Director finds a piece of himself in 'Millions'
A career of departures turns in yet another direction.
By DIXIE REID
Danny Boyle, the English movie director, confesses over lunch that he would prefer to be a rock star.
"A guitar hero," he clarifies. "I love music more than anything, and I think the real genius of Britain, in artistic terms, is not movies, it is music. I would rather be a musician, but I'm useless at it.
"My career is a sad substitute," he says, feigning disappointment.
His life's work has been delivering quirky, entertaining stories to the big screen, among them "Trainspotting," the 1996 tale of young Scottish drug addicts starring Ewan McGregor in his breakout role.
Boyle, 48, worked in British television in the late 1980s and early '90s. He made his big-screen debut as a director in 1994 with "Shallow Grave," and followed that with "Trainspotting," which brought him international attention. He's had one big-budget movie (2000's "The Beach," starring Leonardo DiCaprio), a major sci-fi/horror hit (2002's "28 Days Later") and a few other oddities.
The whimsical "Millions" is yet another departure for Boyle.
It's the story of two young English brothers into whose lives falls, literally, a big bag of stolen money. Anthony (Lewis McGibbon), age 9, sees the value of investing the windfall, particularly in real estate. Wide-eyed Damian (Alex Etel), 7, believes the cash is a miracle from God and must be used to help the poor.
While other boys worship Britain's soccer stars, Damian's heroes are Catholic saints, particularly the virgin martyrs, and they visit him often.
James Nesbitt ("Bloody Sunday") is the boys' father, trying to make a new life for them all after his wife's untimely death.
Q. You have a passion for the saints yourself, so you must have identified right away with Frank Cottrell Boyce's script.
A. I did. My mum was Irish-Catholic. She was very devout. The house was full of statues, and I know all the saints' stories.
Q. You don't make the same movie twice. "A Life Less Ordinary" is a romantic comedy. "Vacuuming Completely Nude in Paradise" (made for British television) is about winning at any cost. "28 Days Later" has people running from zombies. And "Millions" is a fanciful family film.
A. When you've had a bit of success, that buys you a bit of credit so the next one you make doesn't have to be what other people want it to be. And when you've been involved in a horror movie for 18 months, you've had quite enough. Frankly, you'd like to research something else, so you do a kids' movie, and when you've had 18 months of that, you've had enough. The next one I'm going to make is a sci-fi film ("Sunshine," due out next year), so at the moment my obsession is sci-fi films, and it's wonderful to watch all the old ones.
Q. Roger Ebert, the American movie critic, wrote in his book "The Great Movies II" that a real director is at his best when the material reflects his own life pattern. Is that so in your movies?
A. It doesn't have to be your story, but you have to relate to it in a way that makes sense to you. I'm not and never have been a drug addict, but there was something I recognized so intensely that I made "Trainspotting." I recognized the obsession. Why do some people try heroin and never get addicted to it, where others do? It's said -- and this is all speculation -- that drug addicts are quite romantic, obsessive people and are very vulnerable to this drug. I'm like that. I'm a romantic, and I'm obsessive about things as well, and I recognized that in the story.
Q. You and Ewan McGregor had a famous falling-out after you cast Leonardo DiCaprio instead of him in "The Beach" (2000). You had McGregor in three of your previous movies ("Shallow Grave," "Trainspotting" and "A Life Less Ordinary"). Have you two made up?
A. Yeah, I've seen him a couple of times since, and we will work together again, I hope, but it will be a bit down the line. The idea is to do a sequel to "Trainspotting," when those characters are in their 40s, to see if they live that long after they abused themselves for so long. It'll be about not just what happens to their bodies but their minds and what they do when they can't live that way any longer. (John Hodge, who wrote "Trainspotting," will write the sequel.) It would be everyone revisited, and what the actors would bring to those characters is what they themselves have learned in 20 years as well. That's the plan.