Up Close &
Academy Awarding-winning director,
Boyle. Courtesy Photo.
2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony," "Slumdog Millionaire,"
"127 Hours," "28 Days Later," "The
Beach," and the iconic "Trainspotting" that
catapulted a very young Ewan McGregor to fame. This is Academy
Award-winning director Danny Boyle, auteur extraordinaire.
Boyle's latest film, 'Trance,"
is an action-packed mystery crime thriller with fascinating twists and
turns that begin with the heist of a valuable Goya painting that
goes awry. Starring super bad-guy Vincent Cassel, James McAvoy,
and Rosario Dawson, who plays a hypnotist, the film explores
the subject of hypnosis as a tool to retrieve locked up memories and
the surprising and shocking results that ensue.
A most delightful, cheerful Boyle recently
sat with a select group of journalists to discuss "Trance"
and the following has been edited for content and continuity for print
L-R: On the Red Carpet Director Danny Boyle with
Rosario Dawson, James McAvoy, and Vincent Cassel who star in Boyle's
latest crime thriller, "Trance." Courtesy Photo.
How was St. Patrick's Day?
Boyle: I come from an Irish family so that day
is very special. I once had a great St. Patrick's Day in New
York of which I remember nothing which is always a good sign. (laughter)
I know I was in New York. I know it was St. Patrick's Day
and then it wasn't St. Patrick's Day and that's all I remember.
You do know the tradition in New York is you get
pinched if you don't wear green.
Boyle: No. I didn't know that. (laughter)
You didn't get to edit "Trance" until
after the Summer 2012 Olympics. Was that favorable for a film as complicated
as this one?
Boyle: We didn't anticipate that at that time and I
was concerned. We were very lucky to be able to do that. Not that many
filmmakers get a chance to put a film on ice and it's usually
when actors have to change shape like Tom Hanks in "Cast
Away," or De Niro in "Raging Bull."
I thought I would never be able to forget it, ("Trance")
but I did forget, which is a curious thing given the idea of the film.
But other things fill in the brain. After the Olympics finished,
we watched a rough cut before we started editing. It was weird. I couldn't
remember what was coming next. As a director you know too much all the
time so it was very useful to have a refresher course in the impact
of the story.
Because of the complexity of the narrative, do
you think people should see the film more than once?
Boyle: Well that's one of the things about doing a film
like this and I've never done it on any other film. It has to make sense
the second time people watch it. Not that they're going to definitely
watch it a second time, but you can tell that there is clearly a clue
there that if I watch it a second time, it might make more sense.
What changed in the final edit?
Boyle: The first time we did it we were very protective
of the secrets so we gave no clues at all, but you have to relax and
let people in with a little clue here and a little clue there. So, we
put in little clues that weren't in the script to let people feel satisfied
the second time.
Rosario Dawson as the hypnotist
Elizabeth, a woman on a duplicitous mission. Photo:
Courtesy Fox Searchlight Pictures
How would you define hypnosis?
Boyle: Hypnosis is about the reassurance of the human
voice finding out things about you and welcoming you, relaxing you,
and taking you somewhere else. You don't sense it so much in the film
because we illustrate the trances. For example, there is a scene in
the film where Rosario talks McAvoy's Simon through a
trance. We see him in the French countryside. "You come
to a church and in the church there's a Rembrandt painting and
there's this girl
Do you have any personal experience with hypnosis
or were you making discoveries as you filmed?
Boyle: We were finding out as we went along. Any film
director has a relationship with hypnosis because if you've made a decent
film, that's what you've done. You've hypnotized the audience. You know
that feeling where you get lost in a movie and the real world goes out
the window and you're believing and crying. It's ludicrous, but that's
hypnosis. You believe that you're somewhere else doing something else.
I didn't have any personal medical experience with hypnosis. You know,
directors are control freaks and you don't really relax enough to be
able to go under because you always have to control everything. That's
the nature of the job.
Any unexpected revelations?
Boyle: I really enjoyed researching hypnosis and we
did find out some interesting stuff about it. We found out that for
a while hypnosis was growing as an acceptable, admissible medical tool.
You could use it in court cases but then it got discredited because
it was proved that people were claiming child abuse but these memories
were implanted in children and it got discredited. That was in the 70s,
I think, and since then they've been trying to rebuild its reputation.
The idea is that when you are hypnotized, you are not really asleep
you'll always be awake and aware of where you are and you'll never
do anything you don't want to do. That's true for about 85% of the population.
The rest of the population, as he says in the film, and it's absolutely
true, can be taken somewhere. So what happens to James (Simon)
in the film, although its ethically completely unacceptable, is medically
possible. They don't really want to own up to that because it does reveal
its power and there is clearly a danger in that.
What about these shows where they pick members
of the audience to hypnotize?
Boyle: They don't pick out actors who are faking it,
which is what I always use to think. They have a series of exercises
early on in the show and they pick out the people who are responding.
They get them up on stage and when they put them in a trance, it's genuine.
There are restrictions in what they're allowed to do, of course, because
you can abuse it. There are no sexual acts or nudity.
