- Danny Boyle: Interviews
The collected material in Brent Dunham’s Danny Boyle: Interviews showcases the life and career of this astronomically successful, yet refreshingly modest British director. Although it is hard to classify Danny Boyle with any single moniker, the director’s view of himself is light-years away from thethe egotism of which he is often accused by critics.. If Boyle can claim anything like a rallying cry, he plainly states it in an interview with John Suozzo conducted shortly after the release of his family-friendly Millions (2004): “I’m really a regular guy” (93). While his career might be dismissed as a tribute to violent excess (Trainspotting , 28 Days Later ), a series of populist compromises (A Life Less Ordinary , The Beach ), or a string of break-out hits (culminating with Slumdog Millionaire ), Dunham’s book helps make clear that Boyle is willing to work in nearly any genre so long as his projects strike the right balance of artistic intent and on-the-fly invention, with the caveat that they remain accessible to wide audiences.
In some of his interviews, Boyle reveals that he has absolutely no illusions about his job. In discussing The Beach, a massively budgeted feature starring the then “biggest” actor in the world, Leonard DiCaprio, Boyle downplays his own considerable achievements, which at that point included the Scottish thiller Shallow Grave (1993) and the internationally successful Trainspotting: “We kid ourselves that an audience wants to see a Spike Lee or a Martin Scorsese film, but ultimately all they want to see is actors. A mass audience always goes to a cinema for actors, not directors” (59). Later, Boyle admits that 28 Days Later—now regarded as one of the seminal horror films of the [End Page 86] past decade for the immediacy of its digital camerawork and its uncompromisingly grim vision of a post-apocalyptic civilization on the brink—provided an opportunity to “take a genre idea and make it a mainstream film that will appeal to as many people as possible” (77).
Boyle’s emergence as a major world director is thanks to diligent work in the theater that positioned him as an “actor’s” director. In an interview with Tavis Smiley from 2009, Boyle confides that he makes a point to welcome collaborative insights and gut responses from even the most inexperienced of actors, noting that the personalities on screen can often “get you out of corners” when time, money, and technical resources are in short supply (153). Dunham’s book is constructed to take Boyle’s democratizing instinct a step further. The interviews relating to Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, and A Life Less Ordinary stress the partnership between Boyle, writer John Hodge, and producer Andrew MacDonald. Most of these interviews feature all three men, and in each instance they seize the opportunity to stress the fruits of their working relationship. Later in his career, in a dialog before a group of film students, Boyle refers to the importance of recognizing one’s individual limitations as an invitation to depend on the skills of peers and collaborators (121).
Indeed, Boyle’s hesitation to ascribe too much credit to himself becomes something of a theme. While Boyle emerges as modest, likeable, and decidedly realistic in his assessment of the process of filmmaking, his unwillingness to play the same self-promotional game as other directors makes him a maddeningly difficult artist to pin-down. Careful attention to Boyle’s films—discounting his cast of frequent collaborators—yields a few consistent traits that can surely be anchored, to one degree or another, to Boyle’s own sensibilities. As many of the interviewers make clear, Boyle has a knack for choreographing scenes of frenetic action to music. Trainspotting’s introductory sequence, a fast-moving view of heroin addict Renton (Ewan McGregor) set to Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life,” is frequently lauded on these grounds (14). Although some of his films showcase rural areas, he, along with peers...