Danny Boyle on why success is dangerous

Danny Boyle on why success is dangerous 

Interview: Rüdiger Sturm
Photo: Getty Images

Director Danny Boyle talks to The Red Bulletin about the things that help keep him grounded in reality and the major problems that come with success

THE RED BULLETIN: You once said that too much success makes you stupid.

DANNY BOYLE: Success is terrible, and very dangerous. You get waited on hand and foot. Everyone runs around fussing over you. People are pushed aside. These kinds of experiences have an effect on you, it stops your development, so you should try and ignore it as much as you can. It can be difficult, though, because we’re only human. But you need to be aware that nothing much good comes out of it.


Success helps your confidence, and that confidence can be very destructive. If you’re starting a new project, it’s often good to not have that confidence and gradually find it and centre it. You shouldn’t know what you’re doing, that’s part of the journey. There are lots of confident people that make terrible films.

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So you prefer failure?

No. Failure is f**king horrible.

The first Trainspotting was extremely successful. How did you deal with this when making the sequel?

I went into it with the same attitude I had with the first film. Irvine Welsh, the author of the book, wrote a sequel relatively quickly after the success of the film, which was Porno. He gave us the rights and we adapted it, but that version just wasn’t good enough at the time so we put the project on ice. We got together again in Edinburgh a couple of years ago – it was me, Irvine, screenwriter John Hodge and the two producers, and we looked at how we could make something a lot more personal. We were like, ‘Let’s not assume this will be great because we’ve done it before.’ We chose to not take a lot of money for the film because of this as well, even though we knew we could ask for a lot of money and get it because of the success of the original. We took the money we always take, which was 20 million dollars, which was below cap. 

Why exactly?

Because people can demand things from you if they give you more money. But below that cap, they generally leave you alone and let you make the film you want to make. Things like that keep your feet on the ground. I made it clear to the actors as well that this wasn’t about getting a big payday, which is what they might have expected from a sequel. We were all paid equally. But if the film is a success, then we all get a bonus based on this.

“I don’t hang around places where people tell me how wonderful I am”
Danny Boyle

Berlinale on Twitter

DannyBoyle returns at the #Berlinale after 17 years! It was THE BEACH back then, and it is @T2Trainspotting today.

On the subject of success, are you sure your feet are still on the ground?

Definitely. It helps having kids that are constantly criticising me and reminding me of how old I am, which is a good thing – that helps a lot. I don’t hang around places where people tell me how wonderful I am. Working in Scotland also helps. If you work in Scotland and you try to behave like you’re a success, then they will just destroy you with humour. It’s a working-class thing. If you try to behave like that, you won’t get very far.

Seeing as you see success so critically, is there anything you really regret?

Not in the sense of regretting things that I wish I’d have done. I don’t really think about it. I have made mistakes like every one else. If you call those regrets, then yeah. For example, one of my regrets is not giving Ewan McGregor the main role in The Beach. The way we treated Ewan before The Beach – I didn’t behave very well and I deeply regret that. There’s a side to me that’s very stubborn. You have to have a bit of that in you to be a film director. But we’ve made up since then, more thanks to his generosity than mine. He was very gracious and we’ve gotten on very well since then. It was wonderful making the film with him because I missed him a lot.

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02 2017 The Red Bulletin

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