Trainspotting was released in the United Kingdom on 23 February 1996 and very quickly became a cultural phenomenon. The film has been ranked 10th by the British Film Institute (BFI) in its list of Top 100 British films of all time. In 2004 the film was voted the best Scottish film of all time in a general public poll beating off stiff competition from such other legendary films as… erm…. I’ll get back to you.
Based on the novel of the same name by Irvine Welsh, Trainspotting follows follows a group of heroin addicts in an economically depressed area of Edinburgh and their passage through life. Beyond drug addiction, other themes in the film are exploration of the urban poverty and squalor in “culturally rich” Edinburgh.
Filmed in a mere seven weeks with a mere budget of 1.5 million pounds and a pitiful £800’000 allocated for advertising the film managed to get an incredible amount of free advertising in the UK and US thank to an alleged glorification of drug-taking. US Senator Bob Dole accused it of moral depravity and glorifying drug use during the 1996 US presidential campaign, although he later said that he had not seen the film. Producer of the film Andrew Macdonald responded to these claims in a BBC interview stating “we were determined to show why people took drugs … you had to show that it was fun and that it was awful” to which Boyle adds “It’s the music and humour that makes people feel it’s glamorising drugs.” Despite the controversy, it was widely praised and received a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay in that year’s Academy Awards. Time magazine ranked Trainspotting as the third best film of 1996.
The films plot follows Renton, (played by Ewan McGregor in his star-making turn) who, whilst deeply immersed in the Edinburgh drug scene, tries to clean up and get out, despite the allure of the drugs and influence of friends.
And despite the in a nutshell plot description and lean running time of 94 minutes this is a frankly amazing film. Key to it all aside from the incredible performances, unique style of shooting, blurring of fantasy and reality, narration that not only makes a point, but enhances the film AND produces one of cinemas all time great monologues in ‘choose life’. Is it’s soundtrack, a pitch perfect blend of music ranging from Iggy Pop to Pulp to Blur to Underworld. And it still sounds damn good today.
Sadly though, the same cannot be said for the actors Scottish accents, which were so thick that various options were considered to make the film more intelligible for American audiences. Subtitles were ruled out as they would spoil the effect of using them in the disco scene. Instead, the actors re-recorded the first 20 minutes of dialog, softening their accents to atune American ears to the Scottish dialect.
Interestingly, although set in Edinburgh, almost all of the film was shot in Glasgow, apart from the opening scenes, which were shot in Edinburgh, and the final scenes which were shot in London. I have no idea why.
Now despite the claims of Mr. Dole, this film in no way glamorizes drug taking. It shows that it does produce euphoria, true. But the main characters live squalid lives of destitution, one fails to make it to the end credits and I highly doubt the film inspired anyone who watched to decide that a life spent taking drugs was for them. This is a film where a character dives into a filth encrusted toilet to retrieve drugs that he had hidden up his rectum and also in which a baby dies as a result of neglect.
Oh, and if your wondering as to why the film is called Trainspotting when none of the main characters engage in the hobby Irvine Welsh (who wrote the source novel) has gone on record to explain the title, comparing the unusual hobby to heroin addiction, ie, something that only the people who indulge in that pastime truly understand. To them, it makes perfect sense.This did however backfire slightly as when Oasis were asked to contribute to the soundtrack, Noel Gallagher declined, as he thought the film was actually about trainspotters.
Did I mention the iconic poster? No. Yeah, even the freaking ADVERTISING for this film is iconic.
And so, having created a film which even now sits at number 161 in IMDB ‘s top 250 and I was forced to analyze scene by scene and (seemingly) frame be frame during my A-levels And in in 2004 the magazine Total Film named it the fourth greatest British film of all time. And when The Observer polled several filmmakers and film critics they promptly voted it the best British film in the last 25 years what did Danny Boyle decide to do in 2009? Sequel time.
Boyle had declared his wish to make a sequel to Trainspotting which would take place nine years after the original film, based on Irvine Welsh’s sequel, Porno. He was reportedly waiting until the original actors themselves aged visibly enough to portray the same characters, ravaged by time; Boyle joked that the natural vanity of actors would make it a long wait. Ewan McGregor stated in an interview that he would return for a sequel, saying “I’m totally up for it. I’d be so chuffed to be back on set with everybody and I think it would be an extraordinary experience.”
In 2013, Boyle said he wanted to make a sequel that would be loosely based on Porno which he has described as “not a great book in the way that Trainspotting, the original novel, is genuinely a masterpiece”.
On 6 May 2014, during a BBC Radio interview with Richard Bacon, Welsh confirmed that he had spent a week with Boyle, Andrew Macdonald and the creative team behind Trainspotting to discuss the sequel. Welsh stated that the meeting was in order to “explore the story and script ideas. We’re not interested in doing something that will trash the legacy of Trainspotting. … We want to do something that’s very fresh and contemporary.”
In a newspaper interview with The Scotsman on 17 November 2014, Welsh revealed that McGregor and Boyle had resolved their differences and had held meetings about the film, saying “I know Danny and Ewan are back in touch with each other again. There are others in the cast who’ve had a rocky road, but now also reconciled. With the Trainspotting sequel the attention is going to be even more intense this time round because the first was such a great movie—and Danny’s such a colossus now. We’re all protective of the Trainspotting legacy and we want to make a film that adds to that legacy and doesn’t take away from it.”
On 7 September 2015, at the Telluride Film Festival, Boyle stated his next film would be a sequel, tentatively titled Trainspotting 2.
In a 27 September 2015 interview with ComingSoon.net, Boyle revealed that a script for the sequel had been written, and that filming would reportedly take place between May and June 2016, in the hopes of releasing the film within that same year to commemorate Trainspotting’s 20th anniversary.
While promoting Steve Jobs in November 2015, Boyle reiterated the hopes of beginning principal photography for the sequel in May and June 2016, and started pre-production in Edinburgh. Boyle also clarified that John Hodge had written an original screenplay for the sequel, which would not be a strict adaptation of Porno. An earlier script was reportedly written about 10 years prior, but was scrapped and redone so that the original cast would agree to return for a film sequel. The working title for the sequel was T2.
In a November 2015 phone interview with NME, Robert Carlyle confirmed he would be returning for the sequel to play Begbie. According to Carlyle, he and other members of the Trainspotting cast had already read John Hodge’s script, which would take place 20 years (much like its intended 2016 release) after the original plot. Filming started on the 16th of May 2016, Carlyle praised Hodge’s screenplay and hinted that T2 “is going to be quite emotional for people. Because the film sort of tells you to think about yourself. You are going to be thinking: ‘Fuck. What have I done with my life?'”
But, will this sequel, 20 years in the making be anywhere near as good as the original or the celluloid equivalent of dad dancing?
I’ll let you know.