Dispatch from Europe: Danny Boyle's Sci-Fi Plans and "The Plague" Spreads Online
by Wendy Mitchell
Danny Boyle is now genre-hopping as much as his fellow Englishman Michael Winterbottom. Boyle, who rose to worldwide acclaim with "Trainspotting," has followed up his edgy DV apocalypse story "28 Days Later" with a feel-good family film, "Millions." "28 Days Later" was, of course, a surprise smash hit for Fox Searchlight with $45 million grosses in the States, but "Millions" has been a tougher sell so far -- it's only nearing $5 million after eight weeks of release (part of that is to blame on timing, this would be a great Christmas season release but got stuck in a spring slot instead.)
"Millions" isn't totally soft, of course, Boyle says it's a commentary on the consumerism of today's society. (The film follows two young brothers who find a load of English pounds just days before the country will convert to the Euro.) "'Millions is what I have experienced, a somewhat comfortable, consumer culture that we live in," Boyle said in an on-stage conversation with film critic Jason Solomons at the recent Raindance East Film Festival in London. "The one ideology that has survived is shopping... we do live in what I would say is a shallow age."
Boyle is now plotting something completely different from either of those films. He's currently in the casting stage for "Sunshine," a bigger budget sci-fi film that he'll shoot at 3 Mills Studios in East London (where he lives). The film is set 50 years in the future, about a space ship on a mission to the sun. He says that the cast will be an ensemble, but he might have to get one star of "a certain level" to get enough funding. He expects the cast to be predominantly American and Chinese with perhaps one Brit actor.
Also, Boyle still has a "Trainspotting" sequel in the works. "I want to do something a bit like they did with 'The Likely Lads' and 'Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?,'" he says, indicating that the sequel could be set and shot 20 years after the original. "The idea is to take the same characters that people are really familiar with and see how they'd aged... what becomes of their lives when they hit their 40s and get male pattern baldness." The only problem is that his actors aren't aging as poorly as those hard-living characters would. "The actors look after themselves, they moisturize, they go to spas, they go to bed early" so Boyle says they may need to wait another 10 years to get the right look. "Alternately, we could get Colin Farrell to do all the parts," he joked. The film will be based in part on Irvine Welsh's "Trainspotting" follow-up "Porno," and the event that will reunite the group will probably be Begbie (Robert Carlyle) getting out of jail after 15 or 20 years. Screenwriter John Hodge has already done an initial draft.
Boyle also has yet another film in the works as well, but he's not very forthcoming about details. "It's a planned adaptation of another book, it's in the shops at the moment but I can't say the name of the book," he says, before adding, "It's a beautiful book but we're probably not the right people to make it."
Even though he notes it's a tough time to make films in England (with American funding losing value when converted to English pounds and tax rules changing), he says he can't imagine leaving the U.K. "I can't bear being away from Britain, really. I can't bear being in L.A., it never has changing seasons, everyday is like a photocopy of the day before." Plus, he's in no hurry to work on big Hollywood projects, citing his experience on a certain Leonardo DiCaprio project: "I learned with 'The Beach' that I'm a bit better lower down the radar."
Speaking of lower down the radar, Greg Hall, a 23-year-old London filmmaker, is creating buzz with a feature film that he shot for just