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Boyle's latest film is all in the mind

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: April 04, 2013

  • STAR: James McAvoy as Simon in Trance. Picture: PA Photo/Susie Allnutt/Pathe.

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James McAvoy, the star of Danny Boyle's new movie Trance, summed the director up: "Danny has an advantage over us mere mortals in that he has a nuclear station in his belly fuelling him 24/7."

You can understand where he's coming from. Boyle is the man who simultaneously oversaw an adaptation of Frankenstein at the National Theatre that earned a Laurence Olivier award for Benedict Cumberbatch and Johnny Lee Miller; developed the screenplay and directed the aforementioned noir thriller starring McAvoy -and found time to create and co-ordinate one of the most spectacular opening ceremonies in Olympics history.

Tall, and slim in his mustard-coloured trousers and with the collar of a dark shirt peeping over his jumper, the 56-year-old is a mass of palpable energy.

Rosario Dawson, who also stars in Trance and dated Boyle, describes how he will rock to-and-fro while watching the monitor on set and, today, he alternates between sitting back and perching forward in his armchair.

Boyle puts great emphasis on creating a family feel on set and regularly works with a small, well-trusted group of people.

Among those is the writer John Hodge, with whom he worked on his directorial film debut Shallow Grave in 1994, Trainspotting in 1996, A Life Less Ordinary in 1997 and The Beach in 2000 (all bar the latter starring Ewan McGregor). He and Hodge reunite on Trance.

"The impression you try to give is that you're joining a family because obviously big films aren't like that," says Boyle. "They're huge enterprises, where people don't know each other's names."

"I like being evangelical about trying to sell someone a reason for joining us on a film, like a vision or a quest that we're going to go on together."

He credits this approach to his theatre background. Boyle began his career directing productions for The Royal Court Theatre and RSC before moving to TV.

Since Slumdog Millionaire, which won eight Oscars including Best Director and Best Picture in 2009, he feels a dependable troupe is even more of a necessity.

"One of the problems of having a big success like that worldwide is that nobody will tell you when you're wrong," says Boyle. "You can get a very distorted impression of yourself after a success like that."

Trance pits three protagonists against each other.

There's Simon (McAvoy), a fine art auctioneer, who gets caught up with a gang when a blow to his head means he can no longer remember where he hid the painting.

When a touch of torture (the sight of nails being ripped off won't be for the faint-hearted) doesn't work, Franck, played by France's leading actor Vincent Cassel, hires hypnotherapist Elizabeth (Dawson), to delve into the darkest recesses of Simon's psyche.

From that point, you can expect to embark on a visceral, mind-bending trip.

"I do like the films to be visual, otherwise, particularly coming from a British culture, you end up literary based. It's too theatrical," says Boyle.

Boyle was keen to avoid the detached air of many noir thrillers and instead inject an emotional charge to the film, while refreshing the traditional notion of the femme fatale.

"Elizabeth's a classic femme fatale, using her allure, her beauty to manipulate the men but I didn't want the icy blonde Hitchcock kind of thing," Boyle explains.

Like the characters, the audience are also left wondering who to trust in Trance.

It's the first time Boyle has made a psychological thriller. "It was interesting to learn [how to do] it as you went along," he says.

Speculation about a follow-up to Trainspotting has already generated plenty of excitement, and Boyle says: "I'm very flattered that it has the kind of cachet among people.

"It certainly won't be the next one but we are looking at trying to work on a sequel."

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