Interview: 'Filth' author Irvine Welsh: 'Success is pretty boring'

Irvine Welsh talks about the film made of his novel "Filth," why he's drawn to depicting failure and the state of the "Trainspotting" movie sequel.

Scottish novelist Irvine Welsh's novel "Filth" is the latest of his works to make it to the screen. Credit: Getty Images Scottish novelist Irvine Welsh's novel "Filth" is the latest of his works to make it to the screen.
Credit: Getty Images

 

Scottish author Irvine Welsh has made a career of chronicling not-too-nice characters in books like "Trainspotting," its sequel "Porno" and "Filth." That last one, about a corrupt, drug-abusing detective vying for a promotion, is the latest of Welsh's works to make it to the screen, with usually very nice James McAvoy in the main role.

 

In adapting "Filth" to film, did you worry actors like James McAvoy, Jamie Bell and Imogen Poots might be too pretty to play these characters?

 

That was the original concern with James. When I first met him he looked about 10 years old, basically, and I thought there's no way he's going to be able to play a 40-year-old divorcee alcoholic cop, but he does rough up very well. He really did look the part. The makeup and costume were fantastic, but it was just his way of carrying himself with that sneer and that alcoholic kind of attitude that he could exude.

 

It's a very taxing lifestyle this character lives.

Yeah yeah yeah, the guy is in complete disintegration. We catch him at a really bad time in his life. If you're a novelist you're essentially a dramatist, and that's where the drama kind of lies. If we're having a bad time, we start making all the bad decisions, compounding that misery. I think that's where the drama lies. The drama doesn't lie in that nice, hard-working middle class suburban guy who everything is going right with. It's when things start to fall apart in people's lives that things get interesting from a novelistic point of view.

What draws you to these types of characters?

I'm always interested in the mechanisms by which people fail. Failure has always fascinated me. I find it much more interesting than success. Success is pretty boring. If you're successful at something you just feel good about yourself, and you get on your high horse and start talking nonsense about how you see the world and all that, imparting your wisdom whether people want it or not. But failure comes in all different forms. It teaches you things.

James McAvoy (next to Jamie Bell) eyes some drugs in "Filth." Credit: Magnolia Pictures James McAvoy (next to Jamie Bell) eyes some drugs in "Filth."
Credit: Magnolia Pictures

James McAvoy gets to actually be Scottish on-screen for once.

Yeah, he does! He's kind of been everything but Scottish in so many roles, so it was very fun for him, I think. And he wasn't even speaking in his own voice. He's from the west of Scotland, and he was speaking in a very east of Scotland accent. Americans won't notice the difference, but to Scottish ears it's very, very apparent, and it's a very difficult thing for somebody from the west of Scotland to pull off convincingly an east of Scotland accent. If you have a Glaswegian do a bad Edinburgh accent, it really hits home.

You're right, I don't think American audiences will catch that.

Yeah, they won't care. [Laughs]

Any updates on the talks of a "Trainspotting" sequel?

We actually all got together in a flat last week, the creative team from "Trainspotting." We just took an apartment in Edinburgh and hung out together, just to see if it was feasible, to see if we can get a script together. And that's a big challenge. I think we're all conscious of the legacy, and if we just find that we can't get a script together that's at least as good as the original — which is a kind of tall order, really — then we'll just leave it. We won't trash the legacy of the original, but if we come up with something really special that has a bit of magic in it, then sure.

Obviously it would be a very different film because the characters in it would be 20 years older, so it wouldn't be a youth movie in the way that "Trainspotting" was. But I think there's something interesting about these characters being middle-aged and not coping with it well or pulling one last big scam, centered around the pornography and sex world. But we're still in that stage of trying to find out how viable it is.

Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter @nedrick

 
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