Q&A: Danny Boyle


Danny Boyle is an auteur who is hard to define, shape-shifting from crime thrillers ("Shallow Grave") and childhood fables ("Millions") to horror ("28 Days Later") and sci-fi ("Sunshine"). He's now delivering his least classifiable but possibly best film to date: "Slumdog Millionaire," the alternately funny and harrowing tale of an Indian boy whose remarkable experiences lead him from the streets of Mumbai to a shot at "Who Wants to Be a Millionare." With a third of its dialogue in Hindi and no stars or easy marketing hook, the $15 million film is a big risk, but risk is another defining characteristic of Boyle's work. He discussed his latest film with The Hollywood Reporter.

The Hollywood Reporter: What were the main challenges you faced filming in India?

Danny Boyle: Control is an illusion. If you hang on to that concept, you will be destroyed by the place. You'll spend your whole budget chasing it and you'll leave with no film. We'd shoot a street and the next day it would be like you returned to the wrong place. The chances of people you hire turning up the next day are arbitrary. You think there's no pattern, but there are patterns and structures, just not visible to a Westerner. We applied for a torture scene with the government; you have to, because it involves the police. And they wrote back to us: "The torture scene is fine, provided nobody of the rank of inspector is involved."

THR: Your film is about an orphan, and for a while it looked as if it might be an orphan itself when Warner Independent folded. How did it get to Fox Searchlight (co-releasing with Warner Bros.) when it was originally set as WIP's last theatrical release?

Boyle: I don't think they were going to be able to release it because we hadn't quite finished it. Then there was the possibility we discussed that it might just end up on DVD. And you think, "Oh my God, we've got a weird film and you've got to persuade someone to spend tens of millions of dollars releasing it." If you wait for next year you've lost this platform time in America, the awards season, when people give these curious films a platform. You know what the business is like at the moment, especially for an indie: It's like the biggest risk in the world. (Warners production head) Jeff Robinov let Peter Rice see it, which from all sorts of points of view he shouldn't have done.

THR: Why did he decide to do that?

Boyle: Because he's smart. He thinks if anyone can make this thing work, he'll make it work.

THR: You've tackled a lot of different genres. Which would you like to that you haven't?

Boyle: Animation and a musical. The problem is they're both so impractical. One I was working on (an adaptation of Terry Pratchett's fantasy tales "The Bromeliad Trilogy") is a DreamWorks project. They've got the rights, but it didn't work out because it's just too expensive. You talk about indie financing being troublesome -- animation is so expensive because you can't estimate how long its going to take. On most films, if you haven't stopped after 12 weeks, they're going to stop you anyway, whereas an animated film can go on for years and years.

THR: The budget (a reported $40 million-$45 million) was fairly high on "Sunshine," though low for a sci-fi film. Were you disappointed by the boxoffice ($3.7 million)?

Boyle: Oh yeah. Best reviews I ever had and nobody went to see it -- get your head around that. It hurt me a lot that (Fox Searchlight) didn't distribute it wider, but you should never really moan about that because with the odd exception, most films get the audience they deserve. One of the ways I recovered was making this film.

THR: A lot of people want to know when we'll see the sequel to "Trainspotting" (based on Irvine Welsh's novel sequel, "Porno.").

Boyle: The idea is to look at all the same actors when they're all visibly, genuinely 20 years older and past their prime, without makeup. I want to do it sooner, but actors don't age like the general public age; they give the idea of being wild, but they're in the gym, the spa, they're moisturizing. But I think it will happen. Recently they got back together again to do interviews and you could see their enthusiasm. But it could end up being the most boring film in the world because they're no longer hedonists.