Danny Boyle was really not sure he wanted to make a “Trainspotting” sequel. There was talk of a follow-up back around 2006, as the smash hit — the one about young heroin addicts and ne’er-do-wells, played by Ewan McGregor, Jonny Lee Miller, Ewen Bremner and Robert Carlyle — was turning 10. But it didn’t feel right.
“If we went back to it, and the actors didn’t look that different — which they didn’t 10 years ago — and we didn’t really have anything to say, other than to rehash some of the jokes, it wasn’t good enough,” Boyle tells us.
Cut to 2015, with the 20th anniversary looming, and they decided to take another crack at it. It turns out the new “T2 Trainspotting” is very different indeed: gloomier, sadder, though still darkly comic. Where the first film was about youth, the second is about aging, and how badly our heroes — reunited after two decades — are handling their mid-40s.
We talked to Boyle — who since the original has made “28 Days Later,” “127 Hours” and “Slumdog Millionaire,” which netted him a Best Director Oscar — about making a very different sequel, the controversy that plagued the first and, of course, heroin.
What was the thing that convinced you a “Trainspotting” sequel would be more than a rehash?
As we talked about it, something more personal emerged. We wanted to be honest about decay, about wounds, and — since it’s a very male environment, the original film and this new one as well — about how poorly men age. Our representatives of that are a very peculiar group, obviously, because of their relationship with drugs and with each other. But it’s about the transition from a celebration of all that energy of youth to manhood, and male behavior over time. It would be about how much better women age than we do.
You had no problem getting funding for this movie, whereas with the first, that must have been incredibly difficult.
Back then, nobody wanted a drug movie. They don’t work, nobody goes to see them. And they’re depressing. The only reason we got permission to do it was because of the success of our first film, “Shallow Grave.” And we had an idea of how to do it, so it was a celebration of the novel [by Irvine Welsh]. Whereas this new film is a little more introspective — inevitably, because of their ages. And also because of their reckoning. If you’re going to do a film with the premise that Renton returns after an exile of 20 years, there’s going to be more of a sense of reckoning rather than an immersion in a style of life, which is what the first one is, really.