T2: Trainspotting – Q&A

One of the extras on the Blu-ray and 4K-UHD of T2 Trainspotting out this week is a 25-minute conversation with director Danny Boyle and stars Ewan McGregor, Robert Carlyle and Jonny Lee Miller.

Boyle describes the characters’ evolution over the past 20 years as transitioning from likely lads to sad dads and McGregor reveals screenwriter John Hodge never thought he was the right actor to play Renton.

On a commentary he shares with Hodge (they never recorded one for the original Trainspotting because DVDs didn’t exist when it came out on home video), Boyle says: “One of the pressures in editing was to get them [the characters] together sooner” — which is why the Blu-ray includes 30 minutes of deleted scenes.

In these excerpts from interviews conducted to publicise the release of the belated sequel, McGregor, Carlyle and Ewen Bremner discuss what it was like to reunite for the first time.

Q: Why is now the right time for T2? And what had to be in place to make sure everyone was on board for the sequel?

Bremner: So many things had to be in place for this film to happen. And there was an enormous amount of obstacles scattered over twenty years: friendships between the director and his main actor and the producers; all kinds of stuff that happens behind the scenes. Also, these guys suddenly became — not me, but the rest of those suckers — really expensive actors. I’ve always been kind of…

Carlyle: Cheap!

Bremner: Good value. But these guys became really expensive actors and how do you afford to make a film like Trainspotting again? Because we made the first one for what…

Carlyle: Twenty-five pence or something, if I remember my fee.

Bremner: [Laughs] Right.

McGregor: A big part of the film is that they’re looking back at their youth and trying to figure out what their future is going to be. And I think that doesn’t really work unless [we’re older]. If we had done it ten years ago, it wouldn’t have had that flavour in it. To me, that’s something I get out of this film very strongly: that sense of longing for the past. So, it’s timing, really. Also, it just took this long for [Boyle and Hodge] to get the script in a place where they wanted to send it out to us.

Q: What was the first day like back on set?

Carlyle: It was fantastic, of course, because we’re great friends; genuinely great friends. But, weirdly enough, we hadn’t seen each other for twenty years. That was ridiculous, you know. I remember we went out for that meal the week before we started shooting and I just wanted to cry. I felt like, I really love these guys and I haven’t seen them for so long.

Bremner: It was very precious.

Carlyle: But that’s just the way it is. As careers go, we’re all over the world. You want to keep in touch with people but you just can’t.

Q: What kind of journey do you hope audiences take when they sit down to watch this movie?

Bremner: Some sense of recognition and satisfaction that the characters they really did love are somehow still credible and alive and still exist in their consciousness in a way that’s not … shortchanged. We don’t want anybody to feel like they’ve been let down.

Carlyle: I hope so, too. When I read the script, what I noticed right away was that every single one of these guys was exactly where I wanted them to be. None of them had done anything daft. And they weren’t written in a way that wasn’t believable any more. So I really hope that the audience takes that away with them and goes, “Yeah, these guys are exactly what I expected them to be.”

McGregor: I don’t like to put thoughts in their heads about what they should expect. All I can say is that I was very moved by it in a way that I didn’t expect. I found it profoundly moving to see these people that we know and love so well. I don’t know of another movie where I feel like I know the characters [so well]. And to catch up with them now and see what their lives are like and be reminded of that time when we made the first movie — which was a very important time for me and all of us, I guess — and to be reminded of the original movie itself was an amazing feeling; an amazing emotion. So that’s how I felt and I would imagine people might get a taste of that.

Q: When the first Trainspotting (1996) came out, did you have any idea it would have the legacy that it has? And how much does that mean to you personally?

Carlyle: If I did, I’d be playing the lottery every week.

Bremner: You have no idea.

Carlyle: It was this very, very small, low-budget thing that we did. The book was obviously very popular — in Scotland, particularly – and I thought, Well, this has a chance of being something in Scotland. But the fact that it took off nationwide…

Bremner: The people paying for it didn’t think they were going to make any return on it. They just wanted to keep their relationship sweet with Danny Boyle, [producer] Andrew Macdonald and Ewan McGregor so they’d stick with them and make their next movie with them. But this was something that Danny was determined to make. So they said, “We’ll help you make it but you’ll stick with us, right? And then make the commercial one?” They thought this was going to go down the toilet because it was a radical proposition at the time. Nobody had ever made a dime on a movie that featured drug addicts. Any movie featuring a drug addict was box office suicide.

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