Danny Boyle had played for years with the idea of making a sequel to his 1996 film “Trainspotting.” The only way he would tackle it was if he had the right story and he could get the old gang back together.
Both were a mighty hurdle.
Over the past 20-plus years, Ewan McGregor had become a megastar because of his work in the “Star Wars” franchise. Both Jonny Lee Miller and Robert Carlyle have television series in “Elementary” and “Once Upon a Time.” And, Ewen Bremner was bouncing between TV appearances and feature films.
And even if he found the time and the right script, there was one other big factor.
“It’s hard making a sequel because the fans can be disappointed very easily,” Boyle says. “People have had such a long lasting affection for ‘Trainspotting.’ I have made some successful films and unsuccessful ones. They have all faded away.
“This one didn’t.”
That was the real motivation for Boyle to round up the old gang and make “T2: Trainspotting.” The sequel picks up the stories of the four roguish mates after two decades.
The only way Boyle was going to make the sequel was if all four of his original leads came back. He knew if he tried to make the film without all four that it would never have a chance of being as beloved as the original film.
Once the four initially agreed to do the project, the actors were given the same financial deal. Boyle was not going to listen to any other agents who wanted more money, better accommodations or billing changes. His thinking was that if all four actors were treated equally and then if one pulled out over a contract dispute, that actor would be the reason for the sequel not being made.
Boyle also made sure that all four got equal treatment when it comes to the script. He was able to make such a commitment because of the acting skills of his cast.
What he gave them to play was a tale of four men who have grown and matured while still holding onto some of the brashness that defined them as young men. Boyle’s plan was to make their stories different enough so “T2: Trainspotting” would come across as original but still maintain enough of the original color to please loyal fans.
“Aging is something we all can relate to,” Boyle says. “They spent their 20s not caring about anything, including themselves. Now they have found out time doesn’t care about them.”
Once he had his script and players in place, production went smoothly. He describes the way his actors returned to their roles after more than 20 years as if they were putting on a comfortable overcoat and shoes. The confidence they showed in returning to the roles made Boyle realize that it was the right time to make the sequel.
Any challenge of making the movie was small compared to taking on the task of staging the opening ceremonies for the Olympics in London. His production even included a James Bond takeoff that included Daniel Craig and Queen Elizabeth.
Boyle still has people who tell him that there was no way the real Queen would participate in such an event. His response is to tell them that the royal family and all those connected with them were open and a joy with which to work.
The ceremonies were so impressive, Boyle was selected for knighthood. It was an offer he turned down.
“It was just like the ‘T2’ principles. It would not have sat comfortably with me, with someone involved with the opening ceremonies being elevated,” Boyle says. “Everyone was going to be treated equally.”
Boyle laughs and says it was almost worth turning down the knighthood to see the reaction from fellow filmmaker Aaron Sorkin. The decline, says Boyle, left Sorkin “discombobulated.”