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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
Cory Everett
As a director, whether you have earned it or not, everyone fears you. Everyone wants to know what you're thinking about.
Danny: Yeah, you can see that sometimes. There's not a great deal you can do about it, besides try and get them to relax. I try to take an approach of enthusiasm to try and get people to contribute to your film. Besides getting the characters together, you have to try and get the best out of them.

What I like about your movies – a lot of directors use music like a neon sign – sometimes your visual narratives and your sound narratives will divert and come back together. You're not super didactic.
Danny: No, and I'd like us to listen to lots of music and kind of organically evolve. For me, that change came about with "Apocalypse Now." Because those two tracks was a big change. I was watching "The Big Chill" on the plane on the way over here. But they were preceded by "The End" and "Rise of the Valkyrie" in "Apocalypse Now." There's a whole, incredible, realistic world here being reflected through a new prism – it's suddenly a whole hall of mirrors that opens up through pop culture. It felt very natural to do that, but the films were attacked for being "too MTV." Like they were a series of pop videos, which I thought was a compliment. So you tell your stories through that prism.

There is a narrative element to your music.
Rick: Yes, and for me, film has always been important to my music career. I was fortunate enough to be force fed and taught music as a very young boy. And in the nineties, there's a very filmic quality to Underworld's music.

"Trainspotting"
"Trainspotting"
How did you end up doing business together?
Rick: I seem to remember that we got a call. We were doing okay for an underground dance band. We would get a call once a week from somebody, "Can we use your music…" And everytime we asked what it was, it was like a violent death drug dealer thing. We weren't interested in it, we were much more interested in things being positive. Danny said, "Well it's about heroin addiction." And he said, "Come along, I'll show you 15 minutes of the film." There's a humor, compassion, intelligence to it. At the end it became, "You can use ANYTHING of ours that you want." 

Danny: The truth is, I was born in 1956, so I was a kid for The Beatles. My coming of age was punk. It was really amazing for me, musically. And 15 years later, rave culture started and I was just about old enough to go there and not embarrass myself. And that's right when I started doing films. Although the book is about heroin addiction and the film's spirit is about dance culture and that's a different drug – ecstasy. We did that unapologetically. We wanted to make a drug movie that you could watch – most drug movies are so depressing. And if you made a movie about heroin, they throw up and then go sit in the corner. So it's a film about a different type of drug mentality. It becomes then about their relationships, but the rhythm of the film could be told with a different tempo. And that's why the music in "Trainspotting,"  tracks from punk days to electronic dance music and then Brit pop, which was kicking in at that point as the next musical movement in Britain.

Audience questions:

About his work on Alan Clarke's "Elephant":
Yeah, I wanted to work on camera so I got a job at the BBC in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland at the time, there were significant religious and political troubles. So we made this film called "Elephant" – it's something significant...these murders were happening and everyone on the mainland was avoiding [the issue]. It has an extraordinary effect on you. Sadly, Alan died shortly after.

On what he hopes audiences experience with his films:
Often, people say, "What do you want your films to do?" I want them to mesmerize people. I want it to pin you in your seat. I used to get that from Nic Roeg movies. I want to do that. Because that word "mesmerism" comes from the godfather from hypnotism. And I do want that rabbit in the headlights. We don't go to a dark room to discuss a film, we go to a dark room to experience it. You take it away with you, after that. But in that moment, when you've paid your $12, I want you to be assaulted by the film. There can be silence and reflective moments but I want the film to assault you.

On his current ability to get movies made:
Well it's great because we have this relationship between Fox Searchlight and Pathe – we have a cap on our films but within that cap we can fuck with genres. We can mess about with character's sympathies. That's one of the appeals of "Trance." The truth is that you try and make a different film every time but you end up making the same film again and again. And there is something that connects all the films – there's usually someone who has insurmountable odds in front of them, and somehow they get over them. And you get a buzz off of them.

28 Days Later
On working with composers:
Danny: I have been able to work with some of the best composers around – A.R. Rahman, John Murphy, and Underworld. I've been very fortunate to work with them. That's one of the lovely things. What we tend to do is have a bunch of music, and lay that on top, and now everything has temp because you've got to show it to people so you use temp score.

On the current return of zombies to pop culture:
I didn't like zombie movies much, which is part of why we made it. Because I wanted to bring a new energy to it.

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


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