What did John Hodge bring subsequent to the first
draft of the script by Joe Ahearne?
Boyle: When we did "Trainspotting,"
John was a practicing doctor. He was an emergency room doctor
and they see unbelievable drama. They see us at our most vulnerable
when we're hurt, when we're damaged, or when we're with someone
who is hurt. I think that's why doctors make such good writers because
they have a kind of distance on human drama and John brought
a lot of that knowledge to the script. For instance, there's a strange
MRI scene where Simon is in the scanner, and Elizabeth
(Dawson) talks to him about his memories showing us what
we are about. We string together a series of memories and that's
our identity and when you lose it, like sadly with Alzheimer's,
everybody says the person just disappears the physical embodiment
is still there, but they're gone they're no longer there. So,
he brought that to it, as well as the love of the thriller genre, playing
with people, the game.
How long did you work on the revisions?
Boyle: We worked on it for a couple of years. We were
going to make the film in Manhattan with an English actress.
We always thought that she should be from somewhere else and should
have nobody to fall back on. Then, we got the Olympic Games and
thought we should make it in London. Actually, the cities don't
matter really. It just needs to be a city where a crime could happen
where a bubble can exist where people get sealed inside. So we
decided to make it in London and then we came here to look for
the actress. I don't think you guys get this, but for us in Britain
it's fantastic because you get a whole Californian thing going
on with the therapy. In Britain, we think that all Californians
talk and that all sorts of problems can be talked about. It's great.
Everybody's got a therapist. I know that doesn't apply here, but that's
an extra bonus you get, which is very funny. (laughter)
How in today's digital age do you convince people
to see this movie without giving too much away?
Boyle: It's impossible, isn't it? I mean you've got
to sell the movie otherwise in the marketplace, the movie will just
disappear because nobody knows about it, bla, bla, bla, so as soon as
people hear about it, they want to know a bit about it which is a natural
inclination. My only hope, and I've genuinely believed it for a long
time, is that I think there is an amnesiac effect in cinema. I think
when I go in, even though I know what's going to happen from the spoilers,
once it's running, I do forget it. It's like you know Tom Cruise
isn't going to die. (laughter) Maybe it's linked to hypnosis
and the hypnotic effect of cinema, so I hope that applies because if
you take the publicity materials out there seriously, you won't have
that innocence walking in.
How is this fim different from your other
Boyle: Obviously you do promotions for your films
and when I look back at the movies I've made, I've made some insane
movies every single time. There's a guy and he faces insurmountable
odds and he somehow manages to get over the insurmountable odds.
Boyle: The difference with this movie is that
it's not a guy because if you tell the story in chronological
order, you see she's (Dawson character) the one
facing insurmountable odds. Her life is potentially ruined. Her
only option is to run away, which she refuses to do. This violent
man walks back into her life and not only that, you've got four
other bad guys, and she decides to face it and actually overcomes
it. So, it basically is the same movie but how you get to it will
fool people into thinking it isn't the same movie.
In last week's interview
with co-star Vincent Cassel, he
said about Rosario Dawson's role: "... At last a female
part that is really interesting where the actress can be beautiful
and smart." Photo: Courtesy Fox Searchlight
This seems to be your first film that doesn't
have a somewhat spiritual component to it. Is that because you wanted
a new challenge?
L-R: Holding their Golden Globe Award for Best
Picture are Director Danny Boyle with co-stars of "Slumdog
Millionaire" Freida Pinto and Dev Patel. Courtesy
Boyle: We came off a run where we made "Slumdog
Millionaire" and "127 Hours" which are
redemptive movies and the Olympic Games which are a celebration
of that spirit. It's a family thing and a pride thing. I suppose
in this movie what we we're doing is making what we called the
evil twin sister which is kind of delicious and deranged and a
bit of messing with you and it's kind of a relaxation of that
part of our brain. The last couple of films have been about memories.
What is the biggest difference between television
Boyle: In television you can get a familiarity
with a character over a long period of time whereas I think movies
are more like an event. There's a reason to sit in a dark room
with all these strangers and to be mesmerized, hopefully for 90
James Franco in "127 Hours" Courtesy
Can you talk about the remake of "Trainspotting"
and will you be using the same actors?"
Danny Boyle's "Trainspotting," based on
Irvine Welsh's novel about heroin subculture in 1980s Edinburgh, was
released in 1996 and like the novel, has gained a cult following. Courtesy
Boyle: It will be an examination of the original characters
twenty years later and we'll have to see who's available.
A glorious moment for this gifted director as he
holds up his Best Director Oscar, one of the eight bestowed upon "Slumdog
Millionaire." Courtesy photo.
How did it feel to win an Oscar?
Boyle: It slightly unbalances your life so I keep it
under the bed. (laughter) I'm serious. You can't get up in the
morning and that's the first thing you see. But I did use it to bash
people during the Olympics. I'd say, all right, if you want to
do it like that, I'm going to resign and they'd think oh shit, it's
going to be in the newspapers that Boyle resigned and you sort
of get what you want. You have to be shameless. (Laughter)