Danny Boyle interview, part III

Explosions in space, fatalism and injustice, screwy flashbacks, sequels to "28 Days Later" and "Trainspotting," among other controversies. Man, this turned out to be a long interview.


PK: I'm struck by two images. At the beginning of “28 Days Later" you have London completely abandoned. And at the beginning of this film you have series of shots of Dharavi, which I guess is one of the most densely populated parts of the world.

DB: Well Dharavi might be the biggest slum in the world, as many as 2 million people live in Dharavi and it’s a very small area. So it has that intensity of occupancy, and you're not allowed to film from the sky. It was very difficult to get permission to film because they're paranoid about national security there. But when you fly in, on the international flights, you can see the extent - you can see these images, so we tried to recreate that.  We did manage to get up in a helicopter and get some shots that we shouldn't have taken.

PK: Was it easier to make that shot than the shot of London with nobody in it?

DB: It was more fun - well - the London shot was more fun because emptying London is obviously a great challenge

PK: And a good idea.


DB: It’s a good idea and a great challenge and we sort of got away with it. We did it just before 9/11, you'd never be able to do it now. Then we had the bombings, the 7/7 things. You'd never get away with it now, they wouldn't allow you to do half the stuff we did. but we tipped over a bus in White Hall, which is like the main governmental street, where the prime minister lives - tipped this bus over on its side and it’s just spilling oil onto the side of the street

PK: Were you considering making the sequel of that? Do you think you might do the thirda sequel?

DB: Well no, I couldn't do the sequel because I was doing “Sunshine.”  And since I took like 3 years to make that I didn't have a whole lot to do with it, but I did do some second unit for them and I did a bit of work on the script, threw them a few ideas, bit’s and pieces like that.

PK: There is a sequel alluded to, at the end of the -

DB: Yeah, there is an idea for it, but it doesn't come out at that - it’s a big jump forward really, it’s a leap.

PK: “28 Years Later”?

DB:  Not quite that, but it’s a leap, a leap.

PK: “28 Minutes Later”?

DB: If we can do it, it'll be good.

PK: You'd like to direct it?

DB: Yeah, definitely. I'd love to. I watched the second one because I hadn't had a lot to do with it. I was able to watch it like an audience on its premiere. I couldn't believe how enjoyable it was for the audience - you felt genuine enjoyment for the kind of ride you were on. It makes you appreciate it more than when you make it. You feel anxious about them when you make them, but you don't appreciate them in an easy way - in a simple way, in an easy way.  You always appreciate them in a complex way.

PK: Will there be a sequel to “Sunshine?”

DB: No I don't think there will be a sequel to “Sunshine.”  I'm certainly not going back into space, it’s a pretty hard work in space, certainly harder than Mumbai.

PK: Makes you appreciate Stanley Kubrick’s work.

DB: It just makes you realize why it took him so long to make it. Because it’s impossible to do and the problem is his fault partly,  because the audience is watching - you can feel them watching in a way super critical, if you put the slightest thing wrong about what can happen in space, they're like noooo. It’s really rigid.

PK: It always bugs me in films set in outer space, where you can hear an explosion  or other noise. That’s why in “2001” that airlock scene is so impressive.

DB: Yes, that’s certainly one of the things that people have mentioned to me.

PK: I’ve also heard you're doing a sequel to “Trainspotting.”

DB:  Yeah, there is a sequel to it which is this book, “Porno,” which Irvine [Welsh]  wrote as kind of a sequel to it, but our idea for it, is like when old actors, the same actors are playing the same characters, are noticeably older, but they look different and without prosthetics and makeup and stuff like that. They look like 20 years has passed - because then you get that feeling of - because really they're in they're early twenties in the early part of the film and they're sort of in a place when you can do anything with your body and get away with it and then it'd be really interesting to see them in their forties, when the bodies begin to creak and they just begin to unwind and they have those issues as well about what they're going to do with their lives, kids and all of that kind of stuff.  Could be an incredibly boring film, unlike the first one. The problem right now is that they just don't look old enough.

PK: You won an audience award in Toronto and people are saying this is going to be the next “Juno” or “Little Miss Sunshine” in terms of indie success. Are you surprised by how well it has been doing?

