But how did we get here? How did this hugely popular but critically frowned-upon genre go from cardboard spaceships on strings at the local drive-in to the world-conquering pinnacle of blockbuster success? To find out, we created ‘The 100 best sci-fi movies’, a definitive look at the genre from the silent spectacle of 1927’s ‘Metropolis’ to the emotional intimacy of 2013’s ‘Her’. More on sci-fi movies What sci-fi planet should you live on? The 20 most hilariously bad sci-fi movies The biggest sci-fi movies of all time The ten sci-fi movie inventions we wish were real The 20 most horrific sci-fi movie deaths 1977: the most important year in sci-fi movie history From a spaceship on strings to guy-in-a-rubber-suit aliens, cardboard robots, Mick Jagger in leather chaps and John Travolta with dreadlocks, the worst sci-fi movies offer us a whole universe of wrong. Strap on your blaster, pour yoursel

Read more

Five things you probably didn’t know about Nicolas Cage

From his famous uncle to tripping with a feline friend, there’s more to the ‘Leaving Las Vegas’ star than you might have thought 1. He’s big on superheroes Born Nicolas Coppola, he got sick of being teased that he only had a career because of his surname (thanks to uncle Francis Ford). So he changed it to Cage after Marvel superhero Luke Cage. Well, it’s better than Thor. Latest film interviews Elle Fanning ‘I’m 16. I still go to school dances’ The teenage actress talks Disney princesses, fashion, feminism and getting star-struck. Read the interview Ken Loach ‘It’s difficult to keep out of mischief’ We speak to veteran director Ken Loach about rumours of retirement and his new film ‘Jimmy’s Hall’. Read the interview Michael Fassbender ‘You have to take risks’ We ask the star of ‘Shame’ and ‘12 Years a Slave’ why he’s hiding inside a giant fibreglass head. Read the interview Joanna Hogg ‘I tend to draw from my own life’ The British director discusses her new film, which explores the lives of two middle-aged artists. Read the interview Adam Driver ‘The military is the best acting training’ The accidental sex symbol talks about joining the US Marines, ‘Girls’ and his new film ‘Tracks’. Read the interview 2. He also likes dinosaurs In 2007, Cage paid $276,000 for a dinosaur skull, outbidding Leonardo DiCaprio. Excessive? This is a man who once owned nine Rolls Royces. The best films now showing Dawn of the Planet of the Apes The sequel to the prequel is a knockout Bo

Read more

Five things we learned at Comic-Con 2014

All the big news from this year’s ultimate gathering of movie geeks The world’s biggest celebration of geek-friendly movies, comics and TV shows, San Diego’s Comic-Con International took place at the weekend. The internet is full of news pieces, screaming headlines and insider reports – but we’ve broken it all down into one handy five-point piece. This is all you need to know. 1. The Marvel Express shows no signs of slowing   For the past few years, Marvel Comics have dominated our summer viewing schedule. That’s not likely to change any time soon. Top of their upcoming release slate is ‘The Avengers: Age of Ultron’, next summer’s sequel to 2012’s ‘Avengers Assemble’, which is their biggest hit so far and one of the most successful films of all time. Cast members Robert Downey Jr, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans and Samuel L Jackson were all on hand to promote the new movie, alongside villains James Spader and Josh Brolin. Comic-Con attendees were treated to a clip depicting the Avengers in their civvies sharing a drink, before a horde of galactic warriors came to gatecrash their party.In other Marvel news, footage was screened from the upcoming ‘Ant-Man’, in which Paul Rudd plays a hero able to shrink to insect size, and a sequel was announced for this summer’s sure-to-be-smash, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’. Latest film interviews Elle Fanning ‘I’m 16. I still go to school dances’ The teenage actress talks Disney princesses, fashion, feminism and getting sta

Read more

Five reasons why 1977 was the most important year in sci-fi movie history

1. ‘Star Wars’ is a hit George Lucas was a punk. He may not have had a Mohican or a safety pin through his nose, but the California-born director’s bloody-minded determination to make ‘Star Wars’ his way – building from scratch his own SFX studio, refusing to cast major stars, ignoring the advice of experienced industry insiders left and right – displayed a total dedication to the DIY ethos. Of course, it paid off handsomely, but there was never any guarantee. And if audiences hadn’t warmed to this odd little film about spaceships and mystical forces, the movies as we know them might look very different.‘Star Wars’ has been blamed for everything from infantilising filmgoers to celebrating American military might and thereby putting Ronald Reagan in power. But it also brought joy to millions of people around the world, and helped to make filmmaking a more democratic, grassroots process. God save George Lucas. We mean it, man.‘Star Wars’ is number six in our list of the 100 best sci-fi movies The 100 best sci-fi movies Check out our epic celebration of sci-fi on screen, from established masterpieces to small-scale oddities. We hope it’ll serve not just as a fun read for film fans, but as inspiration for future directors, writers and perhaps even budding scientists. It wasn’t just ‘Star Wars’ that sent the popularity of the genre into orbit. Here’s why the late ‘70s were a golden time to be a nerd 2. ‘Damnation Alley’ flops The likelihood is you’ve never even heard of ‘Damnati

Read more
By: Tom Huddleston
Show more

Comments

0 comments