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Director Danny Boyle on Trance, Hypnosis, and a Trainspotting Sequel

Danny Boyle. Photo: Stephen Lovekin/2013 Getty Images

Danny Boyle’s art-heist film Trance is the kind of story that begs you not to discuss it with anyone in advance, lest you spoil the intricacies of the plot, or, like Inception (the film the director used as an example to help get funding), you reveal which parts of the story are based in reality and which take place in a sort of dream state induced by hypnosis. You don’t want to spoil it, but then again, Boyle himself spoiled it when he showed an audience a clip of the film at SXSW — of the climatic finale. The director rang up Vulture to chat about giving up the goods, full-frontal nudity, and his plans for Trainspotting 2.

You did something that almost no director would ever do. You gave away the finale at SXSW. 
I kind of have a belief — and this certainly happens to me at movies, and it kind of addresses the eternal spoiler problem — that when you go into a movie, there is an amnesiac effect. It happens to me, because I go in knowing stuff, and I kind of forget it. I get lost in the story. So you obviously hope that happens. We had a problem, which there was a danger, given the work we’d done recently, that people would think this would be a movie like Slumdog Millionaire or 127 Hours, which are kind of good-hearted, redemptive movies. And this is like an evil cousin of that kind of film! It’s like a bad relative, and it’s that kind of noir-ish, darker filmmaking, which we need to make sure people know going into the movie that the delight in the movie, the deliciousness in the movie, is not what it was in those movies. You have to give a bit of context, so people understand the world they’re walking into. And then you hope, as I said, the amnesiac effect, being in a dark room with flickering light, will take place for everyone.

Have you ever undergone hypnosis? Are you suggestible enough?
Directors are control freaks! [Laughs.] We just do not relax enough to do this kind of stuff. But the actors had a go at it, and we researched it very, very deeply, and the stuff that is in the movie is true. It’s clinically just about possible what happens, even if ethically it’s very unacceptable to the hypnosis profession, so I don’t think they’re ever going to come out and say, “Hey! Go out and see this movie! See what’s possible!”

Your work on the Olympics opening ceremony affected where you shot the film and who you cast. Originally, it was supposed to be Naomie Harris and Michael Fassbender? Was he supposed to be the part that James McAvoy or Vincent Cassel got?
Yeah, we were originally going to shoot it in Manhattan. We were talking to Michael at one point, but Michael wanted to play Rosario’s part! [Laughs.]

That was the part he wanted. And we said, “But it’s a girl!” [Laughs.]

He’s at least used to doing full-frontal, if that would still be included in the part!
Yeah, he doesn’t have any problem with it at all. Some actors are super relaxed about it. Rosario did it brilliantly. She was brilliant in the way she carried it off. It was wonderful, really. And Vincent is as well, actually. People don’t realize that, but if you look carefully in the glass reflection behind Rosario in the scene where they’re naked together, Vincent’s right out there as well! [Laughs.]

When we met people and talked to people for Rosario’s part, we were very clear, though, that this was nonnegotiable. It’s a plot point. And absolutely the most secret plot point of all. And the trances she takes him on, because the way she takes him to the French countryside to discover the lost paintings, she also uses the knowledge of their previous relationship to lure him deeper and deeper and share something that only they know. And of course, it’s at that moment when he tells her where the painting is.

So, where are you at with adapting Porno  [Irvine Welsh’s sequel to Trainspotting]? From what I understand, John Hodge has a good first draft.
Oh, right, yes. He has. But these things usually take us a couple years, but we’re hopeful on that one, yeah. Hopefully we can get them all back together again! And if we get a decent enough script ready for them, I think they’ll all consider it, and we’ll have a lovely resonance with so much time having passed for them as actors, as characters, and for the audience as well.

It’s a loose adaptation, so are you switching the protagonist, since Sick Boy is the focus of Porno, versus Renton? Would you add things so they’re not just making a porn film?
Oh, there will be lots of changes. The great thing about the way John adapted the original book is that he took the spirit of the book and just ran with it, because really, strictly speaking, it’s not an adaptation of the book. You shouldn’t think of it as an adaptation of Porno. It’s more like a Trainspotting 2. There might be some characters we use from the book, but it’ll be its own thing, I think.

And you’ve kissed and made up with Ewan McGregor, right?
When we’ve got a decent script, we’ll certainly approach them all, and we’ll work very hard to try to make it happen, yeah.

Good, because you need him.
Oh God! You can’t do it without any of them, in my opinion! [Laughs.] They’ve all got to be there. That’s the delight of the film, to find them all there again, twenty years later — are they still friends? Are they bound together by revenge? What are they going to do with their lives? The intention to explore that is genuine. It’s not a tease. Porno is not a tease.

Danny Boyle on Trance and a Trainspotting Sequel