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SXSW: Danny Boyle Gives A Sneak Peek Of 'Trance'; Talks His Career With David Carr & Underworld's Rick Smith

Photo of Drew Taylor By Drew Taylor | The Playlist March 11, 2013 at 11:00AM

On Saturday morning at the South by Southwest Film Festival, a special retrospective of the works of chameleonic British film director Danny Boyle was presented. Moderated by craggy New York Times reporter David Carr, who spent a copious amount of time with Boyle during the extended Oscar campaign for "Slumdog Millionaire" (and remains an avid fan), the presentation also featured Rick Smith who, as one half of electronic music duo Underworld, has been working with Boyle since his landmark "Trainspotting" in 1996 and who, most recently, provided the score for Boyle's new psychedelic mind-bender "Trance," opening in April. (We've seen the movie but are under embargo, but suffice to say the filmmaker has scored once again.)
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Danny Boyle, SXSW
Kat Przybyła

On Saturday morning at the South by Southwest Film Festival, a special retrospective of the works of chameleonic British film director Danny Boyle was presented. Moderated by craggy New York Times reporter David Carr, who spent a copious amount of time with Boyle during the extended Oscar campaign for "Slumdog Millionaire" (and remains an avid fan), the presentation also featured Rick Smith who, as one half of electronic music duo Underworld, has been working with Boyle since his landmark "Trainspotting" in 1996 and who, most recently, provided the score for Boyle's new psychedelic mind-bender "Trance," opening in April. (We've seen the movie but are under embargo, but suffice to say the filmmaker has scored once again.)

The panel started off with a stunning montage combining footage from all of Boyle's movies, including "Trance." (Boyle fanatics will notice some notable exclusions, most glaringly that there was nothing from "Vacuuming Completely Nude In Paradise," the TV movie Boyle did as a test for the digital cameras he would later use on his revisionist zombie epic "28 Days Later.") The footage, like "Trance," mesmerized – it made you really appreciate Boyle as a filmmaker able to tackle a breadth of genres and styles, all while remaining a singularly visionary artist. Even though he's got Oscars under his belt for Best Picture and Best director, he still feels hopelessly underrated. He's less a director than a force of nature. Luckily, Boyle and Carr chewed the fat well, and when Smith joined the conversation, it pivoted to Boyle's unparalleled use of music and film. Check out the highlights of that conversation below, and in case you missed it, be sure to catch up with our separate interview with Boyle, in which he revealed his plans for the long talked about "Trainspotting" sequel.

David Carr: I've heard you say more than once that the first film is always going to be the director's best. Do you think that's true?
Yes. I think there's something wonderful about your first time, in so many ways – in so many walks of life. Film is so technical and there are so many elements that are manipulative, and there was always a danger you lose a kind of innocence you have on your first film. But it's a wonderful thing. You're working out your knowledge as you go along. If you change genres each time at least you feel like you don't know what you're doing. You should be trying to work it out as you go along.

Danny Boyle, Trance

How old were you when you made "Shallow Grave?"

I was 37/38. I wanted to make a film by the time I was thirty.

[
In the scene when they're sitting around the table deciding what to do with the money] it's interesting – what you shouldn't do, in a scene like that, is keep cutting with the same thing in the frame the whole time.
No that's what makes it work! But I remember discovering that on the day. And the other thing is those things that you shouldn't do, is probably what you should be doing. You take those risks and it makes people feel like they're seeing something fresh. I think there's a danger to that. I think I know how to get this effect or start double-bluffing. You should be hunting in the story for a way to tell it in an original way. The other reason I asked for that clip to be shown, it's quite rare to see what a director does sometimes. I know actors in Britain and whenever they've worked here with great directors – I always ask, "What did he say to you? What did he do?" There is an element to that. Talking to these actors, a lot of times they say, "He didn't say anything, they just said 'Do it again.'" But that was an example of I did say something on the day. I remember saying to them, "Do it like you all want to go for a pee." And they all loved that and made them all laugh and giggle. Because it's not often that you think of something good to say.

You directed a lot of plays.

Oh a load of them. 10 or 15.

What made you decide to do movies?

I always wanted to work in movies. Since I saw Nicolas Roeg movies. I wrote to a lot of people – who I now know – and they never replied. So I got a job in the theater, which is a much easier place to access. And I learned amazing skills with actors.

So tell us one of those secrets?

Actors want to change on our behalf or do something that changes them. I think that's what you get with an actor. They want to change on our behalf and have an instinct as a storyteller. There's something about an actor that you have to trust them as a storyteller. People want to go to the movies to see an actor, hence the star system.

Shallow Grave

I want to talk to you about Ewan McGregor. How did you know to balance him?

The person who was a big deal at the time was Kerry Fox, because she was in a Jane Campion movie that was a big art house hit at the time ["An Angel At My Table"]. And we cast Ewan McGregor, who became Obi-Wan Kenobi and Chris Eccelston, who became Doctor Who. You audition them and you can hear it. You just know, somehow.

[Rick Smith joins the conversation]
This is Rick Smith, from the band Underworld, and at the end of that film we had a song called "Born Slippy." That was the first time we met. And the last couple of years we did a "Frankenstein" play…

And you guys worked together on the Olympics.
And we did "Trance" as well.

When you did the Olympics, they tried to make you a knight. And you turned them down. Any particular reason?
It just wasn't my cup of tea. That kind of world isn't my cup of tea. I have no interest in that preferment. But Rick did the full score, of "Trance," so we worked up from small beginnings.

I'm Interested in how you guys work together.
Rick: When we worked on "Frankenstein," there was a lot of "Riiiiiick," in the big theater. I saw a different side to him but it was never cruel.
Danny: I do have a terrible temper. But it's very rare. There were a couple of moments on the Olympics and we were in rooms with people and I was quite vile. It was surprising, especially like that. But in a huge corporate world, you have to defend your patch.

This article is related to: Danny Boyle, Trance, SXSW Film Festival, South By Southwest Film Conference and Festival (SXSW)


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