DB: I did think it might work in Britain, in part because we have a good sense of India, in part because of the colonial past, large Indian population, highly visible. Dev Patel - who plays the older Jamal - he is from a TV show in the UK, which is a cult show, and he definitely has a presence, so we thought it could work in Britain. But to be honest - here - I couldn't quite see how it could work knowing how difficult it is to release films here. But then of course what you forget is the underdog story and how much a part of the psyche that is here. The idea that someone has a dream and they don't have a lot going for them but they have this dream and it fuels everything and they chase it.  The values that people have here - it has to be allowed to come through sometimes, it’s really  important, I think thats why the film works. I do these Q&As, people talk about it and people say - I nearly walked out when the kid was blinded, people say that, and yet they clearly forgive it by the end of the story, they're caught up in it and forgive it by the end.The redemption really, it goes back to that at the end, it shows you that [blinded] kid smelling the banknotes [years after the incident], it’s not like it avoids letting you know what it’s like there, what things go on there, it kind of reminds you of them at the end, but still people forgive, and that I think that is like India because you do forgive it, some of it is unforgivable and yet you do forgive it, you do think, wow, what a place. That was my take on it at least, you do think, what a place.

PK:  Some people say if you forgive it you’re going to allow the injustice to continue, if you accept injustice as your destiny your destiny falls into the hands of the people with the power.

DB: Yeah, I felt that and that would have been my take before I had gone, definitely, that kind of fatalism is a passive - it’s a mechanism by which the rich control the poor.  But I think that’s too simplistic definition of it, I really do, having been there. Not everywhere; I was only in Mumbai, and I do believe it is an accurate-ish picture of the city, of bits of the city. There’s a great book about it called “Maximum City” by Suketu Mehta, which is about Bombay.

PK:  You took a lot of liberties wirth the book this was based on, “Q&A” by Vikas Swarup.

DB:  The novel is very rigid; it’s like a series of short stories, it’s question - answer - question - answer, and that would have never worked in a film. You’d bore of that.  That was one of the skillful things that Simon [Beaufoy, the screenwriter] did, he made time fluid really, back and forward, so you could leak stuff early that would get answered later or deny people access to things that he is apparently able to answer. I remember when I read the script I felt intelligent and it’s not often that scripts make you feel intelligent; it’s quite a rare quality to impose intelligence on you,

PK: You never let a screenwriter know that though?

DB: No he’s a good guy actually, he’s had a tough time actually since “Full Monty,”  he’s had quite a rough ride since then

PK:  He couldn’t make money on the Broadway show or anything?

DB:  He got - he gave away supposedly all his points in it, before it came out. It’s one of those kind of like oh my god stories that is typical in the films in Britain. He was after some extra money or something for a mortgage or house extension or something like that and they said okay we’ll give you this, but we’ll take your points.

PK: You gave him a good deal?

DB: On this one, yeah.

PK:  You mentioned the fluidity of the time; one thing that really bugs me in movies, other than having noise in space, is flashbacks when they are used in a clumsy way, when they begin with one person’s point of view and end up with nobody’s point of view. Did you have a particular scheme when you worked yours out?

 DB: Well I certainly knew on this one, I certainly wasn’t going to do huge backwards and forwards, you know - the way they do them these days and I wanted it to try and get it so that by the end you could literally go back in time in one line and then go forward in time and there’s a line where she picks up the phone on the show and he says “Whats your name!” and you just cock to her going as a kid “my name is Latika” and I love that fact that you could - because Simon had set up this time free time thing, if you got it right you could go anywhere really and it makes things like the slum chase and things like that, it makes it feel like it’s happening now even though it happened ten years ago, but it makes you feel like you’re expereincing it all now, that’s what we were after, the immediacy of it.

PK: Music helps a lot too.

DB: The  music guy is mega famous there, A.R. Rahman,  he is a god, he is one of their gods, they worship him ,the people, he is one of the largest signed artists in the world, nobody’s heard of him and yet he’s sold more records than the Beatles or something.  Every CD he put out sold a hundred million copies. Of course they don’t pay very much per CD, but it does register as a sale. He was wonderful, a lovely man, again, he’s got that thing, sooo powerful, and yet his obligation is to give it back if he can, so he started up this school, a music academy observatory kind of thing, incredibly modest man, genuinely so, not superficially modest, genuinely modest man.

PK:  I think you came up with a perfect way of keeping people seated through the entire end credits, which is to have a Bollywood musical production number

DB:  It’s nice to make em wait for the credits. 'Cause you can feel them all about to go and they - oh!

PK:  Did Bollywood have an impact on how you made the movie? 

DB:  I’d seen a bit of Bollywood before I went and I saw quite a bit of it when I was there, but it wasn’t so much that except that song and dance, especially dance, is part of the fabric of life, it’s like, for me, if you came to Britain and made a film and didn’t include anything about football - well soccer - I would feel it was fake.  Or it’d be like coming to America and there’d be no motor cars in your film, it’d be fake?  You got to  have, if you spend eight months there, you got to dance at some point, so it was just where to put it because it was not related to the questions and answers. There was a music question but it had to do with the singing of traditional Indian songs. I couldn’t put it in the film so I put it at the end of the film.

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