Filmmaker Danny Boyle loves a challenge. Whether it’s dropping a skeletal crew in the streets of Mumbai ("Slumdog Millionaire"), shooting without permits in the wee hours of London with pre-RED lo-fi digital cameras ("28 Days Later"), shooting himself into outer space with the story/script constrictions of zero-gravity living ("Sunshine") or creating an anti-action thriller with one man trapped under a boulder (his upcoming film, "127 Hours" starring James Franco which hits theaters in limited release on November 5).We sat down with Boyle earlier this week for an interview regarding the upcoming film and couldn’t help but notice the obvious: the filmmaker is constantly throwing major obstacles in his own way. A sort of forced attempt at creativity by pushing himself into a corner and seeing how he can imaginatively get his way out. So what’s the next Mount Olympus to conquer?
"Oh I’d love to do a musical," Boyle said enthusiastically. "A song-and-dance musical, with an original music, modern day story, not from Broadway not with previous music. But it’s very difficult. It’s impossible at the moment. I think it’s the Holy Grail for any film director."
Great, but Boyle had a shot to scratch that itch earlier this year with a potential remake of "My Fair Lady. The director admits he did consider the gig for a while, but evidently it hasn’t quite gelled to his liking yet and it remains unclear if he’ll remain involved with the Emma Thompson-produced film.
"That was an idea… an idea I was involved in for a while, because it’s an amazing score, probably contains some of the best songs ever written for a musical," he exclaimed. "And we were trying to rethink it a bit, both musically and visually, and make it more current in a way. But it remains something that we may not actually achieve."
As someone who has always utilized a striking use of music and appropriation of pop music in his films, we asked if the director would consider a jukebox musical.
Like "Moulin Rouge?" Which is great, but I kind of think that’s cheating, really," he said. "Of course the place you could do a musical is India. Because in India, what they do, it’s really interesting, when they promote a movie, six weeks before the movie comes out, the songs come out, and everybody learns the songs. So when they watch the movie, they know all the songs. So you don’t have that discombulation in a musical that you’re watching it and it’s completely fresh music. It’s got a familiarity that makes musical songs much more acceptable in the structure of a narrative if you can sing along with them. That’s why old musicals all work and modern musicals are so difficult, because we don’t have that. If we could do that. You can do that in India much more easily."
While everyone is trying to find out what’s next for Boyle filmmaking wise — it likely won’t be a sequel to "28 Weeks Later" because no screenplay has even been written — he does have a stage adaptation of "Frankenstein" coming early next year in London. We had to ask. Does it have any parallels to the "Solomon Grundy" film he once considered making? A lonely monster misunderstood by mankind?
"That’s interesting," he offered, but ultimately disagreed. "It’s very, very different to ‘Solomon Grundy.’ But I’ll bet you could read the two things together and go – oh! – although superficially they seem very different. I loved ‘Solomon Grundy.’ It was a great idea. The problem was with that was ‘Benjamin Button’ was on the horizon and there was no way you were going to compete with that, because there were too many similarities for that kind of story."
At TIFF 2008, Boyle mentioned he was working on an adaptation of a [science-fiction writer] Terry Pratchett live-action/half-animated project "Truckers" — the first part of the author’s "Bromeliad" sci-fi children’s book trilogy — with ‘Millions’ screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce. Boyce is still writing that project for DreamWorks, but when we asked if Boyle would ever be involved again he said, "unfortunately, no."
So, not even the time-consuming challenge of making an animated film? Not even if Pixar offered? "I don’t know if I ever would, just because of the time involved, but I loved visiting Pixar, he said of a recent visit to the famous animated studio. "That was quite a buzz for me, because their track record has been unparalleled, both in success and quality and it was a buzz for me to go there and show the film there and look around."
More from this interview closer to the release of the incredibly dynamic "127 Hours," which you can guarantee will score Best Picture, Best Director (and likely) and Best Actor Oscar nominations (at the very least). Believe the hype, it’s that good.